Thinking Out Loud

July 1, 2017

It’s Canada’s 150th Birthday!

Today’s is Canada’s 150th birthday. I am grateful for the research done on this by my pastor, Rev. André Turcotte who presented this recently at a public service in our town park, and was willing to share his notes with me.

September 1, 1864
Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Premier of New Brunswick and one of the Fathers of Confederation, rose each morning to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading. As the 33 fathers gathered in Charlottetown to discuss and draft the terms of the British North American Act, there were many suggestions on what to call this new “United Canada.” That morning, as Tilley read from Psalm 72:8, he became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the Conference session, he presented the inspired “Dominion of Canada.” The other Fathers readily agreed and accepted. Today, The following words hang in the corridor near the confederation Chamber in Province House: “In the hearts of the delegates who assembled in this room on September 1, 1864, was born the Dominion of Canada. Providence being their guide they builded better then they knew.”

Psalm 72 (NIV) Of Solomon.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

8 May he rule (have dominion) from sea to sea
and from the River
to the ends of the earth.

Canada’s official motto comes from Psalm 72:8, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea.” Until not many years ago, July 1st was called “Dominion Day” which was a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Today, it is called “Canada Day.”

Canada’s coat of arms, adopted in 1921, stands upon the Latin phrase A Mari Usque Ad Mare, which when translated means “from sea to sea” a reference to Psalm 72:8.

The spiritual heritage is reflected in the country’s educational system and laws.

The Education System

Bishop John Strachan, a leader who helped form our public education system, stated that “the church must continue to play a central role in education. You cannot divorce religion from education because schools will inevitably reflect the philosophical and religious or (irreligious) biases of those who direct them.”

Egerton Ryerson, father of public education in Canada, wanted a “common patriotic ground of comprehensiveness and avowed (or maintain) Christian principles.” He wrote the textbook First Lessons in Christian Morals which was published in 1871. Ryerson clearly said that the Ontario school system was to be a “Christian public school system.

Many of our greatest Canadian universities were founded as denominational seminaries to educate future church leaders.

The Ontario Public School Act of 1896 stated that “It shall be the duty of every teacher of a public school to teach diligently and faithfully all of the subjects in the public school course of study; to maintain proper order and discipline in his pupils in his school; to encourage his pupils in the pursuit of learning; to include, by precept and example, respect for religion and the principles of Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues.”

The Laws of The Land

In 1960, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights. It begins with, “The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God…” The Canadian Bill of Rights can be found here.

In 1981, Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed his name to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter begins with, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of the law.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be found here.

Where does Canada stand today?

At the end of Pastor André’s notes was the full text of Psalm 78 which provides an interesting contrast to what you’ve just read. As we’ve written several times before, people tend to forget. Secularism, skepticism, materialism, cultural and religious pluralism; all of these over time have contributed to the present situation where Christianity is no longer at the heart of public or family life.

I do believe that alongside various factors, it is the Christian foundation, still embedded in many of our institutions, which makes this a great nation. 

The following is a prayer that can be sung to the tune of Canada’s national anthem.

Almighty God, by Thy mysterious power,
In wisdom guide, throughout this crucial hour;
Be ours a nation evermore
That no oppression blights,
Where justice rules from shore to shore,
From lakes to northern lights.

God, keep our land glorious and free…

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June 30, 2016

A Patriotic Long Weekend

Sometimes when you're in a hurry, you go with whatever is in your photo file.

Sometimes when you’re in a hurry, you go with whatever is in your photo file.

Friday, July 1st is Canada Day in (wait for it) Canada and Monday, July 4th is Independence Day in the U.S. (I was going for a red, white and blue effect on that last one…)

The gang at Church Marketing Sucks tweeted out a link to a 2014 piece they wrote about the church and the flag. It’s been awhile since I’ve re-blogged an item wholesale, so I thought I’d hit the highlights though you can also read it at source. First, the setup; Kelley Hartnett writes:

My dad enlisted in the Air Force as an 18-year-old high school graduate. Over his 41-year career, he engaged in structural battle damage repair on fighter aircraft, acted as an intercontinental ballistic missile crew commander, worked nuclear intelligence and space program surveillance, served as a space shuttle launch team member, and worked as a public affairs officer for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For many years, he held the highest security clearance available. (He knows stuff. It’s a running joke in my family.) When people ask me where I grew up, I proudly declare, “Oh, I’m an Air Force Brat.” It’s safe to say I’m reasonably patriotic.

