In February, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty “said it was time to ‘move beyond’ the Lord’s Prayer” (which is recited at the beginning of every session of the provincial legislature) “to a more inclusive custom that better reflects Ontario’s multiculturalism.” Before asking why this very ancient and pious tradition should be done away with now, or why it falls to McGuinty of all people to expunge it, we should wonder: how did it become a tradition at all?

Christianity has never lacked critics.Renaissance humanists, Enlightenment rationalists and the radical secularists of our own era have all voiced objections and concerns and yet, the Lord’s Prayer is recited in the Ontario legislature to this day. The real surprise, then, is not that this prayer is still recited, but that with a history of so much anxiety about religion and politics, the prayer was introduced at all.

That the tradition has endured for so long is not due to any recent or inappropriate public piety; in fact, the recitation of the “Our Father” today can be only slightly more scandalous now than it was a generation ago. And, interestingly enough, it is precisely the scandal McGuinty wants to avoid that was the very purpose of the public recitation: political officials should be chastened by their awesome responsibility and explicitly reminded of their grave duty towards God before attempting to fulfill their duty towards the people.

These two obligations of the politician – to God and to the people – seem opposed. But, in reality, they are only two forms of the same obligation: that of piety. Filial love for Our Father and the land of our fathers – Pater et Patria – should motivate the public servant: instead of being an antiquated relic from an intolerant age, the Our Father is actually the politician’s ideal prayer.

In claiming to be “multicultural,” McGuinty disparages and damages the only culture that really matters: his own. This obviously does not mean that other cultures do not have vital and precious truths to share with us. But it is not clear why only other cultures can be celebrated. Why should we deny our own heritage, that tolerant and liberating cultural legacy which allows multiculturalism to exist at all? Perhaps the reason is that our culture is saturated with the principles and animated by the spirit of a single religion: Christianity. And, in our day, Christianity cannot be celebrated.

Finally, one would like to know exactly what part of the Lord’s Prayer the premier finds most offensive. Is it more odious to address God as “Father” or to bless his name? Of course, we must forgive the premier for trespassing against his province in such a crass and cowardly way. But, without this public expression of piety, to whom shall we say, in darker times, “Deliver us from evil”?