VeraCrux – A new website promoting a Christian worldview on the humanities launches.
Protecting pastors – A Calgary MP launches an official e-petition on a bill that would decriminalize the disruption of religious worship services.
Feminist Foreign Policy – Ottawa hands out millions more in foreign aid tied to abortion services, in violation of the laws of the countries they’re “helping”.
Human Rights – Where do they come from? A Christian conference explores the answer.
Calgary MP launches petition to save Criminal Code clause protecting worship services from protests and disruptions
A Calgary MP has launched an official House of Commons e-Petition on Bill C-51. That’s the law we told you about earlier this summer on Lighthouse News. It would specifically repeal Section 176 of the Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to disrupt any worship service, or to assault or prevent anyone from conducting such a service.
Conservative MP Tom Kmiec isn’t buying the various arguments the government is using to defend the new law. The government says the issue is already covered in prohibitions against causing a disturbance, uttering threats or intimidation, or inciting hatred. Kmiec says he has a problem with the logic behind that thinking. “Why would you want to do something four different ways when you can do it just one way, which is Section 176?” He also discounts government arguments that the section is obsolete, citing a recent case in Ottawa where a woman was charged in a case where a Catholic church service was disrupted and a statue of the virgin Mary was vandalized.
Kmiec says the change also doesn’t make sense in a context where Parliament has just passed another law toughening penalties specifically for mischief against religious properties if that mischief is motivated by hatred. In fact, he says, Statistics Canada data shows that more than a third of reported hate crimes in Canada were motivated by hatred of a religion, and repealing Section 176 would remove valuable protection for faith leaders and assemblies.
The petition would need a minimum of 500 signatures to be formally introduced into the House of Commons; the petition almost hit that threshold within the first week of being posted. Kmiec is hoping for a minimum of 7,400 signatures to at least match the numbers of a campaign from the BC Humanist Society, which is seeking to remove laws against blasphemy from the books. Kmiec says it is critical that “people of different faiths (show that they) take their faith and the disruption of their ceremonies very seriously.”
You can sign the petition at www.keep176.ca.
The federal government has fundamentally changed the criteria it uses in determining how to allocate foreign aid to developing countries. Last month, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland unveiled a policy which expressly says that foreign aid will be delivered through a “feminist lens”, with a special emphasis on the provision of abortion services. The decision is coming under increasing criticism. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a letter to the minister earlier this month, which is highly critical of the policy. ARPA Canada has also been working on the file. Tabitha Ewert is an articling student with We Need a Law, and she’s written a blog post on this issue, with a specific focus on the way the policy is being applied in Africa. “They’ve basically reduced women’s rights to the right to have an abortion,” Ewert says, “with no reference to the fact that Africa is largely pro-life.” She says Canada is ignoring the fact that almost 90% of countries in Africa have laws on the books to protect the pre-born. Canada is saying “nope, we want abortions to be legal [there].”
The government recently committed 97-million dollars towards aid in the Congo, a country that has been embroiled in civil unrest for 20 years. Ewert says there are many ways that money could have been spent. “The conflict that they’ve had has really terrorized women; sexual assaults are very common, they’ve also had a lack of proper health care services. About 14% of women are suffering from chronic under-nutrition.” However, she says, the Liberal policy is focused almost exclusively on the provision of abortion services. Ewert says in the Congo, abortion is actually illegal, so that means that “the money is not even just going to fund illegal abortions, it’s going over there to fund changes in the law.”
The Catholic Bishop’s letter echoes many of the same concerns. The Bishop for the Hamilton Archdiocese, Douglas Crosby, told the CBC that the policy doesn’t do anything to unify Canadians on foreign aid either, because “with so many people from different backgrounds and religions, there is no consensus in Canada over abortion, and to state that there is universal agreement on a single set of Canadian values itself is contrived.”
Two ARPA staff members were in Winnipeg earlier this month for what was billed as the Understanding and Answering Summit on Human Rights, sponsored by Ravi Zacharias Ministries. WeNeedaLaw.ca Director Mike Schouten was there, and he says one of the highlights was a debate in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights between a Christian – Dr. Andy Bannister – and an atheist – Dr. Christopher DiCarlo – on the source and origin of human rights. “Whenever I watch these debates, and listen to them, I always have a sense of sorrow… for the atheist who is trying to make the case for human rights, for origins, based on the science. You could see throughout the debate how his understanding was constantly moving every time it was challenged. He had an understanding of right and wrong, but he didn’t know how to articulate where that came from.”
After the debate, there was opportunity for more conversation in a more intimate setting. Schouten told us that “the subject of artificial selection in utero came up.” Artificial selection is where a pre-born child is terminated based on sex or ability. Dr. DiCarlo, a close friend of the infamous abortionist Henry Morgentaler, acknowledged that this selection still occurs today. DiCarlo referred to it as “systemic selection”. When pressed as to whether this was right or wrong Dr. DiCarlo expertly made the case for how, at the point of fertilization, a new life has begun, and that to allow the life to develop was his preference. In fact, his words were, “Just leave it alone”. Schouten says, ‘I thought I was listening to a pro-life apologist! He was speaking truth about pre-born children! That is, until he said, ‘But it is still a woman’s choice.’”
When the inconsistency of his position was pointed out, DiCarlo again emphasized a woman’s choice. Schouten argues, “The logical extension of this [position] is that because society has agreed that abortion is a woman’s choice then it must be that way.” However, DiCarlo’s response to “just leave [the embryo] alone” was “a response that revealed his heart.” Schouten blogged about his experience at the conference.
On the feature this week, a look at a new media enterprise promoting a Christian worldview on the humanities, and on the human condition generally.
It’s a new website, and the man behind it is Dr. Scott Masson.
