by Ron Gray
For Canada Day – which used to be (and should still be) called ‘Dominion Day’* – Vancouver Sun religion columnist Doug Todd listed his suggestions for ten “Canadian values”:
- Participatory democracy.
- Reasonable tolerance of diversity.
- The rule of law.
- Stewardship of the Earth.
- No discrimination, including on gender or sexual orientation.
- Mixed economics: Market enterprise tempered by regulation.
- Universal health care for core needs.
- Readiness to pay taxes.
- Willingness to learn from “The Other.”
- Commitment to the common good.
I’d like to respond with a list of my own; that way, perhaps we can get a discussion going. But first, I need to establish some principles – principles are more enduring and immutable than “values”; values are merely what we ascribe value to, at the moment, and can change in an eye-blink; principles, like the laws of physics, don’t change. Ever.
Here are some principles for public life (which is what governments and politics are all about). Personal values and principles are just as important – maybe more important – but we’re talking about nationhood, here. Ultimately, the nation will assume a shape determined by the interplay of individual principles.
First of all, however, I have to confess that I have an advantage over poor Doug: my position doesn’t compel me to treat all faiths as though they were equal. And, indeed, that’s not possible: Judaism and Christianity and Islam say there’s only one God; Hinduism says there’s millions; Buddhism has no god. One = millions = zero is a logical absurdity. Some other tome, I’ll deal with why I’ve staked my eternal future on the Biblical faith; but for now, let’s get on with the national list of
Behind the principles that govern a nation’s identity must be a concept of governance. Ultimately, any form of government ending in “archy” or “cracy” isn’t really reliable; they depend on the personal integrity of the ruling authority. A monarchy depends on the monarch; a democracy depends on the people; a republic depends on both the Constitution (is it a good one?) and the people (will the people obey it?) Remember that Hitler came to power through a populist democracy; in the Messianic Age we’ll be governed by an absolute Monarch.
But the first principles of government must always derive from the concept of authority: what authority does a government have? and where does it come from?
There is – and always has been – only one Law-Giver; governments are not instituted to make laws, but to administer the Laws that have been given (at Sinai). William Blackstone, whose Commentaries on the English Law were for 200 years the primary textbook of every law school in the English-speaking world, wrote that “no enactment of man can be considered a law unless it accords with the Law of God.”
So, since we have passed statutes that are at variance with the Torah, those ideas cannot be considered part of our heritage. But other innovations, such as the idea that we will not allow anyone to perish for lack of medical care or funds, are consistent with that part of the Torah that commands us to, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
So what are the guiding principles that should keep Canada on the right path?
- Obey the Law (that is, what is consistent with God’s Law).
- Be generous (personally; not with other people’s money).
- Be compassionate.
- Love people and use things (too much of modern life loves things, and therefore uses people).
- Work hard and joyfully – and for the future, more than for the present.
- Leave Canada and the world in a better state than we received it.
- Rejoice in what we have been given; do not make the ability to be happy conditional on things unattained or imagined.
- Respect the legitimate rights of others; defend your own legitimate rights (and know the difference between legitimate rights and indulgence).
- Speak the truth in love.
- Be honest in all your dealings; do not covet nor take what is not yours.
For comparison’s sake, let’s discuss Doug Todd’s Ten:
1. Participatory democracy.
But democracy must not be idolized; it is always in danger of degenerating into mob rule, if we put it on a pedestal. When I was in school, we were taught that democracy meant rule by the majority, but stressed that the first obligation of the majority is to protect the rights of the minorities.
The only reason to defend democracy, really, is the knowledge that no fallen man or woman can be trusted with absolute power; therefore everyone in authority must be accountable to those under his or her authority.
2. Reasonable tolerance of diversity.
The operative word here is “reasonable”; we have fallen into the worship of a special brand of “diversity”, the hall-mark of which is intolerance for anyone who disagrees with it. The modern brand of “diversity” has no room for people who agree with Blackstone.
3. The rule of law.
The importance in this dictum is that it supersedes rule by persons.
4. Stewardship of the Earth.
A principle with which all (except the rapacious) can agree – it’s consistent with our Point #6.
5. No discrimination, including on gender or sexual orientation.
This idea, so prevalent today, is rooted in a misunderstanding of the word “discrimination”. It was once though to be the hallmark of civility to be discriminating – to have cultivated the ability to distinguish between what is good and what is bad, and to choose the good, whether doing so is of immediate personal benefit or not. We must restore the proper meaning of, and respect for “discrimination”. The word acquired a bad connotation when “discrimination based on race” was recognized as a social evil. But many forms of discrimination are good, and should be honoured.
6. Mixed economics: Market enterprise tempered by regulation.
The use of the word “tempered” tells me that Doug recognizes the evil implicit in both unrestrained avarice and unconstrained regulatory power. We would surely all agree.
7. Universal health care for core needs.
This is an expression of our Point #3, and is dependent on the limiting words “core needs”; but the socialist principle that prevents anyone from spending their money on any kind of health care, if it is not also available to all others, is excessively bureaucratic. And it must be recognized that abortion is never a “need”; it is the abuse of one person for the benefit of another; in this, it is akin to slavery and to the sacrifice of children to Moloch.
8. Readiness to pay taxes.
It’s a pity that Doug didn’t see fit to insert a modifying word here – like “reasonable taxes”. Christian economist Gary North has pointed out that when the government demands more than the ten percent that is God’s tithe, it has straying into idolatry.
9. Willingness to learn from “The Other.”
Yes; but there must be a standard against which everything we would learn must be measured. That standard is the Torah.
10. Commitment to the common good.
No quarrel here at all; but again, there must be a standard for defining “good”; we cannot hope to make the world “better” until we know what is meant by “good”. And again, that has been defined for us by the Creator.
* – A word about the word “Dominion”, as in “Dominion of Canada” and “Dominion Day”: As a teenager, I though the term meant that Canadians were under the thumb of Britain. I learned from the study of history that the Fathers or Confederation chose the term from the eighth verse of the 72nd Psalm: “He (meaning the returned Messiah) shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the great river to the ends of the earth.” Respect for His Torah, the foundation of all legitimate law, is implied in calling our nation a Dominion; and the term deserves to be restored.