Category Archives: From the Print Magazine

Why Religious Freedom is so Important: An Interview with Ambassador Andrew Bennett

As the next EFC webinar on June 11 rolls around (this time on religious freedom) we revisit some relevant blogs. What does Ambassador Andrew Bennett say about religious freedom?

Canada is talking about religious freedom. Last year, Faith Today explored that topic with Ambassador Andrew Bennett of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom (ORF), an office that focusses on religious freedom in other countries (not Canada). His insights can help our discussion: “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right,” said Bennett. “It links in with freedom of expression, gender equality. It’s incumbent upon us, where we have that in Canada, to speak out.”

Read excerpts of the interview in this Faith Today blog post, and the full interview in the magazine by clicking here

Ambassador Andrew Bennett hosting a religious freedom roundtable.
Ambassador Andrew Bennett hosting a religious freedom roundtable.

FT: When you are visiting countries and the governments know you are there as a kind of watchdog for religious freedom, how do they receive you? Is it awkward?

AB: It’s awkward for them, not for me. At times they don’t necessarily receive Canada coming to talk to them about their own challenges and government restrictions on their own communities. That would be the same as when I meet with foreign diplomats in Canada. There might be a sense of Canada judging and meddling.

There is a difference between that and speaking what is true.
Continue reading Why Religious Freedom is so Important: An Interview with Ambassador Andrew Bennett

Sex, Drugs, Religion and the Canadian Church in the 1960s

Kevin Flatt is associate professor of history and director of research at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ont., and a history columnist for Faith Today magazine. This week on the Faith Today blog we feature some of our favourite Flatt columns.

by Kevin Flatt

Maybe it’s the colourful and chaotic world of the hippie movement, with its tie-dye shirts, long hair and music festivals.

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Maybe it’s the sense of hope that accompanied Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967 or the grainy TV images of the first moon landing in 1969.

Or maybe it’s darker themes of social unrest, drug use and political assassinations. Depending on your age, you may simply think back to what was happening in your own life during those years – a first kiss, a first car, a first child.

For most of us the 1960s conjures up images of change, and for good reason.

The baby boom generation, born in the years after World War II, came of age then with more of them attending high school and university than in any previous generation. Televisions became a standard feature of Canadian living rooms. New hairstyles, clothing and music appeared on the scene, all driven by a burgeoning youth market with disposable income.

More controversially, people began to abandon the Christian sexual ethic as popular culture and the birth control pill made premarital sex a more socially acceptable and (apparently) risk-free option.
Continue reading Sex, Drugs, Religion and the Canadian Church in the 1960s

Ever Heard of a Canadian Christian Hippie?

Kevin Flatt is associate professor of history and director of research at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ont., and a history columnist for Faith Today magazine. This week on the Faith Today blog we feature some of our favourite Flatt columns.

by Kevin Flatt

Everyone has heard of the hippie movement of the 1960s and 1970s. With their bright clothing, outlandish behaviour and psychedelic music, hippies attracted attention – often intentionally.

hippie

But what about a Christian hippie? Was such a thing even possible?

The Jesus People thought so. Jesus People was the name of a North American movement of the early 1970s made up of hippies who had become Christians through charismatic evangelicalism. The hippie subculture was in a state of crisis at the time, as many hippies descended into drug addictions and abject poverty. The Jesus People movement provided a way out at a time when the established churches and “straight” society as a whole seemed remote and unfamiliar.

While the Jesus People movement began in California – early Christian rock musician Larry Norman was an important figure in the movement there – it also sprouted up in various parts of Canada.

Downtown Toronto had a thriving Jesus People scene. According to historian Bruce Douville the focal point for this movement was the Catacombs Fellowship, which began as a small Bible study led by Scarborough high school students, but quickly grew into a major weekly downtown worship service of up to 2,000 young people. One of the Catacomb’s aims was to introduce hippies to Jesus, and at its peak it was not unusual for there to be 50 conversions per week.

Another manifestation of the Jesus People in Toronto was the House of Emmaus, a small Christian commune. Robert Velick, the founder, had been heavily involved in drugs and Eastern spirituality – even renaming himself “Wu,” a term from Daoist philosophy – but had become a follower of Jesus after a friend encouraged him to read through the Bible. Like the Catacombs Fellowship, the House of Emmaus had a significant outreach to the downtown youth community, and even conducted mass public baptisms – in Toronto Harbour in May, no less!
Continue reading Ever Heard of a Canadian Christian Hippie?

When Disaster Struck Halifax: The Church Rallied

Kevin Flatt is associate professor of history and director of research at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ont., and a history columnist for Faith Today magazine. This week on the Faith Today blog we feature some of our favourite Flatt columns.Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.29.00 AM

Just before 9:05 a.m. on the morning of December 6, 1917, the largest man-made explosion up to that point in history tore through Halifax. The Mont-Blanc, a French munitions ship packed with explosives, caught fire after a collision in the harbour and ran aground at Pier 6. Within minutes, 2.5 km2 of the city had been flattened by the blast and the ensuing tsunami. Part of the Mont-Blanc’s anchor, weighing 450 kg, was thrown through the air and landed over 3 km away.

The tragedy was the result of a series of mistakes and miscommunications between the Mont-Blanc, entering the harbour, and a departing Norwegian ship, the Imo.

Halifax was a busy wartime port. The safe passage of ships into and out of the harbour was governed by careful protocols, but somehow the Imo collided with the Mont-Blanc causing the fire that triggered the catastrophic explosion. Final responsibility for the collision was hotly disputed for years in the courts, though it seems both ships made serious errors in navigational judgment.

