100 years after WWI, remember the hard-won freedoms our ancestors fought for, and pray for courage to confront a world that is hostile to the gospel.
From Sunday 11th of November onward, people around the world commemorated the sacrifices of fallen soldiers in the great battles for freedom â€“ especially in the first and second World Wars. This year was particularly special because November 11th marked exactly 100 years since the Armistice that brought an end to the hostilities of the Great War. For days we were able to watch special commemorations recognising not only courage but the human tragedy and cost of war. Poppies were being worn by millions in recognition of the fallen, despite some liberal naysayers claiming that wearing poppies is war glorification. Yet there is a profound cultural contradiction in all these acts of remembrance â€“ we mark sacrifices made in the cause of freedom, whilst assaulting freedom and liberty in our own nations.
The solemnity and significance of this centenary forces us to ask some fundamental questions about who we were, what we were fighting for, and who we have become. Would the courageous and victorious dead recognize the present values and commitments of the countries they fought for? Would they have been willing to sacrifice themselves for the Canada or Britain of today? And would our current populations be willing to lay down our lives on such a scale for what remains of Western cultural life?
Worse, how confident could we be that significant parts of the populations of the West would not in fact turn against their country of residence? I would be forced to count myself a skeptic on this point. We have already seen significant numbers of Britons and other Europeans go to fight for groups like ISIS against their home nations. So, whilst it was wonderful to see so many poppies in the last couple of weeks, revealing that many ordinary people remain extremely thankful for the sacrifices of the past, we remain all too indifferent to the terrible struggle we are presently in to maintain the freedoms for which our forebears gave their lives.
Winston Churchill called WWII the battle for the survival of Christian civilization, because he recognized that the fight against fascism and totalitarian statism had to be won if the freedoms of what we knew as Christendom were to be preserved. And yet, the values and beliefs of a social conservative like Winston Churchill are today referred to by modern ideological progressives â€“ who know nothing of the sacrifices of the past â€“ as fascism. Today, for anyone to hold the convictions that Churchill held concerning liberty, the sovereignty of nation states, private property, small government and self-government â€“ with an emphasis on the importance of protecting life, traditional marriage, and family â€“ is increasingly to be labelled a bigot and hater.
The ironies are particularly thick, when so much has been made in recent weeks of liberty, freedom and the sacrifices of the past. In the days since Remembrance Day, numerous articles have come across my desk highlighting one encroachment on freedom and liberty after another in the public space. This fall, for example, the Scottish government and police have been running a hate crime awareness campaign utilizing posters, video and social media, ostensibly aimed at â€˜bigots,â€™ â€˜homophobes,â€™ â€˜transphobesâ€™ and others, which are signed â€˜Yours, Scotland.â€™ The Police and Crown Prosecution Service define a hate crime as a criminal offense (including verbal assault) perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice on the basis of race, disability, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity â€“ real or perceived! Without even entering the discussion of how anyone can possibly read the heart motives of a person, these incidents become hate crimes based on the subjective perception of the (self-described) victim or any other person.
Not only does the Scottish government want hate crimes reported, they want people to listen in on one another and report others for hate incidents. A hate incident is defined as any non-crime perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate. Yorkshire police have appealed to people on social media to â€˜report non-crime hate incidents.â€™ These are chilling developments. There has been a litany of cases in Britain of street preachers arrested and detained under the pretense of these hate crimes and incidents. An English vicar personally reported to me an incident in a local school in his community where a child in state school was sent home and the police visited the house to investigate a â€˜hate incidentâ€™ â€“ the child did not use the correct pronoun for a supposedly transgendered fellow student. A British teacher recently lost his job for a similar mistake.