He’s an Associate Professor of English at Tyndale University College in Toronto. In the past, Dr. Masson has also been associated with Joe Boot’s Ezra Institute and the Westminster Classical Christian Academy in Toronto.
LN: So you’ve started a new enterprise – a new website called VeraCrux.com. [www.veracrux.com] Talk to me a little bit about what it is and what you’re trying to achieve with it.
SM: Well what it is, is a news aggregator website like Drudge or Zero Hedge. There are a few different sites out there that are news aggregator sites like this. And it’s going to draw together articles from across the media landscape to try and bring a little cogency and coherence – and maybe a bit of wisdom – to the news. The reason I’m doing it is that I’m a Humanities scholar, and about 30 years ago – when I was still an undergraduate – deconstruction came into the academy, as did a variety of identity group approaches to the Humanities, which I think have effectively destroyed the Humanities from within. And we’re seeing that spilling out now into the broader culture with the way in which human interests are being addressed; not from a common human interest perspective, but from an identity group perspective. And I think that’s devastating, and I think there’s a need for a Christian voice on human nature to be addressed in the news. And the news aggregator site will just bring all the articles together, and my commentary will form a part of that.
LN: So what kinds of links and stories will you aggregate? Is it primarily stuff written by Christians for Christians, or is this a broader exercise to give people a wider – although somewhat guided – exposure to what’s out there?
SM: It’s not primarily stuff written by Christians for Christians. There may be some of that, but it certainly won’t be the majority. It will be a broader approach, bringing articles from across the media landscape. And what they will have in common is that they will speak to the concerted but quite varied attack on the human person, which is really the foundation of western jurisprudence and western culture and western politics and family law and ethics and so forth. But these are being addressed not just in Christian venues; they’re being addressed all over the media landscape – on the left, on the right, on the blogosphere, etc. But there is a lack of coherence drawing those stories together, and I think that I can do that as a Christian working in the academy. And that’s what I think I am aiming to provide. So it’s not trying to be partisan in the political sense, it’s giving human counsel on matters of human interest that are broadly shared even outside the Christian community. So I hope to appeal to people who aren’t Christians.
LN: You know, I’m looking at the site right now. I’m just on it, and just sort of clicked randomly on the home page, and the material (the headlines are) kind of all over the place. You know, “Trudeau Government Unveils Reproductive Health Projects”, “Victor Davis Hansen: Has Globalism gone off the rails?” Here’s one: “Young Japanese people are not having sex.” I mean it’s all over the place, and it’s really kind of an eclectic collection. Is that on purpose?
SM: Well, yes. Because the broad range of interests are all human interests, and – you know – they break down into… I mean, at the top I think there are headings: “Politics”, “Arts & Culture”, “Education”, “Business”, “Religion”, “Family”, “Law”, (and) “Science and Technology”. But all of these have (something) in common: they have to have a basis in foundations. (In) answers to fundamental human questions about beauty, truth, and goodness, which are a part of what historically those who are in Christendom would regard as a human good, which are a product of the Personhood of the Triune God. The three-personal nature of God himself, and the divine human nature of Jesus Christ. That leads to the Humanities; the Liberals Arts, the seven liberal arts that were in the medieval universities. That common ground is expressed in the kaleidoscopic range of interests that you see on the website. But I think there is a common ground; the common ground will be articulated in the commentary that I give to it.
LN: So where does this fit into the broader context of media that Christians are following – or at least should be following? I’m thinking of LifeSite News, the Gospel Coalition, Lighthouse News (this program); there’s already a fair bit of stuff out there.
SM: Hm-hm. Well, the site’s still developing I guess, but my sense is that there is no curated news aggregator site of the sort that I am currently working on. Drudge is out there, which is broadly speaking drawing conservative, Republican articles. Zero Hedge is out there on a fiscal conservative-type landscape, but there’s nothing there that is addressing the Humanities in its broadest sense, and giving a Christian voice to it.
I called the site VeraCrux.com [www.veracrux.com]- tag line “Truth at the Crossroads.” What I had in mind there (it’s a made-up word, by the way – Truth and Crossroad or Cross), it’s a reference to Proverbs 1 to 9, where we hear two women calling out in the streets – in the marketplace, if you will. Lady Wisdom on the one hand and the voice of Folly and Sin. I think without a unified understanding of all the diverse stories that are out there, it’s very easy to lose your way, and hard to orientate yourself to all of these things that are happening. I think all you can do is despair. And I’m seeing a lot of Christians doing that, in part because there is no voice of wisdom. I don’t claim to be the repository of wisdom, but I think I do have some wisdom about what is happening in the Humanities and how it plays out. So that’s what it’s providing.
LN: So how badly is this needed within the context of the day to day material that Christians are exposing themselves to on a regular basis? I mean, whether we like it or not, most people say they’re too busy to go surfing the Web for specific stuff like this. They generally still get their news from sources like the CBC, the Globe & Mail, or maybe the National Post. But that’s precisely because they think they’re too busy to seek this stuff out. How do you change that mindset?
SM: Well in a sense it’s a reflection of that. They’re too busy to seek it out, and therefore it’s being sought for them. And secondly, even when they find it, how are they going to process it? And I don’t think that they’ve been given the tools and the machinery to deal with post-modern literary criticism, and the way it works out today in politics today, and identity group studies and in the way that the binary nature of human beings – male and female – (is) being attacked. Not only from within the academy, but in politics. They don’t know how to process that. Did they have a background in post-modern literary theory? I don’t think so. I think Christians avoid it like the plague. Understandably, in some ways. But you need that understanding in order to make sense of contemporary affairs. So yeah, of course, where will you go when you’re busy to find out information about this? I think a site that draws those diverse interests together, and yet provides a unifying voice to it, is sorely needed precisely by the people who are too busy.