The consequences were severe. More than 1,600 people were killed in the initial explosion, with the total death toll eventually reaching closer to 2,000. Another 9,000 or so were injured, many seriously. The explosion rendered 6,000 Haligonians homeless and left another 25,000 – about half the city’s population – without proper shelter.
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The Black and White of 50 Shades of Grey

 By Sheila Wray Gregoire

When our family vacationed in Cozumel earlier this year, my 17-year-old was appalled at how many women were reading 50 Shades of Grey by the pool. “That’s like a guy watching porn in the open!”

Sheila Wray Gregoire's next Faith Today column tackles controversial movie.
Sheila Wray Gregoire’s next Faith Today column tackles controversial movie.

This book series has become mainstream. After $100 million in book sales, and the highest advance ticket sales of any R-rated movie ever, the story of a naïve 21-year-old being introduced to a world of sexual submission by a 25-year-old billionaire (yes, billionaire – the series is not exactly known for its realistic plotting), has made bondage fantasies seem normal.

It’s easy to dismiss this series as evidence of how sinful our society has become. But sexual deviance has always been with us. Something has made this series take off. Before we can speak into it, we need to understand the root of its appeal.

In her book The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts (W Publishing Group, 2012), Shannon Ethridge showed how the root of our fantasies often speaks directly about an unmet heart need – and illuminates our particular brokenness. If we get rid of the whips and chains from this story, what is the root appeal to women? A strong man rescuing a young woman adrift in the world.
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Living Day by Day When it is More Difficult Than Ever

by John G. Stackhouse Jr.

Oil prices recently sank to a four-year low and the International Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 9.30.01 AMEnergy Agency, a consultancy to 29 countries, predicts they will fall further in the year to come. As Canada’s economy depends so much on oil production, our petrodollar is only in the “high 80s” and likely to drop further. Remember when our dollar was at par with the American, and oil prices were expected to go up and up, and Alberta’s tar sands looked like a really mucky gold mine?

Who foresaw the new Russian czar risking war to annex parts of Ukraine? Who predicted ISIS’ reign of terror? Who, besides some paranoid screenwriters, imagined something like Ebola making its way out into the rest of the world?

At the end of interviews on a recent event or trend, journalists customarily ask the experts on the hot seat to predict the future. This practice continues even though we all recognize that no one will remember what they said and hold it against them five years from now, so they can say what they like. And no one can infallibly predict what will happen five months or five weeks or five days from now, so now it really doesn’t matter what they say.

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Don’t Slam The Door: When Jehovah’s Witnesses Come Knocking

By James A. Beverley

When Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on your door, you should keep the names of two women and two men in mind. All are former Witnesses who have dissented against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 6.56.36 AM

Barbara Anderson was a Witness from 1954–1997, including ten years as a researcher and writer at their headquarters in Brooklyn. She left largely because she thought the Society’s leaders were mishandling cases of child abuse in Witness congregations.

Candace Conti is one such case. Conti was molested by a man in her congregation in North Fremont, California, and won a multimillion-dollar settlement against him and the Witness organization in 2012.

Legalism and institutional blindness can affect any religious group, and Anderson and Conti give us the details particular among Witnesses.

Raymond Franz (1922–2010) and James Penton (b. 1932) highlight larger spiritual and intellectual failings. Both had given decades as faithful Witnesses, but slowly realized Society leaders cared more about image and loyalty than faithfulness to God.
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For the Sake of Lament

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Stacey Gleddiesmith suggests five ways churches can incorporate lament into worship.

“Lament is a crying out – in the midst of a world tainted by sin, sorrow, pain and confusion – to a good God who has the power to change a given situation,” says Stacey Gleddiesmith, program director of worship arts at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C.

Lament in church is an important part of worship. Here are Stacey’s tips for incorporating lament into church.

by Stacey Gleddiesmith

Select a different international or local struggle to pray for each week. Choose people to pray who are passionate about issues such as poverty and injustice. Have them pray with compassion, but ask them not to be afraid to call those responsible to account before God.

Break into small groups to pray over a certain issue or struggle (or many different issues and struggles). Give groups some background information and the basic structure of a lament psalm to help them to identify with the issue they are praying over. Be specific. It’s a lot harder to effectively pray about injustice than about re-emerging violence between the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda.
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When Some Moral Judgments Are Allowed. And Others Are Not.

by Bruce J. Clemenger

A recent editorial in The Globe and Mail began: “A physician who is predisposed by faith to make negative moral judgments about a patient is a bad doctor.”Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.15.45 AM

It went on to comment on a draft policy of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that will regulate the practices of its members.

Of course, that quoted opening line is a moral judgment about making moral judgments.

It presumes that certain moral judgments, such as those of the editorial writer, are allowable, but that judgments grounded in faith are bad.

This is the common wisdom of our day, which recognizes many moral pronouncements except for faith-based ones. Instead we hear calls for those to be privatized and excluded from public venues and within professions.
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Canadian Churches and Armageddon

– By Gordon Heath

It was a war that was not supposed to happen. Growing tensions in Europe were obvious, but recent developments in international arbitration had fuelled hopes that differences between imperial powers could be resolved peacefully.

A hundred years ago, Canadians entered the summer with little inkling of the utter disaster looming just over the horizon, and were unprepared when they found themselves at war on August 4, 1914. Armageddon had arrived.

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