Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Canadian Charter of Rights vs Freedom

Post 47--:

New Arrangements

Hi! Yes, I’m back with considerable embarrassment. I just cannot seem to muster the necessary pace to keep up with three blogs on a part time basis, while also working on my current major project, namely the writing of our memoirs, the “our” here referring to my wife and myself. So, I have decided that for the next few months I will write only one post per blog and quit pushing myself beyond reasonable limits. Heh, I am in my 70s. Though I may now have the time, I no longer have the energy with which I was brimming not so long ago. If somehow here and there an extra bit of unexpected time should become available, well, I may just try to squeeze in an extra read for you. But don’t forget, there are three blogs for you to peruse, not just one. Three a month does not sound so bad, does it? Almost weekly! You think I should simply join them together?

Need for Citizen-Friendly Legal Environment

Today I present you with some musings on the Canadian Charter of Rights. Again, remember, I write as an ordinary citizen for ordinary citizens. Of course, the professionals are free to join us and even to comment. I would be happy with that, very happy. My lay status means I will not get bogged down in technicalities that so often derail court decisions and, hence, justice, causing delays reasonable only to the professional, but irking the citizen to no end. Justice is not a matter of technicalities. It is something that must be experienced by the citizen. Go ahead, professionals, and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Do you?

Introducing Selick and Smith

Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation had an interesting article in the Vancouver Sun recently (“Courts Milking Their Power,”Oct 17, 2011) about Farmer Michael Smith. Smith was told by an Ontario Court of Justice that he had no right to sell raw or unpasteurized milk via a system best described as “cow-sharing.” Initially he was acquitted by a justice of the peace, only to have the judgement reversed at the next level. Well, what do you know. Ever heard of such a thing before, a judgement reversed, overruled or denied by a higher court? Smith and his customers were once again subjected to that mixture of a mismash of conflicting laws that pass for our legal system and the personal worldviews and values of judges that constantly lead to contradictions and overrulings. A citizen never knows where he’s at, not even when a judgement has already been handed down. Someone higher up will overrule and undo it. Let’s not even talk about the money the system and the wolves called lawyers suck out of the hapless citizen’s pocket.

The Right to Brush My Teeth

The issue as Selick explains it is whether I have the right to brush my teeth in the morning. After all, it is not listed among my human right and is therefore not a protected right. The same is true for everything we do routinely and on a daily basis. Do I have the right to go to the bathroom? Do I have the right to choose between an apple or a pear? And does Smith have the right to sell his raw milk? None of these daily activities are listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights. Are they therefore unprotected and illegal?

Who Needs to Be Reined in?

If that is how our rights and freedoms are to be protected, then, Selic argues, the Charter would be “a zillion pages long.” Everything people do would have to be stipulated to be protected and legal. This is nonsense, of course. Actually all these mundane activities in our lives are all bundled together under “the right to liberty.” And then Selick declares what I would consider a very profound and important principle, namely that the Charter does not aim to “rein in individuals” so much as “to rein in governments.” It does not “grant us our rights,” so much as to recognize “that those freedoms already existed.”

Need for Citizen Plain Legal Understanding

There are more revelations in the Selick article, but I will let it go at this today. Possibly I will discuss her article further in the next post, but this is enough to chew on for the average citizen. I hope you will chew on it, for I, frankly, like her arguments and believe citizens will profit from a sharper awareness of these issues. We need to be freed from the lawyer regime and start developing an independent understanding of law, rights, freedom and responsibility. At one time the Catholic church prevented people from reading the Bible. Muslims on the whole cannot read the Qur’an, except perhaps to recite it in a language few of them understand. Similarly, citizens are largely prevented from understanding or even reading the law by the obscurantist jargon in which everything is expressed. It is time we make everything plain. Perhaps we need an “Occupy the Courts” movement. Game anyone?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ian Mulgrew vs Harper Crime Bill

contribution to Western Christians. We needed it and deserved it. Thank you.


