True freedom

The New Year arrived with a thump, as we faced the collective realities of a world marked by sin. Multiple murders occurred in Edmonton and Calgary at the dawn of 2015. Globally, we witnessed Boko Haram’s ongoing diabolical activity in Nigeria. Muslim terrorists murdered 17 people in France, retaliating against satirical depictions of the prophet Muhammad. All these actions were birthed out of the pain of a fallen world, marked by sin oozing from the depth of our souls.

The illusion of free speech

Following the Paris killings, millions marched in defence of free speech, including many Westerners. But what were we really rallying around? As only he could, commentator Rex Murphy aptly described Canadians’ selective love affair with free speech in January’s National Post: “This part of the world has a sack full of pieties when it comes to free speech, but its own actions, and frequently its own words, put the lie to all of them. Bowing to ruthless protest has become a habit. Labelling speech some people simply do not wish to hear as ‘hate speech’ succeeds in silencing it. In matters big and small, on issues from global warming to abortion, there is collusion — we call it political correctness — over what should not be said, what cannot be said.”

The bastions of Canadian free speech – universities, school boards, government agencies – are not really interested in free speech as much as they’re interested in their own messages.

For example, Trinity Western University is currently facing a battle with the B.C. government to obtain accreditation for its law degree program. The case demonstrates how well-educated, “progressive” people can lay reason aside and engage in intellectually indefensible positions that betray the very values they say they defend. Trinity Western is legally and appropriately defending its Charter rights to teach content based on the university’s values, beliefs and convictions, which students voluntarily pay to be taught. But not everyone sees it that way.

A Christian response

How should Christ followers react to these developments in a country generally regarded as a defender of freedom, opportunity and equality? Should we simply “roll over” when our judicial system attempts to muzzle free speech when it infringes upon the prevailing worldview? Or should we exercise our rights as Canadian citizens and publicly express our opinions? In recent meetings with MPs, I was reminded that Canada is a pluralistic country and Christ followers need to speak up, expressing our viewpoints as contributing Canadians.

It’s tempting to stamp our feet and “lawyer up.” It’s tempting to remind political leaders that freedom of speech is only possible in Canada because of our Judeo-Christian history. It’s tempting to complain about every group we perceive to be jumping ahead of us in the societal queue of privilege and power. It’s tempting to respond to marginalization via political tactics, governments lobbies and attack ads.

If I’m honest, I’ll admit I want to fight back. My desire for justice rises up within me to ensure I “get what I deserve.” Now I just need to find Scripture to back me up!

The upside-down wisdom of Jesus

So what does the Bible actually say to us when we’re marginalized and treated unfairly?

Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43–48, NLT).

Christ teaches us to respond to marginalization – and even persecution – with prayer, love and kindness. We’re called to be countercultural agents of the good news of Jesus Christ in a world that seems to be preoccupied with personal rights and freedoms.

As citizens of the kingdom of God, we don’t live to serve a human kingdom but to honour Christ our King. We’re here to bring Jesus’ redeeming message of hope through Christ’s atoning and liberating death and resurrection. Our hope is not found in political freedom, military conquest or theological superiority. Our hope is found in Christ, period!

If others infringe upon our rights and freedoms because of our allegiance to Christ, so be it. We simply join millions of other Christ followers marginalized for their faith.

And how then shall we live? When we have the chance to advocate for rights and freedoms, we do so for all. We take every opportunity to extend Christ’s love to everyone through our words and actions. We continue to teach the truth.

Willy-Riemer—Willy Reimer

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