Increasingly in Britain and other Western nations like Canada, perception is reality and people are persecuted for holding a different opinion to the current state orthodoxy. On this basis, the vast majority of our forebears who died for our freedom would have come under Scotlandâ€™s new religious censure; one of their posters reads â€œDear Bigots, you canâ€™t spread your religious hate here. End of sermon. Yours, Scotland.â€
How many of the Scots who fell in WWI or WWII would have been grouped among the bigots? The question answers itself. Scotland was filled with Christian people, and as a Christian country sent multitudes to their deaths in defense of freedom to speak and live in liberty. The Scottish government is denying that liberty today. Indeed, they have just announced a world first, what campaigners are calling an historic moment. They are introducing a new inclusive curriculum in all state schools that embeds LGBTQI propaganda (or queer theory) across all subject areas. They are permitting no exemptions or opt-outs to the policy. In short, Scotland has adopted LGBTQI social theory as the national educational agenda with no dissent allowed. In 2016, the former Scottish Labor leader Kezia Dugdale described Scotland as having â€œthe gayest Parliament in the world.â€
At the same time, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, and her bureaucrats are so intimidated by the British Muslim population that she has refused to offer asylum to the Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi who is in hiding and in fear of her life from lynch mobs who believe she should be executed on a fabricated charge of blasphemy. After eight years on death row in solitary confinement her conviction was overturned by Pakistanâ€™s supreme court. But mobs protested and were hunting for her house to house.
Two of her political supporters, Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, have already been assassinated, and her life remains in jeopardy, but Theresa May has refused to offer her asylum. Yet we claim to believe in freedom and defense of the oppressed. In actuality, the Brits are quashing freedom to appease their own Muslim population. Add to this the efforts to ban all therapies to help those seeking to move away from unwanted same-sex attraction, to the silencing of the former homosexual X-factor contestant, and the claims of the UK to be defenders of freedom begin to ring somewhat hollow. Most of these stories have been covered extensively by the London based organisation Christian Concern.
In Canada the picture is not much better. The Justice Centre for Constitutional freedoms has recently drawn attention to the Orwellian consequences of Albertaâ€™s Bill 24, which was passed last November. This bill amended the School Act to make it illegal for school principals to notify parents about the childâ€™s involvement in Albertaâ€™s government-mandated Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and their related activities â€“ a law that applies without exceptions to children ages 5-17. The so-called support materials for children on government GSA websites have been exposed by the Justice Centre, and their contents are too obscene to describe in this article. Parents are being denied the right to know what their children are being exposed to, taught, and what activities they participate in. Where secrets are kept from parents at the behest of the state, we are in terrifying territory. The Alberta government is also threatening to close independent religious schools if they do not remove references to human beings as created in Godâ€™s image, because it allegedly creates an unwelcoming and disrespectful learning environment.
The Christian Medical and Dental society is battling now in the courts, having lost the first round in the lower court, to protect the conscience rights of doctors from policies that would require them to actively refer people for death (euthanasia or assisted dying), given that Canada recently struck down all laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide. The seriousness of this case is hard to overstate since it concerns policies which require conscientiously-objecting physicians to take â€œpositive actionâ€ by way of an â€œeffective referralâ€ to another physician willing to perform murderous procedures like euthanasia and abortion. The Christian Legal Fellowship has been granted intervener status as the case goes to Ontarioâ€™s highest court. The appeal arises from a decision of Ontarioâ€™s Divisional Court, which upheld the policies; the court reached the astonishing conclusion that, although the policies do indeed infringe on physiciansâ€™ freedom of religion, they are justifiable to the extent that they advance the goal of â€œensuring access to health care services in Ontario.â€
In addition, there is a man named William Gary Whatcott facing prosecution for hate crimes for distributing gospel flyers in 2016 in Toronto, which warned of the health risks of a homosexual lifestyle and which spoke of the dangers of violating Godâ€™s law and natural law. In July, Culture Guard reported that, after a nation-wide warrant was issued for his arrest:
Bill turned himself in at the Calgary Police Headquaters on June 22, 2018. It was handled professionally at first, but things quickly deteriorated. He wasnâ€™t fed anything for 24 hours, and although prescribed medication for an eye infection and a leg inflammation, it was later withheld. He had no bed for 3 days â€“ just a concrete floor. One police officer did not even allow him to sleep. When he fell asleep, he was woken up by the police officer in the hospital and horrible things were said to him. He wrote: â€œit was obvious I was facing a powerful homosexual activist machine that encompassed the police, courts and Ontario government.
In an important update, Citizen Go stated:
Whether Bill wins or loses, it seems that the process is the punishment. This does not bode well for our cherished freedoms of expression and religion in Canada! The mainstream media’s silence is also not helping to bring much needed public scrutiny and discourse to bear on this trial. We must remember that this is a landmark trial, where a Christian is being charged with “hate crimes” for merely voicing a traditional Christian perspective on LGBT issues. LifeSite News has been the only media source providing ongoing, in-depth coverage, for which we are grateful.