Failed Plans

When I first returned to Canada ten years ago, I had hopes to start a movement to civilize the legal profession and to conscientize especially Christian lawyers and judges about the demands of the Gospel upon them. Due to a number of reasons, I was not able to get that off the ground, though I did make an attempt, ill-formed as it was. Then I was hoping to start a whole series of posts on the BC legal system. I have not been able to do the research to get a series started either, though I have on my shelf hundreds, if not thousands, of newspaper clippings on all things relating to the law, to the courts, to judges and to lawyers. So, with both of these projects having failed, I will for now be satisfied with writing occasional posts about these subjects.

Introducing My Main Characters

For those not living in Vancouver or Canada, Ian Mulgrew is a Vancouver Sun columnist; Stephen Harper is Canada’s Prime Minister. Mulgrew recently wrote a column discussing BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman’s criticism of Harper’s crime bill as “a strain on [the] system” (“Judge Deems Harper’s Crime Bill a ‘Strain’ on System,” Sept. 28, 2011, p. A6).

A Raging Controversy

Bauman’s critique and Mulgrew’s column aimed at the Harper are by no means the first. A veritable tradition has arisen complaining about crowded prisons and, more recently, about the Harper bill that will increase the number of prisoners so much that more prisons will need to be built—and that at a time of economic scarcity and reduction of crime. Mulgrew refers to a raging controversy.

The Critique

Bauman warns that it will strain every aspect of the justice system, the courts, the judges, the prisons. Correctional officers complain about prisons already overcrowded. In BC, the system is plagued by shortage of personnel and of “dockets so clotted you can’t get a trial date in less than a year.” Cases are thrown out of court simply because it has taken took long for them to get to trial. Many serious cases take too much time for prosecution—three to five years, and sometimes even longer. Mulgrew notes the “absurd anomaly” that under the proposed new law, “pot growers are …penalized more harshly than child molesters.” This crime bill, according Mulgrew and many others, will make all problems worse, not better. And with each prisoner now costing up to $120,000 per annum, the predicted outcome of the new legislation will be a huge increase in the citizens’ tax bill.

Alternative Tethering System

Please recall a suggestion I made back in April of this year in Post 33. I suggested that, instead of putting all criminals in prison, most of them should be placed in qualified homes and severely tethered. For details please go back to that post, for I am not about to repeat what I wrote there. Of course, such an arrangement would not be appropriate for violent and other dangerous offenders, but, it would seem to me it would keep most criminals out of prison while still having their movement severely curtailed. The savings could be phenomenal and no additional prisons would need to be built.

Not only would the proposed system save tons, but it may also prevent new offenders from being further contaminated by fellow prisoners.

Not Based on Leftist Ideology

This is a very sketchy and incomplete proposal from a legal and correctional layman that would need serious fleshing out. But I do assure you, my reader, that this proposal is not another hair-brained idea from some leftist ideologist. I am hardly leftist. In fact, I am a card-carrying member of the federal Conservative Party. I agree with the Prime Minister’s emphasis on doing away with the slapped wrist so many judges are seen to be dishing out. People, including yours truly, have become impatient, not to say furious, with leftist judges who seem to regard criminals as misguided angels and who leave the victims of crime to their own lot.

Elected Judges

Perhaps an additional change needed is to turn judges into elected officials. That would make them respond to the people instead of ignoring them as legal imbeciles.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Second Pre-emption

Post 45--:

Wonderful Summer Weather

It’s been a wonderful summer here on Canada’s West Coast, though it was unusually slow in coming. I have loved it and spent a fair amount of time—weeks in fact—away from my desk and, hence, away from this blog. Visiting our kids and families in WA and near SF in CA with days of RV-“camping” in between. Since then, “backyard” RVing in southern BC—with more to come. If you like a moderate climate without extremes of heat and cold, then BC’s south-west coast and much of Vancouver Island is the place to be. So a bit of a lull, but one you can understand, I believe. But, while it’s still great summer stuff in the middle of September, here I am, once again slogging/blogging it out. This morning the temperatures are pleasant but the sky is cloudy, something we have not seen for a while—and have not missed. Welcome to Fall.

