The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, June 25, 2021

Abstract Flags


One of the bad habits of the age in which we live is the habit of turning abstract terms into flags, running them up the pole, and demanding that everybody salute them or be denounced as a traitor. 


This habit can be found on both sides of the political spectrum.   This is, for example, what neoconservatives do with the term “liberty” and its synonym “freedom”.   Up until about a century ago it was self-identified liberals who did this these terms but that is the nature of neoconservatism.   Irving Kristol defined a neoconservative as a “liberal who has been mugged by reality”.  Neoconservatism is yesterday’s liberalism.   Think back two decades to the events of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” that ensued.   The American President at the time, George W. Bush, his Cabinet, and his supporters all maintained that 9/11 had been an attack on American “liberty” by people who hated Americans for their “freedom” and that their “War on Terror” would be fought on behalf of said freedom.   They ran freedom up the flagpole, demanded that everyone salute, and denounced everyone that was not 100% behind everything they were doing as a traitor to liberty.


By turning “freedom” and “liberty” into flags, and proclaiming their allegiance to them, however, they avoided accountability for how their actions were affecting the actual freedoms and liberties of American citizens.   In order to fight the “War on Terror” on behalf of the abstract flag of “freedom”, they permanently and exponentially expanded the powers of their government and created a national surveillance state.   It is a strange sort of “freedom” and one that does not much resemble the traditional understanding of the word that can be defended in this way.  


This, of course, is the problem with this habit of making flags out of abstract terms.   Allegiance to the term as a flag is required of people, but it is all that is required, not any sort of consistent, intelligent, understanding of the term.


Progressives are just as prone to this bad habit as conservatives.   Indeed, they are much worse.    In the previous example it was noted that the abstraction the neoconservatives were saluting as a flag had originally been run up the pole by liberals, who are progressives and this is true of most of the abstractions that today’s conservatives salute.   Progressives are the ones who make the abstract terms into flags, then, when they have decided that the flag they were saluting yesterday is no longer “modern” (1), they abandon it to the conservatives and make a new one.   “Democracy” is an abstract flag that progressives created and neoconservatives adopted even though the progressives have not abandoned it.   Both sides frequently accuse the other of betraying “democracy”.   This is one reason, among many, why I try to avoid saluting this particular flag, and insist that I believe in the concrete institution of parliament under the reign of a royal monarch, that has proven itself through the test of time, rather than abstract ideal of democracy.


At the present moment the primary abstract flag that progressives are saluting and demanding that the rest of us show our allegiance to is that of “diversity”.   This, of course, raises the question of what kind of diversity is in question.   The term is used in a myriad of diverse contexts, from speaking of someone whose outfits are radically different from day to day as having a diverse wardrobe to a farmer who plants diverse crops as opposed to only wheat or only barley to my own use of the word at the beginning of this sentence.   The diversity that progressives demand our allegiance to today is a very specific kind of diversity.   It means diversity of the population in terms of categories of group identity.   Race and cultural ethnicity are the most obvious such categories.   Sex ought to be the least controversial such category, in that no human population could last longer than a generation that is entirely of one sex, and all societies except for mythical ones like the Amazons, have been sexually diverse in the traditional sense.   Progressives have turned it into the most controversial category, however, by demanding that everyone show their allegiance to diversity of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”.


In practice, the progressive insistence that we all salute the flag of diversity translates into a requirement that we accept the propositions a) that diversity of this kind is an unmixed blessing to a society and b) the more diversity of this kind a society has the better off it will be.   Here again, we find the habit of making flags out of abstract ideas shutting down intelligent thought concerning those ideas.   Both propositions are obviously false.   Consider the first proposition.  The much more nuanced statement that there are positives and negatives to both cultural and racial heterogeneity (diversity) and homogeneity, that each conveys distinct advantages and disadvantages upon a society, and that the advantages and disadvantages of each must be weighed against those of the other can be defended intelligently.   So can the assertion that after such weighing, the advantages of diversity outweigh its disadvantages and the advantages of homogeneity, although the opposite assertion can also be intelligently defended.    The proposition that diversity of this kind is an unmixed blessing cannot be intelligently defended.  Even if it could, however, and further, we were to concede it to be the case, the second proposition, that the more diversity the better, would by no means follow from the first.   Plenty of things that are good in themselves turn bad when taken to excess.   Indeed, in classical Aristotelean ethics, vices (bad habits) are formed by indulging natural appetites that are good in themselves to excess, and in classical Christian theology heresies (serious doctrinal errors concerning tenets of the Gospel kerygma as summarized in the ancient Creeds) are formed by taking one tenet of the faith, true in itself, to excess.


More important, for the purposes of this discussion, than what is included in the “diversity” to which progressives demand our allegiance, is what is excluded.   It is quite clear, from the way progressives respond to those who dare to raise points such as those raised in the previous paragraph, that diversity of thought or opinion is not included in the diversity they praise and value so highly.   Indeed, this entire bad habit of turning an abstract idea into a flag is very inconsistent with the idea of diversity of thought or opinion.   Yet, for anyone who values freedom in the political sense as it was traditionally understood, this is surely the most important kind of diversity of all.   For that matter, for parliamentary government or democracy, in any sense of the word that is consistent with a free society, to function, diversity of thought must be the most important kind of diversity.


While this does provide a further illustration of how progressives, in raising new abstract flags, abandon those they saluted in days gone by, it has long been observed that even when liberals, the progressives of yesterday, expressed a belief in diversity of thought, their practice often contradicted it.   Remember that famous line of William F. Buckley Jr.’s “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover there are other views”?  He made this statement, in one form or another, numerous times, and I don’t know when he first said it, but the oldest version of which I am aware comes from his Up From Liberalism, first published in 1959.   “Duke” Morrison, the legendary actor who under the stage name John Wayne starred in countless films from The Big Trail in 1930 until The Shootist in 1976, in an interview with Tony Macklin in 1975 said:


I have found a certain type calls himself a liberal.   Now I always thought I was a liberal.   I came up terribly surprised one time when I found out that I was a right-wing, conservative extremist, when I listened to everybody’s point of view that I ever met, and then decided how I should feel.  But this so-called new liberal group, Jesus, they never listen to your point of view and they make a decision as to what you think and they are articulate enough and in control of enough of the press to force that image out for the average person.


If this could be said of liberals back in 1959 and 1975 it is all the more true of today’s progressives.   


One way in which this is evident is in their exclusionary rhetoric.   Progressives, especially those who hold some sort of office of civic authority, have become increasingly prone to issuing proclamations about how such-and-such a thing they disapprove of has “no place” in our community and society.  It would be one thing if what they were so excluding were things like murder, robbery, and rape which would meet with broad disapproval in pretty much any society in any time and place.   In most cases, however, they are speaking of some “ism” or “phobia”, usually one that has been that has been newly coined.   What these neologisms have in common is that each of them is defined in a special way.   On the surface, these “isms” and “phobias” appear to refer to varieties of crude bigotry but they are applied by progressives in actual usage so as to include all forms of dissent from the sacred progressive dogma that identity-group diversity is always good and that more identity-group diversity is always better, no matter how respectfully and intelligently that dissent is worded.   A couple of months ago the Orthosphere blogger who writes under the nom de plume Bonald after the reactionary philosopher who wrote against the French Revolution and its aftermath provided us with some disturbing insights into the implications of the growth of this sort of rhetoric.


Another way in which the progressive Left’s increasing rejection of the most important form of diversity for those who want to live in a free society with a functioning parliamentary government is in its use of the terms “denial” and “denier” as derogatory epithets for those who disagree with its dogmas.


This has become fairly standard practice whenever progressives run into disagreement on a wide assortment of matters.   The implications of this use of these terms are that either a) what progressives are asserting is so self-evidently obvious that one would have to be stubbornly, stupidly and willfully ignorant to disagree, b) we are under a moral obligation to believe what the progressives say and therefore are committing a moral offense in disagreeing, or c) a combination of a) and b).    Since progressives are not the authorities of a religious communion to which we all belong and have no legitimate authority to set dogma, the second of these implications is absurd.  Since progressives use the “denial” and “denier” epithets to avoid answering well-reasoned and evidence backed arguments against their positions the first of these implications is also ridiculous.


