What Canada Got Right (and the US didn’t)

Aside from the recent winter Olympics, what have you heard about Canada lately? If you’re like me, it’s not much. Actually, in the current milieu of debates over the idea of public health care, most of what I hear people saying about Canada is that the Canadians have created a number of semi-socialist disasters for themselves, not the least of which is their health-care system. Frankly, I am too ignorant to know whether such things are true.
But as I have been studying the history of Christianity in (North) America, I have found something that I believe Canada got right… or at least more so than the US. Once again, I turn to the words of Mark Noll:

Because of the divided allegiances of Canadians [between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism], they were much less tempted than Protestant Americans to conceive of their nation as standing uniquely in covenant with God. Such notions can stimulate good, but they can also lead to a great deal of moral posturing and simple hypocrisy that Canadians have mostly been able to avoid.

I grew up in a family and in social circles of the sort that I have called “God-and-country-evangelicalism.” From that vantage point, I was always taught that the reason that Canadians did not bluster very much was that they knew that their country was quite inferior to ours. To be honest, the posturing and hypocrisy of which Noll speaks so aptly describes the attitude with which I was taught to wear my American Christianity from my earliest days.
Such strong nationalistic pride makes sense for a mere American, of course. But how is it that we American Christians ever got to the place where we believed that such attitudes were okay for us?


13 thoughts on “What Canada Got Right (and the US didn’t)

  1. KC,

    What concerns me about the American Christianity “elitist” approach is that it gives so many the false security that they may be saved. Saying one is Christian and actually being Christian are two separate things entirely.

    There is one people in covenant with God… not Canadians, not Americans, and not any other country for that matter. Those who are in a covenant with God are those who are in Christ Jesus alone.

    Canada may have gotten the “we don’t declare to be a Christian nation” part right, but the fact that less than 30% of Canadians even see a need for any kind of religion and the Christian church is becoming extinct there is worthy of some discussion as well. I wouldn’t jump to praise a nation too quickly for not identifying with Christianity. It is one thing to have a religion that you identify yourselves with as a nation, it is quite another to corporately abolish your need for religion all together.


    • Well said, Keith! Thank you for the comment!
      You apparently are more aware of the statistics regarding Christian confession in Canada than I am (I don’t know much about Canada at all, really). I meant only to applaud this one thing, particularly as put forward in the paragraph by Dr. Noll. As an American Christian, I tend to be rather concerned about the swagger of the God-and-country evangelicals that I see all around me all the time. It seems that both they and the secular media think that they represent the only true expression of biblically serious Protestant Christian faith in America.
      One of the things I have asked many times is the question of who evangelicals have in mind when they say “we” in the context of social-political discussion. Too often “we” means America before–or more than–it does the church. Imagine this very real scenario: Shortly after 9/11, a Christian who is at work in a given office or warehouse or whatever walks up to an evangelical co-worker and asks, “What should we do about terrorists like Usama Bin Laden?” The chances are that the response would include some prescription of violence; but what is perhaps more disconcerting is that the “we” would probably be assumed to mean America. So the response would likely be some kind of armchair foreign policy recommendation. It would be rather unusual for the evangelical to assume that his (or her) fellow Christian meant the “we” in the question to refer to the church. This is, of course, only an imagined scene and, therefore, of less than even anecdotal significance as actual events go. But I do think that it captures the reality of the way we American evangelicals tend to think.
      Your thoughts?

  2. Well stated comment… It does seem that country comes before church around these parts. But have no fear, there are some who may represent true Christianity without toting a gun around the backwoods…

    I wish we, as Christians, had a solution to the arrogance and hypocrisy that was mentioned earlier. Finding those solutions certainly will not come from the mainstream media for sure. I guess it comes down to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” In the end it will all be sorted out for us.

    That’s all I got!


  3. Quick comment: I understand your concern, and I have had the same concern. I have found in my experience that who you speak of in your comments are those in christiandom, not those of sincere and growing faith in Christianity (in our Lord Jesus). If you separate the 2 in your mind this will make better sense to you. Those true church believers hold American citizenship infinitely lesser in their hearts, and minds than citizenship in the Lord Jesus as I do. Maybe I should set up a debate between you, and my beloved friend Patrick Henry.
    Your Cousin,

