A history of Canada’s secularization

under-siegeUnder Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867-2017) by Don Hutchinson (Word Alive Press, $22.99, 276 pages)

In Under Siege, former Evangelical Fellowship of Canada vice president and general legal counsel Don Hutchinson writes about the history of Christian churches in Canada describing how the Dominion began as a predominantly Christian nation to one in which is being led by the cultural elite “in a direction that is fixated on removing our societal anchor from the Rock, Jesus Christ.” He details how human rights based on natural justice and imago Dei have been replaced by a regime of rights based on a radical idea of personal autonomy.

As a lawyer, Hutchinson naturally explores the court and human rights cases that have marginalized religion in Canada’s public square, some of which he was personally involved representing intervening groups. Not only does Hutchinson provide expert and accessible descriptions of these cases, he briefly describes their impact and puts them in the context of broader cultural change. Many significant rulings — R. v. Big M Drug Mart, Chamberlain v. Surrey School District, Loyola High School v. Quebec, Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, and several Trinity Western cases – are well-known to Interim readers, but there are several less famous but equally important precedent-setting decisions. In each Hutchinson explains what was at stake and why courts ruled the way they did.

Three chapter titles nicely encapsulate key arguments Hutchinson makes in response to the cumulative impact of these court decisions: state neutrality is not neutral, sacred texts are not hate speech, and the church cannot serve both God and government without trouble. These are important concepts for Canadian Christians to understand.

Hutchinson says Christians must be informed, vote their principles and share their views with elected representatives, and, most of all, pray — reminding readers that prayer is both the beginning of action and an action in itself. He also says Christians must discern whether they want to join political parties or other organizations that engage the political process, though he strongly hints that the influence Christians can exert is a necessary part of evangelizing to a corrupt culture.

Under Siege can sometimes seem more like a collection of essays connected by clunky segues (“which is where we will pick up in the next chapter…”) than coherent tract. There are a number of diversions that could be charming or annoying depending on the disposition of the reader. These are minor problems. The succinct elucidation of so much church, political, and legal history is impressive and his conclusion calling for action, with useful reminders about the proper posture of Christians in the public square, make this an impressive and important book. Despite the seriousness of the topic — the narrowing public square to exclude the Christian faithful, the cultural revolution that exalts values at severe odds with Christianity’s, the soft persecution of many Christians — Under Siege is hopeful. To fully understand the problem of secularism and persecution and what Christians can do to challenge this state of affairs, Under Siege is necessary reading.

 

 

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