Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

In Flanders Fields memorial at John McCrae birthplace, Guelph Ontario

Memorial, with the complete poem “In Flander’s Fields” at the John McCrae House in Guelph, Ontario Canada. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

It comes as no surprise to me that many Christians, and especially pastors, struggle with Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day as it is called in the United States, Armistice Day in other parts of the world. The struggle is born out of the fact that war is generally considered to be a bad thing, and not all wars are created equal. Some it is easy to see the necessity of the conflict and so can be regarded with some degree of honour; others, unfortunately, are much harder to justify and are the source of the philosophical struggle. How does one honour the fallen in an unjust war without giving credence to the conflict we opposed so strongly?

The most common response to this is, “We are not honouring the war; we are honouring the soldiers.” But for many this is a difficult concept to buy into because in their minds if the soldiers refused to fight there wouldn’t have been a war. As is often the case this idealistic approach can rarely play out in the real world.

In the real world diplomacy often fails. In the real world governments feel pressure to ‘send a message’ and ‘issue a measured response.’ In the real world some countries are governed by genocidal regimes that simply must be stopped. The average soldier in combat boots and fatigues with a rifle and a fifty pound pack isn’t in a position to make a judgment call on the bigger picture. They can object to specific acts, such as burning a village full of women and children, but the beyond that; well, they rarely get to see beyond the next hill.

So, keeping this in mind I would like to suggest a slightly different wording for the statement above.

We are not honouring the war; we are honouring the sacrifice!

Being a soldier is by and large an act of faith. In good faith soldiers lay their lives on the line believing that their leaders would not ask them to engage in an unjust war. In good faith they answer the call of duty believing that the best interests of their nation are at stake. In good faith they sacrifice some measure of their own freedom and all too often their own lives in the belief that doing so will bring some measure of freedom to others and allow them to live better lives.

It is that faith which puts them in a position to go to war. It is that faith which leads them to make the ultimate sacrifice. It is that sacrifice of faith that we pay tribute to on Remembrance Day.

Another aspect of the real world, regretfully, is that faith is often betrayed. However; and this is the most important thing I wish to convey to you, the betrayal of that faith by the government of the day does not in any way diminish the value of the sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform.

You see Remembrance Day is not about government policy; it’s not about international politics; it’s not even about whether war is just or unjust, right or wrong, of necessity or of opportunism. Remembrance Day is about the men and women in the tanks, trucks and trenches, the fighter planes and bombers, and the ships at sea and under the sea who, in good faith, answered the call of duty and ultimately sacrificed their lives by doing so.

And that is all it is about.

That sacrifice, made in good faith, must never be taken lightly. It must never be dismissed because we disagree with the politics of the day. It must never be demonized because of our own pacifist beliefs. If that faith was betrayed, if that faith was misplaced, it in no way diminishes the value of the sacrifice; and the fact that sacrifice was made must never be forgotten.

This is why I think it highly appropriate that the U.S. elections are held in the shadow of Remembrance Day. I wish that federal elections in Canada were held at this time as well. Holding elections so close to Remembrance Day reminds us that in a democracy the leaders who send the men and women of our armed forces into battle are selected by the people, by you and me, when we cast our votes. If our leaders have engaged in an unjust war it is because we gave them the power to do so. Few leaders in the Western world can declare war on their own; they require the support of their governments. Those governments were put in place by the people. Which is why the sacrifice of those men and women must also be important to you and me; to all of us.

So on November 11th, regardless of your political leanings, regardless of your philosophic or theological approach to war, please, take a moment to remember the sacrifice made in good faith by men and women who fought to oppose evil and promote freedom on our behalf.

I was going to comment on this case as well, but I can’t say it any better than the good Doctor here. Check it out.

Honor Your Mother | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament.

NEWSTALK 1010 – IN-DEPTH RADIO :: BREAKING NEWS: Cancer Forces Layton To Step Aside As NDP Leader.

I’ve just finished listening to Jack Layton’s press conference on the radio and at first I thought it was someone reading a prepared statement on his behalf. But no, it was Jack Layton, sounding incredibly unlike Jack Layton.

It turns out Jack’s battle with cancer is far from over. Though he seems to be winning the battle with prostate cancer, a new unspecified cancer has caused the NDP leader to take a leave of absense from the leadership of his party and the Official Opposition in Parliament. It should not be so!

I’ve never been a supporter of the NDP, and there have been times I’ve wondered what Jack was smoking; but, I would never want to see him taken down by anything other than a worthy political opponent or one of his own mis-steps. To be struck down by the most relentless disease on the planet is a fate that no one deserves. I will be praying for Jack’s healing in the days to come. I ask you to do the same if you are a person of prayer.

I will also ride for Jack in the 2012 Ride to Conquer Cancer in June of next year, as I do for everyone I know who has been struck by this disease.

