We live in an age of Christian martyrdom. In Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Nigeria and so many other places Christians are persecuted for their faith. But in Ottawa! This, however, was the pained claim recently of perennial backbencher and longtime Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney. He, you may remember, was the man who left the Conservative caucus after stating on Twitter that an Ontario MPP was correct in arguing evolution was little more than a mere theory.
His outlandish comment provoked, somewhat inevitably, a good deal of mockery on social media as well as in mainstream journalism. It led the former chiropractor to argue that "militant atheists" were defining the new Canada, that Christians in this country were persecuted and that there were "deliberate attempts to suppress a Christian worldview from professional and economic opportunity in law, medicine, and academia."
The man's evidence for all this is as slim as a Baptist's dance-card. A large number of Tory MPs, perhaps a majority, are Christian and Jason Kenney, arguably the most senior government minister after Stephen Harper, is a devout Roman Catholic. As for alleged persecution outside of politics, Lunney seems to base his arguments on two central issues.
The first is the debate over whether Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., should be allowed to deny a place at its proposed law school to those living together outside of marriage; and because Trinity does not accept gay marriage this effectively bans married gay Canadians. The second concerns the conscience rights of Christian doctors and whether they should be allowed to refuse abortion referrals, or not prescribe contraceptives.
All of these issues are indeed complex, nuanced and significant, but none of them is quintessentially Christian or even, it could be argued, about the genuine meaning of freedom of religion. Nobody in this country loses a job, a home or a life because they believe in Jesus Christ and no Canadian walks in fear because they wear a crucifix or are raising their children as followers of Jesus.
The fact is, the vast majority of Christians throughout the western world have no quarrel with evolution and it was, for example, the Church of England that helped introduce evolution into public education in the United Kingdom. There is no contradiction between the acceptance of evolution and belief in a creator, in God. That is the view of the Catholic and Anglican Church, mainline Protestants and even many evangelicals.
In numerous ways the church was historically the handmaiden of science. Louis Pasteur, Father Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Ernest Rutherford and even Galileo — yes, he was a committed Christian — surely have far more to say about this than James Lunney.
As for issues of gay rights and the clash of national laws and the individual views of some, but far from all, Christian doctors, this is more about a particularly conservative Christian response to public policy than fundamental religious liberty. No person in this country has to support same-sex marriage or conduct a gay wedding but if they are to break the law or openly discriminate they need to offer a pretty compelling argument built around greater principles of church and state and the rights of religion. I'm still waiting for it.
There are numerous Christians today who have embraced a far more progressive view of sexuality without in any way compromising on their core beliefs and there are many Christian doctors who, while being opposed to abortion, believe the way to reduce or even eliminate these procedures is to provide contraceptives, to empower women and to eradicate poverty. Christ, remember, never speaks of homosexuality or abortion, but he does repeatedly preach about poverty, the marginalized and the needy.
As for "militant atheists", of course there are atheists out there and some of them are trying to influence the body politic. As someone who is a fairly prominent Christian, I have been debating with such people for years now. We all have the right to try to influence the culture but none of us has a right to assume we can dictate the result. And on a personal note, every time a Christian defies scientific truth it makes Christian apologetics all the more difficult.
Sorry, Mr. Lunney but your cries of persecution just don't stand up to scrutiny. It seems there may be some, well, evolving to do around this issue.
Michael Coren is a Toronto-based television host, radio personality, syndicated columnist, author and speaker.
Updated on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 10:26 AM CDT: Adds photo