This becomes quite comical when the progressive assertions pertain to matters that have a large scientific component.  For decades now, anyone who has questioned the progressive narrative that states that due mostly to the emissions of greenhouse gasses by livestock and human industry the average temperature of the earth has risen and cataclysmic climate change is impending unless the population of the world is radically reduced, we all become vegans, and we stop using fossil fuels for energy has been labelled a “denier”.   A rather convenient way of avoiding answering difficult questions such as “why should climate change be assumed to be for the worse rather than the better, especially since historically human beings have thrived better in warm periods than cold ones?” and “why, since the earth’s climate has hardly been constant throughout history to the point that advocates of your theory have stooped to doctoring graphs of the historical data to hide this fact, should we expect it to remain constant now and be alarmed about the observed rise of about a degree in the earth’s average temperature over a century?”   In the last year and a half we have seen progressives accuse anyone who questions whether it is either good or necessary to sabotage the economies of every country in the world, drive small businesses into bankruptcy while enriching the billionaires who control the big online businesses, cancel our constitutional rights and freedoms, brainwash everyone into looking upon other human beings primarily as sources of contagion, exponentially accelerate the problem of people substituting their smartphones and computers for real, in-person social contact, establish anarcho-tyrannical police states in which acts that are bona in se and absolutely essential to healthy social and communal life are turned into mala prohibita crimes and hunted down with greater severity than real crimes that are actually mala in se, and bribing and blackmailing people into accepting an experimental new gene therapy in violation of the Nuremberg Protocol, all in order to combat a pandemic involving a virus that has proven to be less lethal than the vast majority of previous pandemics for which no such extreme measures were ever considered, let alone taken, of being a “COVID denier”.    To be fair, plenty of “conservative” political leaders, including the premiers of my own province (Manitoba), Alberta, and Upper Canada have all done the same, but the progressives have been much more monolithic about it.   The reason this is so comical is because real “science”, as anybody who understands the word knows, does not make dogmatic statements and therefore admits of no “denial”.   The comedy is greatly enhanced when those denouncing “COVID deniers” or “climate change deniers” advise us to “follow the science” or “listen to the science” as if “science” made dogmatic proclamations, or when they say “the science is settled” when, by the prevalent litmus test of the philosophy underlying science, for a theory to be scientific, it must be falsifiable, and therefore, science can never be settled.   Less funny and more sad, is when someone like Anthony Fauci or Theresa Tam admits the real nature of science, that it is always evolving, but uses this to back up a claim to absolute obedience of the nature of “you should unquestioningly obey my orders at any given moment, even if it contradicts what I told you to do the moment before” as if he, or allegedly she in the case of Tam, were Petruchio and the rest of us were Katherina the shrew.


It is far less comical when progressives impose a narrative interpretation on their country’s history in order to undermine the legitimacy of their country and its institutions and attack its historical figures, and then accuse those who point out the holes in their narrative of “denial”.   In this case, the progressives are walking in the footsteps of the French Jacobins, the Chinese Maoists, and the Khmer Rouge all of whom wrought tremendous devastation, destruction, and disaster upon their countries by insisting that their history was irredeemably corrupt and needed to be razed to the ground, along with all of the countries’ institutions.   This is what the progressives that infest Canada’s university faculties and newsmedia, both print and electronic, have been attempting to do in Canada for a couple of decades with their interpretation of the Indian Residential Schools.   In the real past, the past as it actually happened, these were boarding schools, initially founded by Christian Churches as a missionary outreach to Native Indians to provide their children with the kind of education they would need if they were to thrive in the modern economy.   The Indian chiefs of the nineteenth century wanted just this kind of education for their children and so, at their insistence, the stipulation that it would be provided by the Dominion government was included in all of the treaties.   Accordingly, the government funded and expanded these schools, as well as making provisions for day schools on the reserves.   If Indian parents neglected to send their kids to the day schools, the government would make the kids go to the residential schools, but initially it was mostly the kids of the chiefs and the elders of the bands who were sent to the schools at their own parents’ insistence.   By a century later, however, the government was making these schools serve the double function of schools and foster group homes for Indian children whom child welfare social workers had removed from their homes to protect them from such things as physical abuse.   Through utterly contemptible methodology, including a “victim centred” approach to testimony that could just as easily have been used to produce an equally damning picture of the schools to which wealthy, elite, white kids were sent, or for that matter schools of any sort because for any school you can always find alumni for whom the experience was something horrible to be “survived”, and which is completely in violation of the standards by which truth and guilt are assessed in the courtroom and the historical process, progressives spun a cock and bull narrative in which all the bad experiences in the schools were made out to have been the intent of the schools’ founders, administrators, and the Canadian government, and the  purpose of the schools was interpreted as the elimination of Native Indian cultural identities.   The progressives then used this narrative interpretation to claim that all of this was the moral equivalent of what the Third Reich did in its prison camps in World War II or what was done to the Tutsis in the last days of the Rwandan Civil war, which would have been a reprehensible claim even if the facts admitted of no other interpretation than that of their narrative, which is not even close to being the case.   The progressives insist that everything else in the history of Canada, especially anything traditionally seen as a great and positive achievement of either English or French Canadians, must take a backset to their interpretation of the Indian Residential Schools and that Canadians of all ethnicities, but especially English and French Canadians, must perpetually live in shame and submit to having their country “cancelled”.   In the last month or so the progressives have kicked this up a notch by claiming falsely that the discovery of the location of abandoned cemeteries on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School – and more recently the Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan – was a “shocking” new discovery (that such cemeteries were to be found has been known all along – an entire volume of the TRC Final Report is dedicated to this) and, irresponsibly to the point of criminal defamation of past Canadian governments, the Churches and the school administrators, faculty, and staff, that the graves constitute evidence of mass murder, the least plausible explanation, by far, of the deaths of the children.


For several weeks now Chris Champion, author, historian, and editor of the history journal the Dorchester Review, one of the few publications in Canada still worth reading, has been attacked by progressives over tweets made on the journal’s Twitter account challenging this narrative.   Sean Carleton, who is associated with the Indigenous Studies program at the University of Manitoba, accused the Dorchester Review of being a “straight up garbage, genocide denialism, outfit” for agreeing with the Final Report of the TRC that “the cause of death was usually tuberculosis or some other disease”.   Janis Irwin, the Deputy Whip for Alberta’s NDP, also denounced Champion as “reprehensible and disgusting” for expressing this agreement with the TRC’s Final Report, and demanded that Jason Kenney scrap the K-9 social studies curriculum on the preparation of which, Champion had advised the Albertan government.   While this sort of thing is to be expected from those of Carleton’s and Irwin’s ilk, about a week ago the CBC, the Crown broadcaster paid for out of the taxes of all Canadians, ran a story by Janet French of CBC Edmonton,  full of quotes from people such as the Alberta NDP Education Critic, Sarah Hoffman, Nicole Sparrow who is press secretary to Kenney’s Education Minister, Kisha Supernant who is an archeology professor at the University of Manitoba, and Daniel Panneton of the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto, all expressing how appalled they were at Champion’s disagreement with the progressive, Canada-bashing, narrative, this time in an article that appeared on Dorchester Review’s website under his byline on June 17th and which pointed out just how inappropriate the comparisons the narrative makes between the residential schools and what happened in Europe in the 1940s are.    


In his article, which is well-worth reading in its entirety, Champion wrote:


It is ridiculous to compare organizations of poor Oblates to machine-gun-toting Einsatzgruppen and Soviet NKVD.   And it is equally false and unjust to act as if every single nun or priest or brother or Methodist minister and his wife was a child-abuser or sexual predator. 


All of this is absolutely true and, it is worth noting, the second sentence is quite consistent with the TRC Report in which the testimony of those who experienced sexual abuse is overwhelmingly of the type in which older students were the abusers, sadly the common experience of boarding school students of all types.  Which is why all of Champion’s detractors quoted in the CBC article do not answer his arguments but merely accuse him of bigoted attitudes and “denial”.   “One photo of smiling children does not negate thousands of survivors’ stories”, which Kisha Supernant is quoted as having said, is the closest thing to an attempt at an answer that appears, although anyone who reads Champion’s article from beginning to end – since the CBC article appeared the same day it is questionable as to whether those quoted had done so – will know that nothing in the article negates the testimony of those whose experience at the residential schools was bad, only the spin by placed on that testimony by the progressive narrative, a narrative, incidentally, which itself negates the testimony of no small number of alumni of these schools whose experience was positive.