  4. Ooops! Correction-christendom in my previous paragraph. To revisit your previous discussion in the concern for “swaggering” God and country evangelicals. The plain truth is that your concern with G. C. E. ‘s gone wild is intermittently all around us, and if spiritual darkness was not trying to swallow this “virtuous americana” along with the real Christian McCoy it would be a grave concern indeed. You are accurate no doubt in your concern about this doppelganger of sincere, saving faith in Almighty Jesus. A quick alteration of the who you are speaking of is all that is needed. Your rule of concern is on the 75% of self proclaimed “christians” in America according to Gallup in 2000. Do you really think that 75% of Americans have been saved by God’s grace? You must accurately identify your demographic then it will be more apparent that this voluminous crowd of so called “christians” do not represent the genuine Christians. This is distorting some of our perceptions, and may have led you to be somewhat preoccupied with your more recent studies in Heavenly versus American citizenship, and the duties thereof. In the hot political word of the day, you are profiling these folks (a little political humor), and lumping them in with the rest of us. It is not a true depiction. Real faith Christians are a remnant, not a majority. Maybe this is the ministry God has given you-to decipher, and reach these unsaved “christian” majority in these United States. C.S. Lewis once said, “That some folks are so Heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” It would be interesting to hear what you believe our Lord Jesus meant by Christians, or the true church being the salt of the Earth, and shining His light from within us. There is so much to point out, but that will have to do for now. By the way the political editorial may have been somewhat from left field for your biblically based blog. I will try to keep the G.C.E. political discussion to a minimum. Thanks for giving me the floor,
    Cousin Tim

    • Thanks, Tim!
      I appreciate your understanding about the edit job.
      As to the distinction you make between real and nominal Christians in America, I certainly agree that it is a rightful one to make. However, it has little to do with what I’m talking about here.
      I generally have not taken to naming the names of famous Christians with whom I take issue here on TLW, but it would seem appropriate to do so now. Here are some (well-known) examples of the sort of people I mean when I refer to GCEs: Dr. James Dobson, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Jay Sekulow. I have little reason whatsoever to doubt that these are true brothers of mine in the Lord, and in the cases of Dobson and Kennedy, anyway, I have great respect for them for much of what they have done in service to our Lord. But I take serious issue with them in their political ideas.
      For example, Sekulow’s radio show is one ‘us vs. them’ tirade after another in which he encourages Christians to get angry at the very people to whom they should be showing the love of Christ. Perhaps even worse, he sets up a false war in which victory is supposed to be a matter of winning judicial and legislative battles against unbelievers in a culture war. Does he find this taught in the Bible? I sure don’t! But the actual teaching of the Bible is obviously less important to Sekulow than it is to “fight for” and “win” the “right” and the “freedom” to study it at lunch in one’s place of work. And here’s the really insidious part: As Seculo (and many others just like him) are carrying on this war, who or what is the authority to which they look for “justice?” Is it God? No… It’s the US Constitution. Somebody needs to show me the passage of Scripture in which the Lord tells His people that they need to “fight for[the right to live freedom,” to quote Sekulow’s theme-song.
      What I see in my Bible is a Jesus who, rather than stand up for His rights, allows Himself to suffer injustice (e.g. John 19:36).

      For less than famous examples of the folks I mean by the tag, “GCE,” I would point to my own family of origin, most Christians I know, and even myself up until the last few years. There are enormous numbers of evangelical Christians in America who, though they might not ever admit it in so many terms, show by their lives and their way of talking that they are far more into (1) America than the church, (2) the cause of the political right wing than the cause of Christ, and (3) winning a culture war with those darn libs than winning people to God’s kingdom.
      I know many Christians who cheer for and support Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and all the Fox News right wing zealots, when these people’s whole gimmick is based on insults, put-downs, inflammatory rhetoric, and general hate-mongering. I simply do not see Jesus in any of it.
      Much more could be said here, but I trust that this is enough for now. 🙂

  5. I want to thank you for the thoughtful reply. In a few words for the moment I have found that in most cases you can have both a genuine love for your Lord as the source of all truth, and still lovingly defend the rights of the precious unborn for example. Just because we are called to peace does not mean that we let the thief into our home, and stand by helplessly as victims. Hopefully that will make my view more lucid to you, and evoke a thoughtful response once again. And yes I do understand your concern with the right wing public figures.

  6. Hey Tim,

    So I have always struggled when trying to find a position on using violence to defend the helpless. I feel that in most points of truth the Spirit may convict us differently from person to person and in different situations, but it is still helpful try and find a solid position if possible.

    Non-pacifists usually bring up the hypothetical situation wherein the thief enters our home and threatens the well-being of our loved ones, like you did. It would seem to be a sin NOT to protect our family! I have some honest questions that I was hoping you could answer to help me on my quest for truth.

    1. A man enters your home and is about to kill the person you love the most, but you have the opportunity to shoot before he does, would you kill him?

    2. A man enters your home and kills the person you love the most and then you have the opportunity to shoot, would you kill him?

    3. A man enters your home with a random hostage you don’t know and says you have to shoot his hostage or he’ll kill the person you love the most, would you kill the random person you don’t know?

    4. A man enters your home and says he has to either kill the person you love the most, or everyone else in the city will die. You have the opportunity to shoot him first, but doing so would condemn the
    rest of the city, would you kill him or let the city live?

    Given, these are hypothetical and very unlikely yes or no questions, but I think they can help bring out if and when it is ok to use violence. It’s easy to say we should use it in defense, but defense can take a lot of different forms. It’s easy to kill someone we hate to save those we love, but what if you had to kill someone you didn’t hate, or even love, to save someone else you love? Are numbers important? Is it good to kill the few to save the many? Where is the line drawn exactly?

