State vs. Church: What Christians Can Do
“One of the most dangerous – and fundamentally false – views held by Canada’s establishment leaders today,” says Timothy Bloedow, is “that the options before us are a civil government that is influenced by religion or a secular humanist civil government that is morally neutral and pluralistic, a philosophical zone into which people from all different views can meet to establish common public policy.”
In State vs. Church: What Christians Can Do to Save Canada from Liberal Tyranny, Bloedow attempts to rectify this error, while he advocates a specifically Christian approach to politics. “Christians have to understand that secular humanism is not morally neutral … (T)here is no such thing as a morally or philosophically neutral worldview or religion.”
Bloedow correctly defines secular humanism as a religion and he capably demonstrates the threat it poses to the church, the family, the individual and indeed, social order. In contrast, he treats Christianity as a self-contained worldview: “Whatever else Christianity is, it is a body of law, moral direction, knowledge and truth that gives meaning to life and that governs every area of life.”
Bloedow draws from the Reformed tradition to illustrate the concept of “sphere sovereignty,” which is somewhat parallel to the Catholic notion of subsidiarity. He reclaims concepts of Christian origin that have been misappropriated by the left – such as the separation of church and state, “equality before the law, the rule of law, real justice, individual liberty and a functioning order for social peace.”
Like Rev. Tristan Emmanuel, Bloedow urges Christians to stop apologizing for taking their rightful place in the public square. “We need to be clear that Christianity does not support the imposition of beliefs. We also need to be clear that Christianity is not unique by way of its need to impose behavioural norms.” For Bloedow, an important question for the public is whether Canadians would prefer to be influenced by their existing Judeo-Christian heritage, secular humanism or some other religion. To our peril, “Secularism is advancing the socialistic concepts of group rights and equality of outcome, special rights and competing interests, pandering politics and the idolatry of a centralized civil government that rules over all life.”
Bloedow shows that contemporary liberalism is roughly equivalent to secular humanism and has an innate tendency to both totalitarianism and anarchy. He extends compassion to gay-identified persons who are both enslaved by sexual passion and exploited by the secularist establishment for an ideological agenda. Bloedow demonstrates that fights over single issues like same-sex “marriage” and abortion would be more effective if they were located within the broader culture war to preserve authentic liberty.
Bloedow pleads for a more forceful advancement of Christian principles. “If Christianity is not the driving force behind the laws and public policy in Canada, another religion or worldview will be. Whenever this appears not to be the case (when compromise looks like it is working), it is only because the civilization is in a state of transition from the dominance of one worldview to the control of another.”
Some notable limitations mar Bloedow’s otherwise strong presentation. He makes an extended case for the injustice of proceeds of crime legislation, but neglects to properly substantiate his complaints against the child welfare system and over-regulation. He makes a similar offhand dismissal of natural law theory, which will alienate those among his allies – particularly Catholics – who will try to reconcile that theory with Bloedow’s core proposals.
In the attempt to apply abstract ideas, Bloedow gives concrete examples without sufficient nuance. Among his numerous cited victims of threats to religious freedom are that of Bob Jones University, which once had an anti-miscegenation policy incompatible with American federal grants; as an example of “a relatively healthy model of (a) Christian civil-social model,” he offers the Pax Britannica. Bloedow implies by omission that racism, slavery, colonialism and apartheid are compatible with Christianity – and thereby reduces his coherence and credibility.
Likewise, without benefit of a historical lens, he went to press apparently satisfied with both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his southern counterpart. “All that is really needed for victory by Christians in Canada’s culture war is what the United States has experienced in President George W. Bush: leadership – bold and courageous leadership.” Yet the 2006 U.S. mid-term elections had already shown the verdict from the Republican party’s Christian base and it was not favourable. Bloedow’s disturbing statement in the face of disparate Christian views of the Iraq war begs the question of whether a single Christian worldview is actually plausible – particularly in the area of foreign policy.
Bloedow is ambivalent about whether and how his proposals could meet with success. Self-interest could motivate some non-activist voters to support an unfamiliar Christian agenda, but only in the short-term. “At a theoretical level … a public policy and legislative civil-social model could well be widely accepted by a non-Christian populace because of the attractiveness of the ethic of liberty that it implements; but in reality, such a model requires a substantial level of homogeneity of belief in the populace in order to achieve long-term and sustained success.” Bloedow both hopes and depends on greater Christian conversion to realize the peace, order and limited government we need.
Notwithstanding the flaws in his argument, with book and companion website, www.christiangovernment.ca, Bloedow is making a timely contribution with one perspective for Christian political involvement. His better ideas will be part of necessary discussion and action for years to come.
Theresa Smyth is the Family and Society Reporter of The Interim. For assistant editor Tony Gosgnach’s interview with the author, see our May issue.