The progressives who have been attacking Champion and the Dorchester Review talk as if they think that someone who tells a story of having suffered victimization, especially of the sort that can be attributed to some prohibited “ism” or “phobia”, has a right to have “their truth” in current progressive lingo accepted without question or cross-examination.  A certain type of feminist makes this claim explicitly with regards to females who claim to have been sexually harassed or assaulted.   This sort of thinking runs contrary to the principles of courtroom justices, such as the right of the accused to confront and cross-examine his accuser, and the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, principles which exist for very good reasons, to prevent courts of law from being used as instruments of abuse by false accusers.   This kind of talk, however, is a rhetorical device that dishonestly equates criticism of the progressives’ ideas, interpretations, and narratives with criticism of personal testimony incorporate into these narratives.  


In all of these examples of progressive dismissal of their critics as “deniers” we can see how progressives have moved increasingly further away from the diversity of thought and opinion that is the most important diversity as far as the freedom of society and the functioning of parliamentary government goes.    In the last example, the diversity of thought they condemn as “denial” is disagreement with their narrative interpretation of the history of the residential schools, a narrative interpretation that they are presently using to attack the foundations and institutions of Canada, an attack which if it succeeds and follows its historical precedents will not bode well for freedom and parliamentary government in this country.   This makes the way progressives have run “diversity” up the flagpole and are constantly demanding that we salute it into a kind of sick joke.


Perhaps it is time we all got over this bad habit of turning abstract ideas into flags.




 (1)   In Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, (1932) Basil Seal, having fled England to avoid the duties his mother was insisting he take up, is invited to help modernize the country of Azania by its Emperor Seth, an old Oxford friend of his.   He tells Seth “we’ve got a much easier job than we should have had fifty years ago.  If we’d had to modernize a country then it would have meant constitutional monarchy, bi-cameral legislature, proportional representation, women’s suffrage, independent judicature, freedom of the Press, referendums…” to which the Emperor asks “what is all that” and is told “just a few ideas that have ceased to be modern”.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Kangaroo Court is Now in Session

The sixth of June is the anniversary of D-Day, the day, in 1944, when the Allied forces landed on the beach of Normandy and launched the offensive that would liberate Occupied Europe from the forces of Nazi Germany.  This year, on that date, something happened in the Upper Canadian city of London, which the government of the Dominion has declared to be an attack of an entirely different sort.  That evening a family was waiting to cross at an intersection, when a pickup truck ran into them.   One was killed on the spot, three later succumbed to the injuries they had sustained, a fifth was wounded but not fatally.


This would be a horrible occurrence, of course, under any circumstances.  It appears, however, that this was not just some terrible mishap where the driver lost control of his truck.  It seems to have been deliberate.    If this is indeed the case that makes it much worse because a crime is much worse than an accident.  I am speaking, obviously, about how the incident as a whole is to be evaluated.  The dead and wounded would have been no less dead and wounded in an equally fatal accident.


The London police very quickly announced that they were investigating this as a hate crime.   Indeed, the speed in which they made this announcement seems extremely irresponsible when we consider that virtually nothing in the way of evidence corroborating this interpretation of the incident has since been released.   This could be explained, perhaps, if the perpetrator, who soon after asked a taxi driver to call the police and thus essentially turned himself in, had confessed to being motivated by hate.   If this is the case, however, the police have not yet disclosed it.   From the facts that have been disclosed, the only apparent grounds for classifying it as a hate crime are the ethnicity and religion of the victims, who were Muslims and immigrants from Pakistan.


There are many who would say that just as a crime is worse than an accident, so a hate crime is worse than a regular crime.   I am not one of those.   There are basically two angles from which we can look at the distinction between hate crimes and regular crimes.   The first is the angle of motive.   Viewed from this angle, the distinction between hate crimes and regular crimes is that the former are motivated by prejudice – racial, religious, sexual, etc.- and the latter are not.   The second angle is the angle of the victim.   Viewed from this perspective, the distinction between hate crimes and regular crimes is that the victims of the former are members of racial, religious, or ethnic minorities, women, or something other than heterosexual and cisgender and the victims of the latter are not.  Viewed either way, however, the idea that a hate crime is much worse than a regular crime is extremely problematic.


Is it worse to take somebody’s life because you don’t like the colour of his skin than to take his life because you want his wallet?  


If we answer this question with yes then we must be prepared to support that answer with a reason.   It is difficult to come up with one that can stand up well under cross-examination.   One could try arguing, perhaps, that the murder motivated by prejudice is worse than the murder committed in the act of robbing someone on the grounds that whereas prejudice is irrational, wanting someone else’s money if you have desperate need of it yourself, is not.   This runs contrary to long-established judicial precedent, however.   If a man is so irrational that he is considered to be insane this is grounds for a plea of not guilty in a court of law.   Conversely, the man who did not go out intending to kill someone but does so in the act of stealing his wallet can be charged with first-degree murder.   This is because his intention to commit the crime of robbery makes it a premeditated act.  


Suppose, however, we take the view from the other angle and distinguish between hate crimes and regular crimes based upon the identity of the victims.   From this standpoint, the assertion that hate crimes are worse than regular crimes translates into the idea that it is worse commit a crime against members of such-and-such groups than it is to commit crimes against anyone else.  Worded that way, is there anyone who would be willing to sign on to such a statement?


The idea that hate crimes ought to be considered worse than regular crimes of the same nature but with other more mundane motivations arises out of the idea that “hate” itself ought to be treated as a crime.   The problem with this is that hate, whether in the ordinary sense of the word, or in the rather specialized sense of the word that is employed when discussing “hate speech”, “hate crimes”, “hate groups”, etc. is an attitude of the heart and mind.   To say that “hate” ought to be a crime, therefore, is to say that the government ought to legislate against certain types of thought.   This, however, has long been considered one of the distinguishing characteristics of bad government, government that is tyrannical and totalitarian.   Those familiar with George Orwell’s 1984 will remember that in the totalitarian state of Oceania there was a special police force tasked with tracking down anyone questioned, disagreed with, or otherwise dissented from the proclamations and ideology of the ruling Ingsoc Party and its leader Big Brother.   Such dissenters, including the novel’s protagonist Winston Smith, were regarded as being guilty of crimethink.    I’m quite certain that if Eric Blair were alive today he would be reminding us that this was supposed to be an example to avoid rather than one to emulate.


To return from the idea of hate crimes in general and in the abstract, to the specific, concrete, incident of the sixth of the June, the way our politicians and other civil leaders, aided and abetted by media pundits and religious leaders have been behaving is absolutely atrocious.   All evidence that has been released to the public to date points in the direction of this Nathaniel Veltman having been a “lone truckman”.   Our politicians, however, led by Captain Airhead and his goofy sidekick Jimmy Dhaliwal, but including Upper Canadian Premier Doug Ford and London Mayor Ed Holder, very quickly and very shamelessly politicized the incident and capitalized upon the suffering of the Afzaal family in order to shift the blame off of the actual perpetrator and onto the Canadian public in general with their incessant talk about “Islamophobia”.  


Once again Captain Airhead has been demonstrating his total inability to learn from his past mistakes.   One might think that the man who after building his political career upon a carefully constructed image as the poster boy for “woke” anti-racism was revealed to be a serial blackface artist would have learned a little humility and would have given up lecturing the Canadian public about how we all need to be more enlightened and less prejudiced.   Or that the man whose efforts to use inappropriate political influence to obtain a prosecutorial deal for a company that was a huge donor to his party landed him in the biggest political scandal of his career might have learned that it is not his place to issue proclamations about criminal guilt before the investigation is complete, charges have been laid, and a conviction obtained.   One would certainly hope that the man who has long made it a point of never calling acts of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam “terrorism” would not use this word to describe any act of violence committed against Muslims at the first opportunity that presented itself as if he lived in some fantasy world where Muslims could only be victims and never perpetrators of terrorism. Anyone thinking or hoping such things does not know Captain Airhead very well.


