Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

Brian Stiller

Podcastor

Author

Global Ambassador @ WEA

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Lament to Members of Parliament

February 26, 1994 Articles

Dear Member of the Canadian Parliament

I send this letter as a lament. On February 18, 1994, you along with your colleagues in the house unanimously dropped the name of Jesus Christ from your morning prayer. Without a ripple of dissent, each of you stood and agreed with this new, shorter and less stilted prayer.

One can hardly blame your response. After all, living in a modern society comprised of many faiths, its difficult for a federal institution to be arbitrary in its wording and exclude Canadians who profess faiths other than Christianity or no faith at all. Yes, this change of prayer seemed so “Canadian” and so fair.

With the matter now behind us, I write to you with this lament for the loss of something so inconspicuously grand. While we have flowed in the stream of multi-cultural and pluralistic fairness we must not allow this event to go by without a reminder to us all of what has happened and what we have lost.

With one stroke of the legislative pen, you and your colleagues have cut out of our national daily offering of prayer, what is to many the core of our vision of life and truth. I’m not suggesting that Canada was ever truly Christian nor that our national or personal life has manifested fully the essentials of life in Jesus Christ. But it would be an enormous misreading of history not to recognize that our founders believed that a Christian vision of life was at the centre of this national experiment.

Neither is my lament for the passing of the old “Christendom” which was enforced in the past by church establishments. That was and is never the Gospel worked out in life. Neither do I accuse you and the other Members of Parliament with being part of a sell-out.

Rather my lament is directed towards Christians who deeply and fervently believe that Jesus Christ offers to people an understanding and way of life which is of benefit to all. We have failed to point the way or make clear to all that walking in the steps of Christ ennobles and enriches a people. This is our failure. We have not given evidence of what comes to a people who in thought and life emulate this teacher from Nazareth. Somehow in our living out His call, it has not become apparent to all Canadians that His ways bless a people.

The Angus Reed polls demonstrate the high level of Christian faith among Canadians. Sixty seven percent said that belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential for salvation. With this as backdrop, why then would legislatures so quickly drop any reference to the one whom two thirds of Canadians say is central to faith and life? And why would there be almost no public response?

It lies in an ineffectual and watered-down faith. We as Christians are living out a life of faith that doesn’t surprise, attract or compel. For some Christians the Word of God has become merely a nice text of worthwhile quotables. How can we expect others to take seriously what some Christians aren’t sure is true? For other Christians who believe the truth of the Scriptures, the Gospel has too often been privatized and hid behind the doors of congregations and within the cloisters of private living.

The core of the Gospel is about living His truth and demonstrating His call in public. Either that life has not been lived out in the public, for all to see, or what has been lived out has not been persuasive.

Some argue that because Canada has a rich and profound Christian heritage, the country should therefore be required to retain it symbols. However, life is not static. Symbols do not retain their meaning without good reason. Christian symbols within our culture will only be retained as the culture is infected, led and attracted to that faith.

One leader said that Christian prayers, be they in the House of Commons or in public schools matter little for they are only enforced by the few and mean little to most. Minds wander, making the prayers both ineffectual and hypocritical. I’m not interested in forcing people into perfunctory prayers. But the federal parliament, our highest ruling body, has stripped from its vernacular an understanding of a transcendent God who in Jesus Christ, in time and space, visited this planet giving flesh and substance to hope and life. Symbols teach us. They serve as a paradigm, a hermeneutic, a way of seeing all of life. When that is taken away, the ability to inform new generations is eroded.

While I grieve the loss of a prayer to Jesus Christ in the federal parliament, much more acute is the realization that we, His followers, have not lived out the compelling and culture-shaping life of the Gospel. The long-term loss for Canada is great. But my lament is for Christians.

Yes, Canada is the loser. But as I have advised our members, now is not the time to write letters of protest to you our federal politicians. Now is the time for those who claim to follow Jesus Christ to demonstrate to our society His life in such a way that the society will be attracted to His words, thoughts and ways. We are humbled by our failure and driven back to know again what it means to be called by His name.

The story is told of a Rabbi in Russia who complained to Catherine the Great for the mistreatment of Jews. The Queen responded that maybe it was time for Jews to become Christians. No, said the Rabbi, it’s time for Christians to live as Christians.

This issue is not just yours as a Member of Parliament. Rather it is about the effective witness of those who are called by His name.

My letter to you today is simply to put in record what has happened. It must not be overlooked or allowed to pass without so much as a foot note.

May your life be overshadowed by His presence in this very important task or leading our nation.

Most sincerely,

Brian C. Stiller
President, The Evangelical Fellows of Canada
February, 1994