Whom should we obey: God or mankind?
‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ – JESUS CHRIST
If the Church of Jesus Christ is living out its corporate life in society authentically as the Church, then at some junction its beliefs and practices will bring it into direct conflict with the secular culture in which it finds itself. At some point, as the Church lives out its life in any society, it will inevitably clash with the dictates of the State. Whenever that occurs, and it will surely occur, the Church, its leadership and its adherents have two options, either capitulate to what is being forced on it by secular government and compromise its beliefs, or relentlessly stand its ground, stay true to the historic truths of Christianity, and face the consequences.
In a day like ours dubbed the ‘post Christian era’ when the lines of demarcation between Church and State are becoming as distinct as they have ever been, and more so, be assured the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God will be kingdoms in conflict.
In the last few weeks a series of decisions made here in Canada by our courts and our provincial legislatures are unquestionably testing the mettle and the character of the Church.
On March 22, the government of Quebec’s “Dying with Dignity Commission” released its report on euthanasia, recommending the legalization of assisted suicide in exceptional cases.
Then quickly on its heels on June 5, Ontario’s Provincial Legislature passed into law Bill 13, the anti-bullying legislation called the “Accepting Schools Act,” mandating that Catholic schools and all schools make their educational facilities “more equitable and inclusive for LGBTTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer and questioning) students.”
Just more than one week later on June 13, again the same Legislature passed Bill 33, “The Gender Identity Bill” which will amongst other provisions allow Canadians to use public washrooms and change rooms of their non-biological sex if their sexual orientation does not match their biology.
Two days later on June 15, the B.C. Supreme Court lifted the existing provincial ban on assisted suicide and in a landmark decision gave people who wanted to end their life in this fashion the legal green light.
This whirlwind of legislation all passed into law in a breathtaking 22 days across our nation. How quickly the moral landscape of a nation can change!
It was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands in the early 20th century, Abraham Kuyper, who once said, “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, the battle is your calling, and peace has become sin, you must at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.”
We in the Church are living at a moment in time in our nation when values that are the complete antithesis of historic Christianity are clearly “winning the day.” We can respond in two ways, capitulate and accept the new morality and tell ourselves with the devilish mantra of the Third Millenium, “The Church must change with the times,” or we can courageously become defenders of the same faith and the core values that were first delivered to the Early Church.
Bill 13, “The Accepting Schools Act” now legislates according to Section 303.1 (2) that “neither the (school) board nor the principal shall refuse to allow a pupil to use the name ‘gay-straight alliance’ or similar name for any organization,” or club, he or she wishes to start.
So the issue for Roman Catholic educators who are practicing and committed Christians who embrace the infallibility of Biblical truth and are not just C.I.N.O.’s (Catholics In Name Only) is, “Can I justifiably accept in a Catholic context a club that promotes sexual expressions that are contrary to Biblical teaching?”
What must be remembered, of course, is that Catholic education here in Ontario is funded from the public purse to the tune of $7 billion per year, and the question that must surely be asked of Catholic leadership is “Are the historic truths of Catholicism being sacrificed on the altar of ‘The Fear Of Defunding?’”
I say these things with great respect for my Roman Catholic friends. Some of the most profound influences in my own spiritual life have been Catholics, St. Augustine, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi and Jean De Brebeuf, the patron saint of Canada. I will be indebted to them forever for how they have inspired me, but how should the Church respond? How would St. Peter have responded to Dalton McGuinty’s “It’s my way or the highway!”
Faced with the ultimatum given by civil and religious leaders of his day to stop at once proclaiming the truths of Christianity (The Bible, Acts 5:29), Peter led a chorus of other apostles who responded in unison with the memorable words “We must obey God rather than men.” For Peter there was no question about it, no need for deliberation by any committee, we ‘must’ he said, to do otherwise would be to dance with compromise.
We are living in perilous times, as has been predicted. (The Bible, 2 Timothy 3:1) As the iconic folk singer Bob Dylan once said in his ’60s hit ‘The Times They Are A’ Changing,’ “There’s a battle outside and it’s raging, it’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls for the times they are a’ changing.” The unconscious prophet was dead on. The stained glass windows of the historic Christian Church are being shaken by the tectonic moral shift in society, the corridors of religious schools are being rattled as historic Biblical truth collides with the new tolerance.
“You better start swimmin’,” said Dylan, “or you’ll sink like a stone.”
Capitulation and compromise will never win the day. The Church must rise up as a phoenix from the ashes, divest itself of cowardly passivity, and declare with fire in its bones to itself and secular society, “Whom should we obey, God or man?”
St. Peter’s Church must of necessity speak up and act courageously like St. Peter or henceforth it ceases to be the legitimate and authentic Church!
Rev. Eric Strachan is pastor of New Life Community Church in Petawawa. This article first appeared thedailyobserver.ca and is reprinted with the permission of the author.