The cynical among us would observe first and foremost just how this incident seems tailor-made to fit Captain Airhead’s agenda.   Captain Airhead has made no secret of the fact that he wants Canadians to be less free to disagree with him on matters of race, religion, sex, etc.   Granted, he doesn’t word it that way, he says that free speech is important but it doesn’t include hate speech.     Here is the key to understanding him.   Every time someone says “I believe in free speech” or some equivalent statement expressing support for free speech and a “but” immediately follows that statement, everything that follows the “but” negates and nullifies everything that precedes it.   Captain Airhead has been trying since the beginning of his premiership to re-introduce laws forbidding Canadians from expressing views that he doesn’t like on the internet.    Bill C-10, introduced last fall for the ostensible purpose of bringing companies like Netflix under the same regulatory oversight of the CRTC as traditional broadcasters, has been widely regarded as a means of smuggling this sort of thing in through the back door, and the Liberals numerous attempts to circumvent open debate in the House so as to ram the bill through prior to the summer adjournment have hardly done anything to assuage such suspicions.   Captain Airhead was undoubtedly looking for an incident that he could blow out of proportion enabling him to grandstand and basically say, “See, I’m not a creepy little dictator-wannabee, I’m just trying to fight hate like the kind that we saw here”.     No, I’m not suggesting that Captain Airhead faked the incident.   I would not be surprised to learn, however, that some memorandum had been sent to law enforcement agencies telling them to be on the lookout for anything that could be plausibly spun as a hate crime, and to flag it as such regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.  


As for Jimmy Dhaliwal, the less said about his ridiculous assertions that Muslims are living in constant fear of their Islamophobic neighbours in Canada the better.   Such nonsense does not deserve the dignity of a response.


By politicizing this incident in this way, Captain Airhead and Jimmy Dhaliwal are, of course, trying to put the Canadian public in general on trial.   “It is because you are prejudiced against Muslims” they are saying in effect “that this happened, and so you are to blame for this young man’s actions, and therefore you must be punished by having more of your freedoms of thought, conscience, and speech taken from you”.   For years the Left has put the Canada of the past, and her founders and historical figures and heroes on trial over the Indian Residential Schools.  It has been the kind of trial where only the prosecution is allowed to present evidence and the defense is not allowed to cross-examine much less present a case of its own.   Over the past few weeks this mockery of a trial has been renewed due to the non-news item of the discovery of an unmarked cemetery at the Residential School in Kamloops.   The incident in London is now being exploited by the Left to put living Canadians of the present day on the same sort of unjust trial before the same sort of kangaroo court of public opinion.


In 1940 the film “My Little Chickadee” was released which starred the legendary sexpot Mae West and the equally legendary lush W. C. Fields.   It was the first – and last – time they would appear together.   West and Fields had also written the screenplay, or rather West wrote it with some input from Fields in the rare moments he wasn’t totally sloshed, and there is a scene in it in which some of the dialogue is purportedly taken from West’s own experience of thirteen years earlier, when she had been briefly jailed in New York on the rather Socratic charge of “corrupting the morals of youth” over the Broadway play “Sex” that she had written, produced, directed, and, of course, starred in herself.   In the scene in the film, West’s character, Miss Flower Belle Lee finds herself, through the tongue of the character played by Margaret Hamilton, the actress who had portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West the previous year and who seems to have remained in character sans green makeup for this film, appearing before a judge.   After one of her trademark flippant remarks, the judge asks her “young lady, are you trying to show your contempt for this court?”   Her famous reply was “No, your honour, I’m doing my best to conceal it”.


I trust that you, my readers, will recognize that no such concealment is being attempted here.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Stand Up to the Mob!


When a mob vandalizes or tears down statues that have been in place for generations of nation-builders, whether statesmen like Sir John A. Macdonald, Father of Confederation and first Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, or educators like Egerton Ryerson, one of the chief architects of the Upper Canadian – Ontarian for the hopelessly up-to-date – public school system, back the in days when schools were a credit to their builders rather than a disgrace, this tells us much more about the mob than about the historical figures whose memory they are attacking.   It is far easier to tear something down than it is to build something, especially something of lasting benefit.   It is also much quicker.   What these acts tell us is that the members of these mobs, whether taken individually or collectively, who are howling for the “cancelling” of the memories of men like Macdonald and Ryerson, do not have it in them to achieve a thousandth of what such men accomplished.  Driving them down this quick and easy, but ultimately treacherous and deadly, path of desecration and destruction, is the spirit of Envy, which is not mere jealousy, the wish to have what others have, but the hatred of others for being, having, or doing what you do not and cannot be, have, or do yourself.   It was traditionally considered among the very worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, second only to Pride.    This makes it almost fitting, in a perverse sort of way, that last weekend’s mob assault on the statue of Ryerson at the University that bears his name, took place at the beginning of the month which, to please the alphabet soup people of all the colours of the rainbow, now bears the name of that Sin in addition to the Roman name for the queen of Olympus.


The toppling of the Ryerson statue came at the end of a week in which the Canadian media, evidently tired of the bat flu after a year and a half, found a new dead horse to flog.   Late in May, a couple of days after the anniversary of the incident which, after it was distorted and blown out of proportion by the media, sparked last year’s wave of race riots and “Year Zero” Cultural Maoism, and just in time to launch Indigenous History Month, yet another new handle for the month formerly known as June, the Kamloops Indian Band made an announcement.   They had hired someone to use some fancy newfangled sonar gizmo to search the grounds of the old Indian Residential School at Kamloops and, lo and behold, they had discovered 215 unmarked graves.  


The Canadian mainstream media was quick to label this discovery “shocking”.   This speaks extremely poorly about the present state of journalistic integrity in this country.   When used as an adjective, the word shocking expresses a negative judgement about that which is so described but it also generally conveys a sense of surprise on the part of the person doing the judging.   There was nothing in the Kamloops announcement, however, that ought to have been surprising.   It revealed nothing new about the Indian Residential Schools.   That there are unmarked graves on the grounds of these schools has been known all along. The fourth volume of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report is entitled Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.  It is 273 pages long and was published in December of 2015.    According to this volume the death rate due to such factors as disease – tuberculosis was the big one – and suicide was much higher among aboriginal children at the Residential Schools than among school children in the general population.   The TRC attributed this to the inadequacy of government standards and regulations for these schools which fell under the jurisdiction of the federal government rather than the provincial education ministries like other schools, as well as inadequate enforcement of such standards and regulations, and inadequate funding.   Had the TRC been the impartial body of inquiry it made itself out to be it would also have compared the death rate among Residential School children to that among aboriginal children who remained at home on the reserves.     At any rate, according to the TRC Report, unless the families lived nearby or could afford to have the bodies sent to them, they were generally buried in cemeteries at the schools which were abandoned and fell into disuse and decay after the schools were closed.    All that this “new discovery” has added to what is already contained in that volume is the location of 215 of these graves.   One could be forgiven for thinking that all the progressives in the mainstream Canadian media who have been spinning the Residential School narrative into a wrecking ball to use against Canada and the men who built her are not actually that familiar with the contents of the TRC Report.


The Canada-bashing progressives have been reading all sorts of ridiculous conclusions into the discovery of these graves that the actual evidence in no way bears out.   The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was hardly an impartial and unbiased body of inquiry.   Its end did not seem to be the first noun in its title so much as painting as unflattering a portrait of the Indian Residential Schools, the Canadian churches, and the Canadian government as was possible.  Even still, it did not go so far as to accuse the schools of the mass murder of children.   The most brazen of the progressive commentators have now been pointing to the discovery of the graves and making that accusation, and their slightly less brazen colleagues have been reporting the story in such a way as to lead their audiences to that conclusion without their outright saying it.   This is irresponsible gutter journalism at its worst.   The Kamloops band and its sonar technicians have not discovered anything that the TRC Report had not already told us was there, and bodies have not been exhumed, let alone examined for cause of death.   Indeed, they did not even discover a “mass grave” as innumerable media commentators have falsely stated, with some continuing to falsely say this despite the band chief having issued an update in which she explicitly stated “This is not a mass grave”.   The significance of this is that it shows that the media has been painting the picture of a far more calloused disposal of bodies than the evidence supports or the band claims.


