Worship Moments July 2

Dear friends, 

This Canada Day, as we celebrate another year in the history of this great country, the question of Canadian values rises with redoubled urgency. What is it that makes Canada what it is, and how are we to view ourselves in a historical context?  In many ways, this year has been the year of reckoning for Canadian society - from its relations to the First Nations to the instances of abuse of power by the police. Given the instances of injustice that continue to emerge in our history, one is tempted to accept what I consider to be a dangerous narrative that emerges in social science - that Canadian society, as well as other Western societies, are fundamentally unjust and whose values exist to perpetuate injustice. In the stream of troubling news one can be hard pressed to find reasons for affirming Canadian values, or even circumscribing what they might be. 

I would argue that it is possible and, indeed, necessary to find them. To that end, in the past couple of days I found myself rethinking the experience of my own immigration, in an attempt to remember the reasons why we have come to live here, as well as the reasons why, with every passing year, I choose to remain. Oddly, the things that sprang to mind had a striking resemblance to a list of values. Things like freedom of speech, secular law, democratic institutions, peace, prosperity. Things that, once lost, can be very hard to recover. I believe that values like these are ones that most people can readily share. 

In an important sense, these are also a manifestation of our own Christian values. It is, of course, a truism, that most of the secular codes of laws have evolved from religious morality, but it was striking just how logical this development seemed the more I thought about it. Freedom of speech, for example, is an institutionalization of the idea of the logos, or the word, where truthful speech has the power to create habitable order out of chaos. In a sense, things like freedom of speech and democracy are mechanisms by which a society can update itself and insure social progress. The injunction in Matthew 21:22 ("Render, therefore, to Caesar, the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's") outlines the separation of the church and state, which allows for our secular code of laws and the resulting value of pluralism and religious tolerance. The injunction to "turn the other cheek" is a mechanism for deescalation of violence and the perpetuation of peace. 

I believe that even in moments of tragedy and crisis, we should affirm values such as these. Indeed, it is by referencing them that we as a country will retain the possibility to mend our ways, and to remain a place that so many wish to call home. It is true that these values are not uniquely "Canadian", but values do not need to be nationalistic in order for them to remain salient. Indeed, some of the deepest values are also universal. This makes me trust that at the most basic level, countries like Canada have gotten something fundamentally right. It fills me with pride to know that even in times of reckoning over the errors of the past, there is still so much we can say "yes" to. 

The recording I wanted to share with you today is one of the most famous solos from Handel's "Messiah". This is "Rejoice". A special "thanks" goes to soprano Sarah Forestieri for vocal fireworks. 

Hope you have had a wonderful Canada Day, dear friends. And, as always, hope you are well these days. 

Vlad S.

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