If Whatcott is found guilty he could spend two years in prison.
We might also consider a recent troubling survey. The research organisation and Canadian think-tank Cardus, in partnership with the Angus Reid Institute, recently published their findings on religious freedom and discovered that only 59% of Canadians value religious freedom and say it makes our country better. Indeed, many people donâ€™t even understand what it means or what it actually protects. Hardcore secularism and increased intolerance under progressive policies are steadily reshaping a society that does not understand or value historic liberties that cost us in blood in the last century. Ray Pennings of Cardus writes:
This finding is unsurprising given the news of the last year. Evangelicals and other Christians bore the brunt of the federal governmentâ€™s Canada Summer Jobs fiasco, which filtered out grant recipients based on their beliefs. Legal challenges are ongoing but havenâ€™t borne fruit yet. The evangelical Trinity Western University in B.C. faced discrimination by several law societies opposed to its set-up of a law school â€“ discrimination the Supreme Court of Canada eventually upheld. And in Alberta, itâ€™s mostly evangelical schools that have been threatened with the loss of funding over an ideological disagreement with the provincial government.
A deep intolerance toward orthodox Christians is particularly in vogue on university campuses in the West â€“ something that should be troubling for all who love freedom, since these institutions equip the leaders of tomorrow. It seems people can no longer be pro-life, pro-marriage, or thoughtfully concerned about the growth and influence of the Islamic worldview without being abused by both students and many professors at universities where a unique brand of totalitolerance prevails.
The times are long gone when Christians could presume on freedom or nonchalantly assume that our hard-won liberty to spread the gospel and live in the light of Godâ€™s Word will be there for us in the years to come. What is required of the Christian community in the West is a recovery of a vital faith, one that addresses itself not just to personal salvation, but to cultural, political and social renewal. A gospel that affirms not just the priesthood, but the kingship of Jesus Christ. A Christianity that is not confined in the walls of the church, but one that expresses itself in every sphere for the sake of truth and freedom. A scriptural message that brings the prophetic voice of Godâ€™s people to bear in every sector, and applies the Christian world and life view in detail from the school house to the House of Commons. It has been well said that freedoms not fought for are soon forfeited. Christians must begin by being informed, followed by being involved. We are in a fight for freedom, and the battle may be long and hard.
Abraham Kuyper stated the biblical position well:
Government is always the servant of God, without fail, among all nations â€¦willingly or unwillingly, it is and remains dependent on God. It received its power from him and it serves his counsel â€¦ the government must acknowledge its calling to serve God and behave as an obedient servant of God.
Kuyper could say this because he knew that Christ occupies the three offices of prophet, priest and king. Moreover, he understood that whilst modern Christians speak freely of Christâ€™s priestly mediatorial sacrifice, we have fallen silent over his kingship claims. He notes that the church, even a century ago, had been busy quibbling over relative trivialities rather than focusing on the propagation and defense of Christâ€™s salvation and rule. No cry is sent up, he argued, for the rights of King Jesus. â€œThis weakens and undermines our power, and above all it represents a failure to give to Jesus the all-surpassing honor that we owe our king as his subjects.â€ His powerful warning to a complacent church in a time of spiritual and political siege is telling:
When the enemy is at the gate, the importance of these [trivial] questions fades away. People who in such times do not first of all do everything to prepare themselves to defend the fortress against the enemy have not understood either their duty or their calling. There are many today who do not do this, but continue exhausting their strength in settling issues of second, third, or even fourth importance and it is all too clear that their eyes have been blinded to the threatening danger; they do not see it â€¦ in all parts of society religious life is falling apart and this manifests itself more clearly in each successive generation.
Compared to our time, Kuyperâ€™s was one of relative peace and influence for Christ and the gospel. In view of all the poppies seen in weeks past, how much more must we now be ready to spiritually arm ourselves to defend the hard-won freedoms of the past for the sake of the gospel, and commit ourselves to giving a roar for King Jesus.
 Abraham Kuyper, Our Program (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 49.
 Kuyper, Pro Rege (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 28.
 Kuyper, Pro Rege, 32-33.