The media, of course, are not acting in bona fide.  This time last year, they were using the death of George Floyd to promote a movement that was inciting race riots all across the United States and even throughout the larger Western world.   Coinciding with this was a wave of mob attacks on the monuments of a wide assortment of Western nation-builders, institutional founders, statesmen, and other honoured historical figures.   The New York Times, the American trash rag of record,  had been laying the foundation for this for months by running Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project, a revisionist distortion of American history that interprets everything by viewing it through the lens of slavery, in its Sunday Magazine supplement.    What we are seeing up here this year is simply the Canadian left-wing gutter press trying to reproduce its American cousin’s success of last year.


Those who use their influence to support statue-toppling mobs have no business commenting on history whatsoever.   By their very actions they demonstrate that they have not learned a fairly basic historical lesson.   Movements that seek to tear down a country’s history – her past cannot be torn down, but her history, her “remembered past” to use John Lukacs’ definition, can - never end well but rather in disaster, destruction, and misery for all.   The Jacobins attempted this in France in the 1790s when they started history over with their Republic at “Year One”, and endued up with the Reign of Terror.   It has been a pretty standard feature of all Communist revolutions since.    Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, when they took over Cambodia in 1975, declared it to be “Year Zero”.   Watch the film “The Killing Fields” or read my friend Reaksa Himm’s memoir The Tears of My Soul to find out what that was like.  Anybody who fails to grasp the simple historical fact that these are terrible examples and not ones to be emulated has no business passing judgement on the errors of the historical figures who built countries and institutions, led them through difficult periods, and otherwise did the long and difficult work of construction, enriching future generations, rather than the short and easy work of destruction that can only impoverish them.


There are undoubtedly those who would feel that this comparison of today’s statue-topplers who are now likening our country’s founders to Hitler with the Jacobins, Maoists, Pol Pot and other statue-toppling, country-and-civilization destroyers of the past is unfair.    It is entirely appropriate, however.   It is one thing to acknowledge that bad things took place at the Indian Residential Schools and to give those who suffered those things a platform and the opportunity to share their story.   It is another thing altogether to use those bad things to paint a cartoonish caricature so as to condemn the schools, the churches that administered them, and the country herself, wholesale, and to silence those whose testimony as to their experiences runs contrary to this one-sided, un-nuanced, narrative.   It is one thing to acknowledge that admired leaders of the past were human beings and thus full of flaws, or even to point out examples of how they fell short of the standards of their own day or of timeless standards.   It is something quite different to use their flaws to discredit and dismiss their tremendous accomplishments and, even worse, to condemn them for failing to hold attitudes that are now all but ubiquitous but which nobody anywhere in the world held until the present generation.  


When the so-called Truth and Reconciliation process began – I don’t mean the appointment of the Commission but the proceedings that led to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement which brought about the creation of the Commission, so we are talking about two and a half decades ago – the discussion was primarily about physical and sexual abuse that some of the alumni of the schools had suffered there, over which they had initiated the lawsuits that led to the Settlement.   With the creation of the TRC, however, the discussion came to be dominated by people with another very different agenda.   Their agenda was to condemn the entire Residential Schools system as a project of “cultural genocide”.


The concept of “cultural genocide” is nonsensical.   Genocide, a term coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944, means the murder of a “people”, in the sense of a group with a common ancestry and identity.  The Holocaust of World War II is the best known example. The mass murder of Tutsis in Rwanda towards the end of that country’s civil war in 1994 is a more recent example.   The concept of “cultural genocide” was thought up by the same man who coined the term.   It refers to efforts to destroy a people’s cultural identity without killing the actual people.   Since the equation of something that does not involve killing actual people with mass murder ought to be morally repugnant to any thinking person, the concept should have been condemned and rejected from the moment Lemkin first conceived it.    Soon after it was conceived, however, the leaders of certain Jewish groups began using it as a club against Christianity.   Christianity teaches that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Redeemer prophesied in the Old Testament Who established the promised New Covenant through His death and Resurrection and Who is the only way to God for Jews and Gentiles alike.   Christianity’s primary mission from Jesus Christ is evangelism – telling the world the Gospel, the Good News about Who Jesus is and what He has done.   While not everybody believes the Gospel when they hear it and it is not our mission to compel anybody to believe, obviously the desired end of evangelism is for everybody to believe.   Since rabbinic Judaism has long taught that a Jew who converts to Christianity ceases to be a Jew, the Jewish leaders in question argued that evangelism amounts to cultural genocide – if all the Jews believed the Gospel, there would be no Jews any more.   On the basis of this kind of reasoning they began pressuring Christian Churches to change their doctrines and liturgical practices as they pertain to the evangelism of Jews.  Sadly, far too many Church leaders proved to be weak in the face of this kind of pressure.


Canada’s Laurentian political class showed a similar lack of backbone when it came to defending our country against the smear that the Residential Schools were designed to wipe out Native Indian cultural identities.   Indeed, their attitude throughout the entire “Truth and Reconciliation” process was to accept the blame for whatever accusations were thrown against Canada and to refuse to hold the accusers accountable to even the most basic standards of courtroom justice.   Imagine a trial where the judge allows only the prosecutor to call witnesses, denies the defense the right to cross examine, and refuses to allow the defense to make a case.   That will give you a picture of what the trial of Canada by the TRC over the Residential Schools was like.


The reality is that had Canada wanted to erase Native Indian cultural identity she would have abolished the reserves, torn up the treaties and declared the Indians to be ordinary citizens like everyone else, insisted that they all live among other Canadians, and that their children go to the same public schools as everybody else.   In other words, she would have done the exact opposite of what she actually did.   The Canadian government’s policy was clearly to preserve Indian cultural identity, not to eradicate it.   Had they wanted to do the latter, residential schools would have been particularly ill-suited to the task.   The TRC maintains that the idea was to break Indian cultural identity by taking children away from the cultural influence of their parents. If this was the case one would think the government would have had all Indian children sent to these schools.  In actuality, however, in the approximately a century and a half that these schools operated, only a minority of Indian children were sent there.   This was a very small minority in the early days of the Dominion when Sir John A. Macdonald, whom the TRC et al seem more interested in vilifying than anyone else, was Prime Minister.   The government also ran day schools on the reserves and in those days the government only forced children to go to the residential schools when their parents persistently neglected to send them to the day schools.    The Dominion had made it mandatory for all Indian children within a certain age range to attend school – just as the provinces had made it mandatory for all other children within the same age range to attend school.  It was much later in Canadian history, after the government decided to make the schools serve the second function of being foster group homes for children removed from unsafe homes by social workers that a majority of Indian children were sent to the residential schools.     Even then, the eradication of Indian cultural identity is hardly a reasonable interpretation of the government’s intent.


The TRC, in the absence of serious challenge from either Canada’s political class or the fourth estate, created a narrative indicting our country and its founders for “cultural genocide”, featuring a one-sided caricature of the Indian Residential Schools.   Now, after a discovery that adds nothing that was not already contained in the TRC Report, left-wing radicals egged on by the mendacious and meretricious media, have gone far beyond the TRC in their defamatory accusations of murder against the schools and their Pol Potish demands that we “cancel” our country, her history, and her historical figures.   It is about time that we stood up to these thugs who in their envy and hatred of those who did what they themselves could never do by building our country wish to tear it all down.   It is slightly encouraging that the Conservatives were able to stop the motion by Jimmy Dhaliwal’s Canada-hating socialist party to have Parliament declare the Residential Schools to have been a genocide.   I didn’t think they had the kives – the Finnish word for “stones” the bearing of which as a last name by a local reporter brings to mind how the biggest man in Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men was called “Little John” – to do so.


For anyone looking for more information about the side of the Indian Residential Schools story that the Left wants suppressed I recommend Stephen K. Roney’s Playing The Indian Card: Everything You Know About Canada’s “First Nations” is WRONG!, Bonsecours Editions, 2018 and From Truth Comes Reconciliation: An Assessment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, edited by Rodney A. Clifton and Mark DeWolf and just published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy here in Winnipeg earlier this year.