Writers about Secularism

I told you in the last post that I have a second pre-emption to share with you, a good thing about secularism. Secularism did not just pop up out of the West’s woodworks; it took centuries to develop, the story of which is told in great detail by Canada’s philosopher Charles Taylor in his tome A Secular Age. Kuyperians, among them “Father” Abraham Kuyper himself as well as the movement’s primal philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd and others, have also traced its historical development and exposed its roots, origins and influence.

Secularism as a Chastener

Secularism has lured many Christians into its trap and thereby seriously reduced the scope of their faith to the private, the home and the church, but it has also served as a corrector and chastener of Christianity. In volume 5 of my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations, I wrote that “secularism is at least partially the result of an aggressive and intolerant version of Christianity that needed chastening.” Of course, Christians were not the only ones to practice intolerance; it was a major human characteristic down through the centuries; it marked all civilizations. Tolerance and its child, pluralism, are of rather recent vintage everywhere.

Jonathan Chaplin

The British Kuyperian scholar Jonathan Chaplin, a one time faculty member of the Institute of Church & Society in Toronto, a Kuyperian tertiary institution, wrote,

Let me make it clear that the anxieties shared by many secular liberals about the impact of public religion are real ones. Some of them are mine too…. And let me alswo r3ecord that the response of early modern liberalism to public religion was compelling and necessary. In the 17th century religion was not only public, it was backed by force of arms. In such circumstances, we can see why moves to confine the public expression olf faith seemed so necessary. In time, Christians who had stoked up religious warfare were humbled and had to allow liberalism to teach it again what its own deepest principles had always implied: that authentic faith cannot and may not be coerced. So, a religious response to contemporary liberalism must begin by appreciating liberalism’s vital historical contribution to religious freedom and democracy.

In spite of my constant anti-secular bias in my writings, including this blog, I want this contribution of secularism recognised and remembered as we go along. Honour to whom honour is due!

Of course, since then, secularism has gone far beyond its original form and can now be legitimately described as intolerant, more so than most North American Christians. That’s the reason I frequently write negatively about it. But may I never forget their original chastening contribution to Western Christians. We needed it and deserved it. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fixation on Secularism?

Post 44--: August 30 2011

Tim's Complaint

Tim is a good friend of mine and a long-time lecturer in theology. Under most other circumstances, what with his doctorate and many years of experience, he should have attained professorial status. As it is, he is teaching in a theological college in Nigeria that does not have provision for such rankings, though its academic level is fully equal to that of Nigeria’s public universities, if not higher. Tim recently commented to me that I seem to have a fixation on secularism. According to him, whenever I write, it is about something related to secularism. Whenever I open my mouth, the term “secularism” or some derivative comes out. A slight exaggeration, Tim, but only slight!

Complaint Accepted

Yes, I am deeply concerned about secularism. Putting his comment in a broader context and as I myself once remarked in a seminary chapel speech, we Kuyperian Calvinists seem to find a secularist or dualist behind every tree. Tim is thus not far off the mark. No matter what I write about or in what context, whether an entire 8-volume 2700+- page series on Christian-Muslim relations, magazine article, blog or public lecture, I just about always bring in the topic of secularism and often identify it as the main or basic culprit of whatever problem I may be writing or speaking about. And now you have this whole new blog with “secular” in its very name!

How This Works Out in Practice

Of course, I could counter Tim’s remark with the observation that, no matter what he writes or lectures about, it is almost sure to be about theology. It is not that Tim knows nothing but theology or I nothing but secularism, but Tim, for reasons of his own, has decided to specialize in theology, while I have picked on secularism as a major issue in many social problems that I write about. I may write an article or a blog without a singular overt reference to secularism, but you may find it lurking just around the corner—and usually seen from a negative perspective.I usually write about the general negatives or refer you to other discussions of mine on the subject in past or future posts.

