Like many other people of faith, I puzzle over how best to live and speak the things I believe, especially when my beliefs run contrary to what society accepts, even encourages. We live in a time of perplexing conflict between long and deeply held convictions and a surrounding cultural atmosphere of political correctness, dystopian thinking and social reconstruction.
As an example, Canada’s Parliament recently passed a bill (C-16) amending the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. Here is the actual summary of the Bill:
“This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. The enactment also amends the Criminal Code to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression and to clearly set out that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance that a court must take into consideration when it imposes a sentence.”
The federal law (which catches up to what many Canadian provinces have already legislated) makes it a criminal act to discriminate or incite hatred against someone who expresses a different gender identity or expression than seems obvious. Doing so could result in fines, re-education, and eventually jail time.
Jordan Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, warns that C-16 could (although proponents insist it won’t) restrict and make criminal the free speech of pastors, teachers, authors and parents of several major faiths and others who voice belief statements concerning gender, citing scriptures that state (among other related things) that God created humans in only two genders, male and female.
In other words, the Bible Christians cherish, as well as passages within the scriptures of Judaism and Islam, could themselves become hate speech. Already we have seen cases of school boards demanding that Christian schools refrain from using Biblical references that refer to homosexuality as an abomination. If Professor Peterson is correct about C-16, it poses a conundrum for anyone who believes those passages.
What now? How do we accommodate the law without compromising our beliefs? Is that even possible? And if so, how do we do that in ways that honour God? Christ-followers also wonder how to remain true to Jesus’ example of humility, compassion, grace and love. When some of his closest friends advocated political action as a way of freeing the Jewish people from the tyranny of Roman rule, he rejected that in favour of sacrificing his life to offer redemption to a world bound by sin’s tyranny.
I don’t know all the answers, and five hundred words can’t begin to tackle them. But Christ’s example still teaches us. Truth must be declared without retreat, regardless of consequences. But alongside that must come love for those who are lost, confused, alienated and fearful. For love can accomplish what strident voices never can.