Since the progressive wackos are calling for Canada Day to be cancelled, I encourage you this July 1st to fly the old Red Ensign, sing “God Save the Queen” and “The Maple Leaf Forever”, raise your glass to Sir John and celebrate Dominion Day with gusto.   The only thing we need to be ashamed of in Canada is the way we have let these ninnies who are constantly apologizing for everything Canada has been and done in the past walk all over us.   While I seldom recommend emulating Americans in this case I say that it is time we forget about our customary politeness and take up the attitude of old Merle, who sang “When they’re runnin’ down my country, man, They’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me”.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Christians Defending Bat Flu Tyranny and Oppression are Deluded and Deceived

The last Anglican priests that I spoke to in person were those of my own parish in March of last year, the day before the bishop’s order shutting down the diocese went into effect.   Since then, I have spoken to one of the priests by phone once, and communicated with the others through e-mail.   Oh, I could have seen them in person again, had I started attending services when the parish partially re-opened last summer.   That would have meant a compromise of conviction however.   I will not darken my parish door again as long as I am told to register in advance to do so, to impede my breathing in that hot, stuffy, building for the hour and a half that I am there by covering my nose and mouth with a stupid diaper that has reminded me of nothing so much as a the Mark of the Beast since it was first introduced, and to “socially distance” while there.   As far as I am concerned telling people to pre-register to book a place in Church because only a limited few will be admitted constitutes turning people away from the Ministry of Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament and is an act of blasphemy crying out to heaven for vengeance.   To be fair to my parish – and the entire Anglican Church of Canada – I did not include the practice of Communion in one kind in the above list of deal-breakers, since I think they are using pre-intinction as a means of distributing the Sacrament in both kinds and thus are not in technical violation of the Thirtieth Article of Religion (and the basic principles of the English Reformation).   I watch their services on Youtube but I refuse to regard this as “participating in an online service” or anything more than watching a broadcast of somebody else performing a service.   This is because I have taken to heart Aleksandr Soltzhenitsyn’s instructions on the day of his arrest in 1974 to those oppressed by Communist tyranny.   Those instructions were to “live not by lies”.   When the government refuses to respect the constitution’s limits on its powers and claims for itself the right to completely suspend our basic freedoms of assembly, association, religion, and, increasingly, speech, in its self-delusion that a respiratory virus can be stopped by government action, subjects the entire population to the absolute rule of medical technocrats, and goes out of its way to demonstrate its contempt for religion, classifying Churches and synagogues and mosques as “non-essential” while liquor and cannabis stores and abortion clinics are classified as “essential”, it comes disgustingly close to the Soviet-style Communist tyranny that Soltzhenitsyn suffered under and about which he warned the West.   While it is true that rights and freedoms are not absolute, as our governments have been saying in response to challenges to their actions, this is not at all at issue.   It deflects from the fact that they have been acting like their authority to limit our rights and freedoms is absolute – this is what “nothing is off the table” means – and this is the essence of totalitarian tyranny.


My purpose here is not to knock the clergy of my parish.   I have explained why I haven’t seen any of them in person since last March to lead in to the fact that apart from them, the last Anglican clergyman that I had spoken to in person, earlier the same month, was the Right Reverend Donald Phillips.    Donald Phillips was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land in 2000, the year after I had left what is now Providence University College in Otterburne and moved to Winnipeg.   He served the diocese in this capacity until his retirement upon the consecration of his successor, the current incumbent, the Right Reverend Geoffrey Woodcroft, in November 2018.   When I was confirmed in the Anglican Church as an adult, he was the bishop to do it.


It was at the Centennial Concert Hall that I ran into him and his wife Nancy about a week or so prior to the lockdown.  2020 was the 250th year since the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.   As part of its celebration of this anniversary, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performed all five of his Piano Concertos and his Choral Fantasy over the course of the two evenings of the 6th and 7th of March.   The performances, conducted by WSO Music Director Daniel Raiskin, featured Russian pianist Alexei Volodin.   The vocals were provided by the University of Manitoba Singers and the Canadian Mennonite University Chorus.    The 2019/2020 season was the first time in several years where I had opted to buy tickets for only a handful of concerts rather than the “Ultimate Classics” package that comes with one performance each for all the shows in both of the Masterworks series.   I lost my usual seat doing it this way, but was able to take in both of evenings of “Back to Beethoven” as the Piano Concerto marathon was called.    These were the last WSO performances that I attended.   They are likely to be the last WSO performances that I shall ever hear because the lake of fire will freeze into a solid block of ice before I ever pay concert admission to watch a livestreamed performance and am certainly not going to be bullied into taking an experimental new kind of vaccine that took less than a year to develop about which the long term side effects cannot possibly be known just to regain as “privileges” the rights that were stolen from me by power-mad paranoid hypochondriacs shortly after the concerts I have just described.


I have seldom attended a symphony, opera, or anything else at the Centennial Concert Hall without encountering at least one, and usually several, people whom I know, and this was no exception.   Indeed, I was seated right next to one old acquaintance for the Friday evening performance.   It was also in the Friday evening performance – some people went to both concerts, others showed up only for the one or the other – that I ran into Don and Nancy.  They were seated in the row behind me, a few seats down – very close to where my subscription seat had been, actually.  I chatted with them briefly in the intermission and after the concert.   Did any of us suspect at the time that shortly thereafter the diocese would be essentially closed and everyone forced into social isolation for over a year by public health orders?


All of the above is a very long introduction to the real purpose of this essay.   On the 9th of last month the diocesan newspaper, the Rupert’s Land News, posted an article to its website by the bishop emeritus, entitled “Christians Protesting COVID-19 Health Orders are Misguided and Missing the Greater Call”.     This article also appeared on the website of the Winnipeg Free Press on May 12th.   If it was not already obvious that I am of a very different opinion, the fact that the Winnipeg Free Press carried the article should confirm it.    It is almost a matter of principle for me to disagree with whatever they publish, especially on matters of religion.   I read it, nevertheless, for while I have disagreed with our previous bishop on other issues in the past, I have always found what he has to say, whether as a homilist or in the Rupert’s Land News, very interesting.   


Towards the end of his article, he raised the following hypothetical objections to his article:


Some might call into question the whole nature of what I am saying.  Should a Christian publicly challenge the actions of other Christians?   Is that not being judgmental?


His answer was “Not when the integrity of the proclamation of the Gospel is at stake”.  


Very well then.   Since nothing in recent memory has threatened the integrity of the proclamation of the Gospel more than the quisling behaviour of the Church leaders who collaborated with totalitarianism in the Third Reich and behind the Iron Curtain,  I claim our retired bishop’s justification for his remarks as my own for my rebuttal.


He begins by saying that one of the pastors with whom he disagrees – he does not mention any names but it was Tobias Tissen of the Church of God Restoration, just outside Steinbach – had been quoted as having said “We have no authority, scripturally-based and based on Christian convictions, to limit anyone from coming to hear the word of God.   We have no authority to tell people you can’t come to church.  That’s in God’s jurisdiction.”


Retired Bishop Don answers this by saying “the New Testament presents quite a different picture of the responsibility of the Church for itself”.


He proceeds to justify this statement by making reference, first to the bestowing of the “keys of the kingdom” in St. Matthew’s Gospel, and second to the Pauline epistles in which the Apostle “constantly confronts and admonishes churches to teach, direct, and sometimes even discipline their members so as not to hinder or distort the mission of the Gospel in the world and Christ’s command to his Church".


This is an interestingly novel way of interpreting these passages.   Yes, the “keys of the kingdom”, regardless of whether they are understood as having been given to St. Peter and his successors alone, all of the Apostles and their successors collectively, or the entire assembly of Christian disciples (the Church) collectively, have traditionally been understood to include the authority  to exclude from the fellowship of the Church.   In most Christian communions the technical term for the exercise of this authority is excommunication.    Some more radical sects use the word “shunning” with the same basic meaning but often with additional connotations of a more complete social ostracism.     This is not where the novelty lies.   What is novel in this interpretation is the suggestion that this authority can be legitimately exercised other than as corrective discipline in cases where someone refuses to repent of open sin or is found to be teaching serious doctrinal error.   Had our retired bishop not intended to suggest this it would have made no sense to bring the keys up in this context.   It is rather surprising, therefore, that he tries to bolster the suggestion with an appeal to St. Paul.   In his first epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul instructs them to excommunicate a man who has been committing “such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles”, meaning a type that was condemned and considered extremely shameful by the rather tolerant pagan culture of the time, an assessment to which  all the extent classical literature pertaining to the myth of Oedipus indeed, bears testimony.   In his second epistle to the Corinthians, however, he told them that the punishment had been sufficient and to forgive and comfort the man, who presumably had since repented.    The picture this paints of excommunicative authority is of a means of corrective discipline, to be applied as a last resort in extreme circumstances, and lifted as soon as repentance makes possible.   This hardly supports the idea that the keys can or should be used to bar people from the Ministries of Word and Sacrament, not as an act of corrective discipline, but as an instrument of public health policy.