    Just curious! I appreciate any response or thought you might have!


  7. Well Hello Young Skywalker! James,
    It is nice to hear from you. On limited time, and limited talent, and skills as a typist, I would say this sounds more like a phone call discussion for the present. I have much to say for various reasons, but just now let us ask ourselves these simple questions; Where in God’s Word do we find anyone praying, and then doing nothing. Did Martin Luther pray and then make others challenge the corrupt Catholic church and their heretic dogmas? Or did he decide to sit in a room like a deadbeat and hope that others would be the salt, and shine the light of Jesus Almighty? Is there personal obligation in your community or is it more noble to complain and do nothing? How many ways can we love our neighbor, and does that include helping him, or encouraging him to stand up for what is biblically right or to protect the “innocent”? Should someone have told George Washington that if he was going to be one of those “Jesus followers” that he should give up generalship of the colonial army, and keep his nose out of politics? What good would that have done? Of course this begs another great question, but I will leave that for later. We are not helpless bystanders or victims. Our Father is the King of the cosmos! Should we bury our talents? Sounds like a wicked servant. I have seen much, and I think the truth is more lucid than many choose to believe, after all when you stand face to face with the truth you have discovered . . . Uh Oh! You have a responsibility to God and your “hapless” neighbor, that sounds like it does not concern me??????. Enough of my rantings – of a self proclaimed truth seeker. If you would still be interested in more specific answers to your previous questions than I would be happy to field your line drive phone call.
    Thanks My Dear Young Brother,

    • I wish I had the time to do a more in depth discussion over the phone, but I am currently finishing finals week at my university and am then flying out of the country! However I will attempt to answer your questions.

      Where in God’s Word do we find anyone praying, and then doing nothing? I have to agree that I cannot think of an instance in the Bible were someone is praying and then immediately after finishing does ‘nothing’. But does doing something mean it can be violent?

      Martin Luther did pray for and encourage the reformation of the Catholic Church, but didn’t he say that he wished it had been done peacefully and hadn’t gotten so out of hand? I actually could be wrong about that, it’s just something I’ve heard.

      Your obligation to the society one lives in question is one that just recently I have been working through and thinking about a lot! I’m currently in a philosophy class, and the philosophical idea of social contract came up in one of our discussions. The way one of my class mates put it was this, “If your community expected you and made you feel obligated to kill one of your children, as they had all done, in a time of severe famine for something to eat, would you do it?” He was trying to make the point that we cannot feel we have an obligation to our community if it directly goes against our beliefs. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I thought his point was interesting.

      I definitely agree that there are many ways to love our neighbors and we should definitely help them, encourage them to stand of for what is Biblically right, and protect the “innocent”. The same person mentioned above brought this thought to my attention. Whenever one soldier kills another soldier, he is just killing someone else who is trying to protect the “innocent”. He pointed out that in most wars, there are Christians who shoot (or worse) and kill other Christians who are only divided by place of birth. This blew my mind! I just don’t know what to do with that! I would think we could at least agree we shouldn’t kill each other! What are your thoughts on that? I could use a more experienced view on it!

      Something my mom pointed out to me that relates to your George Washington questions was that Jesus healed the Roman Centurion’s daughter, but never required or even asked that he quit the military. So I guess I can’t say that someone should have told George Washington to quit the military!

      Lastly, should we bury our talents? Well I agree we should not! But what if someone is a really talented liar? Should he become a con-artist? Maybe that doesn’t really apply, haha, just a thought!

      I appreciate your time and help! Here’s to self-proclaimed truth seekers!


  8. Dear James,
    There is much to say in response to your rousing intellect. Thank you for your passion in all of this, and your gracious heart. I have much to say, and your mother made a poignant argument with the General. I am presuming your mother and I agree on that. I don’t have time to do this great discussion the justice it deserves tonight. That phone call can wait until its time. Some things to ponder: Do you believe the founders of this nation were wrong to rebel against King George III, and plan a revolution? What are the reasons for your answer? Note: There are some that believe that their involvement in “politics” was wrong. Could it have been God’s work? By the way I don’t believe in violence either, but we can’t rightfully pretend we understand all of God’s infinite plan. If you were on a plane, and an islamo fascist had a bomb would you be justified in God’s eyes to tackle the terrorist to the ground and disarm him if given the chance. Is the answer just the common sense that your creator blessed you with? Were there not Godly men in the canon of Scripture that committed acts of “violence” for the glory of God? I think you know the answer to that already. Does Joshua, or Samson ring a bell? God uses people to root out evil? Thank you for the pleasure of conversing with you, and the sense of humor. I will look forward to hearing from you again. Hip hip hooray to the Truth Seekers!

  9. Pingback: 2010 in Review — Generated by the Folks at Wordpress « The Long War

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