I have been fortunate; blessed by God and the dedicated professionals in Ontario’s excellent health care system, I am cancer free and will fight to remain so. But for Jack Layton and millions of others the battle continues. Help me help them in the fight. Jack is receiving treatment at the Princess Margaret Hospital. To donate to continue funding for the PMH’s world leading research and treatment programs please click on the banner on the right and support me in the 2012 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.

The following link is to a very interesting article (By the same name as this post) on the growth of the Christian church in China published in the English version of Aljazeera (yes, that Aljazeera).

There are two things in this article that really stand out for me.

First of all, there are the lines being drawn between the gov’t sponsored churches and the house churches. Aparently the Chinese gov’t is pulling the same stunt Rome did centuries ago, embracing Christianity as a means to maintain control of the population. Home churches are resisting.

The second thing that strikes me is the belief among Chinese Christians that the current economic woes in the West are a direct result of the decline in church involvement.

Follow the link to read the article for yourself and pray for our brothers and sisters in China.  Could Chinese missionaries soon be the best bet for North America?

Christianity: China’s best bet? – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Shalom..

I know, the title of this post reads like a newspaper headline, but it’s truly how I feel about last night. Canada is different place this morning and for a number of reasons.   When this election started I was very much of the opinion that it was unneeded and would turn out to be a waste of time. I, like many people, felt we would likely just get more of the same, a Conservative minority government.

However; as you have likely noticed even if you didn’t stay up till 2 am to see the final results as I did, the face of the nation underwent a significant facelift last night.

The Conservatives have their majority mandate, largely centred in the west but with significant presence in Ontario. Harper’s place in history is secured with three Conservative victories in a row.

Jack Layton’s place in history is confirmed as well, leading the NDP to it’s most prominent place in Parliament ever – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He has good reason to feel proud this morning. With its base in Quebec it is a historic accomplishment. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this situation.

Micheal Ignatieff is more than just a footnote as well. He must wear forever the mantle of being the leader who took the Liberal party to the back benches for the first time in its long history. I’ve read two of his books and was impressed with his writing. I wonder what the title of his next book will be.

Giles Duceppe likely has the most to answer for. He not only lost the election but the Bloc has lost official party status. We will not be hearing from them in Parliament any time soon. The question now is will the voters of Quebec compensate for this massive turn by putting the Parti Québécois back in power provincially.

And for the fifth change in a single election, unprecedented in any previous election at any level of government, Elizabeth May has won the Green Party’s first seat in Parliament, earning her party a limited voice and a seat at the debates four years from now, provided the media types don’t change the rules in the meantime.

But there is one more change that took place last night that cannot be seen in the popular vote, the number of seats, or who does or does not have official party status. In previous elections, as the night wore on, I would find myself sitting in front of the TV set watching the results come in essentially by myself as Roberta dosed off on the couch beside me. But last night I had company.

Sarah, and Carlo, and Darby, and Brian and a host of others were watching right along with me. We commented and cajoled, lamented and wept, cheered and boasted back and forth without even being in the same room together. Through the medium of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Messenger I was able to watch the results and converse about them with over a dozen friends and strangers from all across Ontario, from Guelph to Ottawa; across the nation from New Brunswick to B.C.; and even heard from friends in the United States and as far away as the British Isles in real times, only a few key clicks away.

It will change the face of Canadian elections forever, as it has done in other jurisdictions. Last night the major broadcasters followed the rules and refrained from sending out results across the nation until the polls were closed, but Canadians did not. From the beginning Tweeters and Facebookers sent out the word 140 characters at a time. As soon as the first ballot box was counted in Goose Bay, people in Vancouver knew the result.

Broadcasters, pollsters, political parties, Elections Canada even everyday Canadians are all going to have to spend the next four years figuring out how to conduct an election under this new reality. This new level of connectivity has the potential to make strategic voting a tactic that will skew and slant election results even more than our antiquated first-past-the-post Westminster model of government does already.

The results last night do, I believe, demonstrate the need for electoral reform. An 8% increase in the popular vote garnered the Conservatives and additional 13% of the seats in Parliament. An 11% drop in the popular vote in the GTA cost the Liberals nearly half the seats in Toronto. There does seem to be a valid reason to seriously consider proportional representation.

But what isn’t known yet, and won’t be known until the statistical analysts have had time to crunch all the numbers, is how much did Tweeted results from Charlottetown affect voter response in Burnaby. How much was the slight increase in voter turnout from 2008 inspired by the Social Voting movement and how much was due to Frank in Kingston screaming on Facebook, “Harper’s winning! Get your ass out there and VOTE!”

The pundits will pontificate for months on why we have the results we do. Did Harper get his majority because Canadians care more about the economy than they do about honesty and transparency? Or did he get it because we hate elections and punished Ignatieff for forcing one? Did Jack gain in Quebec because his attack on Micheal’s attendance record hit home? Or because he bloom has fallen off the Separatist rose? I’m not certain we’ll ever truly know for sure.

But what we do know is this, for better or for worse the people have spoken and we are going to have to live with it for the next four years. And I am fairly certain that last night’s results will change the way elections are conducted in this country, one way or another.