Novelty is not a quality that is valued very highly when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture and doctrine in the Anglican tradition which has long appealed to the Vincentian canon as the gold standard litmus test of catholicity and orthodoxy.    In addition to the novelty of the Right Reverend Phillips’ interpretation of the keys, however, there is another problem in its conflict with Scriptural teaching on a multitude of other issues.


One example of this is the Scriptures’ teachings with regards to civil obedience.   If the pastors protesting the bat flu restrictions are at fault their error is in practicing Thoreau/Gandhi/King style civil disobedience, for which there is no Scriptural justification.   Civil obedience is commanded of Christians by St. Paul in the thirteenth chapter of his epistle to the Romans.   There are, however, clear exceptions.   The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament illustrates these.   If the civil authorities require the worship of a false god, believers in the True and Living God are not to obey, as the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar and were thrown into the fiery furnace demonstrates.   If the civil authorities forbid the worship of the True God, believers are not to obey, as the example of Daniel himself in the incident that led to his being cast to the lions shows.   While the latter is the most obviously relevant of the two, I would argue that the first also applies here, in that the kind of trust and obedience the public health orders have been asking of us is the kind that properly belongs to God alone, making an idol out of medical science (George Bernard Shaw said, almost a hundred years ago, that we have not lost faith, we have merely transferred it from God to the General Medical Council, and never has the truth of this been more apparent than at present).   The Lord Himself summed it all up in the twelfth chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel when He said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”.  While a general civil obedience is rendering unto Caesar (the civil authority) that which is Caesar’s, obeying when they forbid the worship of the True God or require the worship of a false one, is to render unto Caesar that which is God’s, and that is forbidden of Christians by the Highest Authority.


Another example is the Scriptures’ teachings with regards to sickness.     In the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to separate those with leprosy, a far worse disease than the one that is frightening so many today, from the general community, to which they would not be readmitted until such a time as a priest had examined them and found them to have recovered.     There is not a hint anywhere in the Old Testament, that banning all healthy Israelites from the Tabernacle or Temple, let alone confining them to their own dwellings and forbidding them any social interaction with their extended kin, friends, and neighbours, would be an appropriate or acceptable manner of preventing the spread of contagious disease.   This is not surprising as it is an experimental new form of hyper-quarantine, first implemented in totalitarian countries like Red China, which the epidemiologists of what used to be the free world initially, although sadly mistakenly, thought they would never be able to get away with here.   The Old Testament isolation requirements for lepers, of course, had the effect of heaping further suffering upon those already inflicted.   Thus, when Jesus Christ arrived to fulfil the Messianic promise of a New and better Covenant, one of the most prominent signs announcing His identity as the Promised Redeemer was that He allowed the lepers to come near Him and healed them, even, in one notable instance, using tactile contact as the means of healing.   He healed all who came to Him with any affliction and instructed His Apostles to do the same.   The book of Acts records them doing precisely this.   The Jacobean instructions in what is widely believed to be the first book of the New Testament to have been written are “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.”   Rather a far cry from “Is there a nasty cough going around?  Let everyone stay away from the church, lock themselves in their houses, and never see anyone else without wearing a mask”.


Given what we have seen in the previous paragraph, is it surprising that in the two millennia of Christian history, which have seen plagues far worse than the bat flu ravage Christian countries and at times all of Christendom, never did the leaders of the Church see their duty, mission, and call in terms of shutting all the local churches down and denying the faithful access to the Word and Sacrament.   Rather they saw it as their duty to keep the churches open, so that in times of great physical peril – much greater than today – access to the source of spiritual health, more important than physical health, was not cut off and hope, therefore, was kept alive, as well as to minister to the physical needs of the sick and dying, even at the risk of their own health and lives.   When cholera hit Canada in 1832 and 1834, for example, John Strachan, who would become the first Bishop of Toronto in 1839 but was at the time the rector of the parish of St. James, refused to flee the city but remained to fulfil his priestly duties, visit the hospitals, minister to the sick and dying, and bury the dead.


Previous generations of Church leaders did not see keeping the churches open in times of far worse plagues than this comparatively moderate one as hindering or distorting “the mission of the Gospel in the world, and Christ’s command to the church.”


Our former diocesan chief shepherd asks the question “And what is that Gospel?” to which he provides an answer “It is the supreme command of Jesus Christ ‘to love one another as I (Jesus) have loved you’”.


This is a very enlightening answer.   Not enlightening in terms of the question asked.   In that regards it is just plain wrong.   It is enlightening in that it reveals much about the source of confusion here.


The Gospel is not the command to love one another.   The Gospel is not a commandment of any sort.   It is a message.   As its very name tells us, whether euangelion in Greek, or Gospel – contracted from the Old English “godspel” (“god” = “good” + “spel = “news”) it is Good News.   It is spoken in the indicative mood, not the imperative.   In the ministry of John the Baptist and in Jesus’ own early preaching ministry, when the Gospel was preached only to national Israel and the events around which the Gospel narratives of SS Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are centred had not yet taken place, that Good News was that the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, i.e., the Messianic promises are being fulfilled before your very eyes.   After the Great Commission to take the Gospel to all the nations of the world, the Ascension, the descent of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost to empower the Church, and the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the Gospel in its mature and universal form was concisely stated by St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians.   It is that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and was seen by witnesses.


That this, and not the New Commandment, is the Gospel cannot be stressed enough.   The New Commandment is not “News” of any sort, Good or otherwise.   That we are commanded to love one another was hardly something unheard of prior to the Incarnation.   When Jesus said the Greatest Commandment was to love God and the second was to “love thy neighbour as thyself” He was quoting commandments already familiar from the Old Testament.   Nor was His statement that the whole of the Law was summed up in these a new revelation.   Indeed, while most often the Gospels place the two greatest commandments in His own mouth, in one notable instance He turned the question back on a lawyer who had been interrogating Him and got the answer He wanted (Luke 10:25-28) demonstrating that the idea was nor original with Him.   The similar “Golden Rule”, which appears in His Sermon on the Mount, is common to the ethical systems of almost all religions, and was notably stated, albeit in its negative “do not” form rather than the positive form Jesus used, by Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was about twelve or thirteen (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat a, passage 6), and who said of it “that is the entire Torah, and the rest is interpretation”.     There is a kind of theology that sees in the command to love one another the essence of the Christian kerygma and treats everything asserted about Jesus Christ in the ancient Creeds as accidental trappings that can be discarded.  This theology, and note that I am not suggesting that the Right Reverend Phillips holds this theology, merely that his unfortunate wording here expresses a thought that belongs to this theology rather than orthodox Christianity, is nonsense.   If that were true there would have been no need for Christianity.   While there is a difference between the New Commandment and all these earlier commandments to love each other, that difference depends entirely upon the facts of the Gospel as stated by St. Paul.  Apart from that Gospel, the message of Christ’s death and Resurrection, the New Commandment is meaningless.   It is the Gospel that tells us what “as I have loved you” means.   Christ gave the New Commandment on the evening of His betrayal, to His disciples whom He had already told of His upcoming death and Resurrection, but like so many other things He said in St. John’s Gospel, it was these events themselves that made it comprehensible.


Isn’t it interesting that the example the New Commandment tells us to follow is that of One Who gave up His life for others?   Isn’t it also interesting that the New Testament repeatedly describes this act as one of “redemption”.   Today, the verb “redeem” and the noun “redemption” are often used in a sense that retains some of their connotations from New Testament usage but omits their original basic meaning.   To redeem meant to purchase someone out of slavery and set him free.   The New Testament writers use these words of the death of Christ to depict that act as one of purchasing freedom for mankind from slavery to sin.   Therefore, the New Commandment tells us that we are to love one another in the same way as He Who gave up His life to restore us to freedom.