The churches I attended as a kid were full of military families. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless the USA” were staples of our worship gatherings. I can remember the exact placements (yes, plural) of the American flag in each of those spaces. Did we recognize veterans on Memorial Day and Independence Day? You bet your Yankee Doodle Dandy we did.

The Empire at the Altar
In my early 20s, I became close friends with a few seminary students in Boston—radical-thinking types who were questioning everything they’d ever been spoon-fed about Jesus and the church. One Sunday, we were visiting yet another church to see how they “did” worship. At some point in the service, one of them leaned over to me, pointed toward the chancel, and said, resolutely, “You’ll never see one of those in my church.”

“What? A choir loft?”

“No, the flag.”

“Umm… why?”

“Because it doesn’t belong in the church, that’s why.”
Now this guy was a bit anti-establishment, so I assumed he was just having a stick-it-to-the-man moment. Turns out he isn’t the only clergy person who feels that way, though, and over time—and what feels like yearly conversations—I’ve come to agree that the church isn’t an appropriate venue for displays of patriotism. And while giant, church-sponsored Fourth of July festivals aren’t my biggest concern these days, it’s nevertheless worth talking about why such things fall under the general category of church marketing that sucks.

Then follows three reasons patriotism can turn churchgoers off.

The first of these is something I think we’re more aware of in Canada, namely that the church is universal; it’s not American.

But it’s number three I want to focus on:

America’s not always a terrific reflection of Christ. If we have God and country intertwined, what do we do when the two ideologies conflict? I mean, at one point, America valued slavery (Frederick Douglass had some things to say about slavery and the Fourth of July). Right now, people’s families are being killed by our military’s drone strikes. Some Americans are marginalized as a result of politics and policies. Isn’t it dangerous for the church to be aligned with what is, for some, an oppressive empire? When we’re preaching patriotism (even subtly), what message—or whose message—are we actually marketing? Do people have to share your political/patriotic beliefs to participate in your church community?

While we don’t have the same history in Canada with respect to slaves, the general principle here still applies.

Hartnett then offers four celebratory types of things churches can do in honor of the day before coming to this powerful conclusion:

In short, be sure the message your church proclaims is clearly about Jesus more than America. The freedom in which Christ-followers live is so much higher, broader, deeper and wider than that afforded by the “land of the free.” That’s what the church ought to be communicating.

What about your church? Is this an issue with which you’re struggling? How do you balance the tension of God and country?

Here’s the link one more time to read the article: Click here


I may be prejudiced, but what drew me to this article was initially the set-up. We just tend not to have flags in our churches so much in Canada. The idea of distributing a voter’s guide in the church lobby would be unthinkable. We’re certainly under no illusions that ours is a Christian country anymore.

Personally, I think 2 Timothy 2:4 has some application here. The idea that we serve a commanding officer who is all about an entirely different kingdom; and that we need not be preoccupied with national politics; that the church shouldn’t lower itself to pride over nation or nationality.

…By all means, enjoy your long weekend. But don’t let the civic calendar set the agenda for weekend worship.

July 1, 2009

Celebrating Patriotism and Nationalism: Ugh!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:22 pm

canadian fallsSo there we were in Vermont, almost two years ago, on July 4th, thinking we would take in a local fireworks display on Independance Day.   No such luck.

“Well…” the man began, “They do one over at [name of town] on the 4th, but we already had ours, [name of town] did theirs on the 2nd… let me see… I think [name of town] has one coming up on the 7th… the one on the 3rd got rained out… but there’s always fireworks at the big county fair over at [name of town]…”

Anyway, you get the idea.    We went back to the motel and watched “A Capital Fourth” on PBS, with the Macy’s fireworks display.

Canada marches to the beat of a different drummer.   Today is Canada Day, what we called Dominion Day growing up.   Every town, far and wide has their food fair, their festival, their fireworks and anything else that starts with “F” on the same day, July 1st.    Unless it rains.    Which it still might.

Our patriotism and nationalism runs quite cold compared to our U.S. neighbours (there…I spelled it Canadian in honour of the day… also the word honour).    Despite this, we will not be moved from celebrating our holiday on the right day.

Maybe that’s why mid-week worship services never caught on here the way things like Willow Creek’s “New Community” did there.    Church is a Sunday thing here; that is, if it’s even still that.

So Happy Birthday to us.   Canada turns 142 years old today.    Yippee!

Today’s trivia question:  In Canada Jehovah’s Witnesses often do not stand for the national anthem on religious grounds.   In the U.S., are J.W.’s afforded the same opportunity?

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