This is interesting because the Right Reverend Phillips’ interpretation of the New Commandment which he confused with the Gospel itself is that we are to love others by doing the reverse of what Christ did – giving up our freedom for them.


Now he does go on to support his argument with evidence from St. Paul:


In 1 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul outlines the many ways in which he sacrifices his own self, his rights and privileges, his freedom in Christ, in order to effectively witness to the love of Christ.  “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some,” he said (1 Corinthians 9.22)


For the Christian disciple, the effective demonstration and proclamation of the love of God for all people must take precedence over any personal demand or freedom.


St. Paul wrote his epistles to the Corinthian Church at a time when some had cast aspersions on his authority as an Apostle.   A principle theme of both letters was to answer his detractors and establish confidence in this authority.   This is what the Apostle is obviously concerned with through most of the ninth chapter of 1 Corinthians.   In the first verse he gives his Apostolic credentials, in the second he declares that if he is not an Apostle to others he certainly is to the Corinthians for they are the seal of his Apostleship.   He then goes on to talk about all the privileges and freedoms which he has as much as any of the other Apostles but which he refrains from for the sake of the work.   The main point in all of this is that he, as a spiritual minister, is entitled to pecuniary support from them, but has refrained from claiming his right to the same.   This is spelled out quite plainly in verses seven to fifteen


I wonder what St. Paul himself would have thought if someone from the Corinthian Church had written back to him and said that two thousand years in the future, someone would take his words about giving up the financial support to which he was entitled, so as to more effectively carry out the ministry of preaching the Gospel to which he was called and which he is bound by necessity to preach, as evidence that the entire Church should shut down, close its doors, and bar people from coming to hear said Gospel preached.   I suspect he would be livid.   I doubt very much that he would be any more impressed by the same application being made of his words later in the chapter, about meeting every type of person to whom he is sent in their own walk of life so as to more effectively share the Gospel with them.


His Retired Grace then refers to another quotation from a different pastor – again unnamed, but this time it was Heinrich Hildebrand of the Church of God in Aylmer, Upper Canada.  Hildebrand had said “We are here to fight for God, we are here to defend the vulnerable.”


I could have told you what the bishop’s response to this would have been without having read it myself.  However, here he is in his own words:


Surely the vulnerable we need to be worried about are those being exposed to the COVID-19 virus by persons not following the public health orders.   Surely it is those languishing on ventilators in ICUs in hospitals across our country who are the most vulnerable!


I guess it all depends upon how we answer the question “vulnerable to what?”   Even if, however, the answer is “the bat flu”, the Right Reverend Phillips’ thinking appears to be rather muddled on the subject.   Those most vulnerable to the virus are not those who are exposed to it but those with complicating factors such as age, obesity, a compromised immune system, and other chronic conditions that make this virus more than just the non-lethal respiratory annoyance it is to the vast majority who contract it.   When such people, the actual most vulnerable, have come into contact with the virus it has seldom been because of “persons not following the public health orders”.   That is a lie, invented by arrogant politicians and public health officials such as those of our own province, in order to create a scapegoat for the failure of their own policies.  The fact of the matter is that the worst and most lethal outbreaks have taken place in nursing homes where the virus spread got in and spread without any health order violations in spite of such places have been locked down quicker and stricter than anywhere else.


The bat flu, however, is not the only answer to the question “vulnerable to what?”    Suppose that we supply “the public health orders themselves” as the answer to that question.   We then get a very different picture of who the most vulnerable are.


Yes, public health orders hurt people.   The kind of public health orders that have been enacted to slow or prevent the spread of the bat flu are especially harmful.   This has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization, and even by our provincial chief public health officer.   Take the mental health crisis for example.   The Canadian Mental Health Association reported last December about how the “second wave of the pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and anxiety, causing alarming levels of despair, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness in the Canadian population.”   It would have been more accurate for them to attribute this to the “second wave of lockdowns”.    Viruses don’t have this effect.   Mendacious media scaremongering might contribute to it, but overall this is exactly the sort of thing one would expect to see among people who have had all their social and community events cancelled for a year, have been forbidden any social interaction with their friends, and have been told their businesses or jobs are non-essential and must shut down.   Public health orders are the primary cause of this problem.   People are not meant to live this way, it goes against the social nature that God gave us, and when you force people to live in these conditions there will be disastrous consequences.


Since our bishop emeritus made use of the superlative degree of comparison in his own remarks about those vulnerable to the bat flu, I think it is fair game for me to do the same in my remarks about those vulnerable to the public health orders.   Yes, some people are more vulnerable to the ill-effects of public health orders than others.   Somebody who is single and lives alone will be more adversely affected by an order forbidding get-togethers with all except his own household than somebody who has a happy domestic life.   Somebody who is in an abusive and unhappy relationship will be worse off because of a stay-at-home order than somebody who is happily married.   Those who are independently wealthy, whose jobs can be done from home, and whose businesses are in no danger of being declared “non-essential” will not have the kind of hardships that lockdowns impose on those about whom none of these things can be said.    Since the beginning of the bat flu scare the people who have been most likely to shoot their mouths off about how this never-before-tried experimental universal quarantine is “necessary” to fight a virus milder than most of those that caused pandemics in the last century, to lecture the rest of us about how unquestioning obedience to these orders is the loving thing to do and how expressing concern about economic devastation and the rapid evaporation of civil rights and liberties and their constitutional protections is somehow “selfish”, have been the people on the “least affected” side of each of these spectrums for whom the lockdowns have been mostly an inconvenience.


I will close with an observation that is related to the previous paragraph but is not specifically in response to our former bishop’s article.  I note the irony that the clergymen who have been the most vocal in support of the public health orders have been the ones who preach the most about “social justice”.  Indeed, I cannot think of a single dissenter from among their ranks.   The dark irony of this is not just found in the fact that the public health orders, shutting down restaurant dining rooms and indoor public places like libraries and limiting homeless shelter capacities were put into effect before winter ended last year and again just before winter started having absolutely brutal consequences for the very poorest members of our society, while everyone who keeps droning on about “social justice” was glad to be ordered to stay home in their own warm bed.   It can also be found in the fact that the economic result of the public health orders and the lockdown experiment has been to greatly enrich the multi-billionaires of the social media tech companies, internet delivery services, and the hopelessly corrupt pharmaceutical industry while bankrupting and driving out of business all the little guys, whose entire life’s work, and often the life’s work of their parents and grandparents before them has been wiped out through no fault of their own, but by the arrogance of some health bureaucrat who arbitrarily ruled their livelihood to be “non-essential”.   This is accomplishing an economic transition to societies in which small, individually or family owned farms and businesses are unfeasible, and everyone must either sell their labour to some giant, multinational, corporation to survive, or live off of a government allowance.   This is what Hilaire Belloc called “the Servile State” 109 years ago.   At the time, the expression “social justice” was still in its infancy and to those who believed in it in its original sense, the Servile State depicted by Belloc was pretty much the opposite of what they called and strove for, the worst possible of worlds.   Today’s “social justice” clergy have been calling for “universal basic income”, citing the pandemic and the “necessary” public health response to it as demonstrating the need for this measure, the most immediate effect of which would be to greatly accelerate the transition to the Servile State.    Of course what they mean by “social justice” includes such things as Critical Race Theory, the inalienable right of biological males to participate in female sports, and every other notion of this type that left-wing academics have dreamed up and their students have uncritically accepted and regurgitated under the delusion that by doing so they are thinking for themselves, but precious little to do with anything that the expression meant a century ago.   Should any of them be interested in the original version, I recommend to them the essay by that grand old Canadian economist, political scientist, wit, and Anglican layman, Stephen Leacock entitled “The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice”.   I wonder what Leacock would have had to say about people who consider it to be an expression of Christian love to wish government control, greater and more intrusive than any extended or even dreamed of by the totalitarian regimes of his own day – he died in 1944 when Stalin and Hitler were both still in power - on their neighbours?