Pre-Emption No. 1

But before I proceed with that, I want to pre-empt a couple of questions or objections to my negative stance towards secularism. I am not suggesting that all secularists are (potentially) bad or evil people, except in the general sense of being members of a fallen human race, of a race of creatures that somewhere in early distant history broke its covenant with God and since then is partially crippled in spirit, mind and body and thus potentially capable of every kind of evil. Even the generally humanistically inclined columnists in the Vancouver Sun, the people with whom I often respond to in my blogs, in response to the recent Vancouver hockey riots and to the Norwegian home-grown terrorist attack, are admitting that, given the right circumstances or stimuli, most of us, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or secular, can turn vicious, violent and downright evil. You don’t have to look far for examples; history is full of them.

My Secular Friends

But most of us also have the potential for good, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or secular. Though I regret their secularism, I have some very good secular friends for whom I have the highest respect and in whose company I delight. They are the finest humanists you can possibly find: decent, kind, compassionate, cultured, tolerant and a whole lot more positives. But as much as I appreciate them and delight in their company, there is always a deep chasm between us that we have agreed to acknowledge and accept. This covenant makes for challenging discussions of which we seldom tire. I thank them for this unique opportunity of rich human experience and sharing. Thus, when in these blogs and other writings I strongly disagree with secularism and its adherents and, not infrequently, become somewhat harsh, let these friends remember that, though they adhere to the worldview I attack repeatedly, I am also aware that not all secularists are proud and antagonistic to the worldview I represent in these blogs. One of them has often referred to me as an exceptionally tolerant Christian, but not quite. My tolerance is not so exceptional; it is typical of many Kuyperian Christians with our strong sense of pluralism. And from what they tell me about the reaction of their fellow Humanists to our joint project, I deduct that these friends are exceptional among their peers.

The second pre-emption will be featured in Post 45.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Scientific Explanations of Religion

Post 43--:

Wired for Religion
I have a promise to keep: to deal with scientific explanations of religion. Remember Anderson Thompson and Clare Aukofer (A&T), co-authors of the book Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith from the last post?
A&T summarize for us attempts by scientists to unravel religion’s “DNA.” Backed by empirical evidence, scientists “have produced robust theories…that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around. And the better we understand the science, the closer we can come to ‘no heaven… no hell…and no religion too.” The mechanisms within us that support faith developed over the ages. Scientists have identified around “20 hardwired, evolved ‘adaptation’ as the building blocks of religion.” They go on to argue that “the better we understand human psychology and neurology, the more we will uncover the underpinnings of religion.” “We owe it to ourselves to at least consider the real roots of religious belief, so we can deal with life as it is, taking advantage of perhaps our mind’s greatest adaptation: our ability to use reason.”

Now, going by what I wrote in the previous post, we have good reason to be skeptical about the ideas A&T have about religion. Please review them, if you’re vague. That should put you on your guard with respect to this scientific stuff as well. If they misunderstand the inside of religion, how will they understand the “outside” of it?

Children's Altruism
OK, so, for the sake of argument, let us grant that those various scientists have indeed uncovered some significant physical, psychological and other factors within us that support our religious lives. Not being a specialist in any of these areas, I would be the last to argue with the veracity of their findings, which real scientists always regard as tentative and open to correction or even rejection. However, when they tell us with all the assurance in the world that science has demonstrated with “a wealth of research” children’s “capacity for altruism” and that “we are born altruists, who then have to learn strategic self-interest,” I do begin to wonder about the value of non-scientific, pre-scientific or anecdotal knowledge. I am well into my 70s and member of a large international clan. My parents both had many siblings—in the 10-12 range; I am one out of ten. Between my wife and myself, we can count something like 70+ nieces and nephews, never mind the size of the next generations. So, through the decades I have seen many children grow up in my own nuclear family as well as in the larger clan. My decades of non-scientific anecdotal observation and experience is that babies are concerned mainly if not only for themselves and that as they grow up, especially in the family context with other children, over the years they learn to become less egocentric and more altruistic, a process that takes them into young adulthood before it somewhat matures. I have experienced myself slowly becoming less egocentric and more altruistic as a life-long process and I am very conscious of the fact that I have not yet arrived, not even with a strong dose of my Christian faith encouraging me along this path.

Science and Adherents of Religion
Be that as it may, T&A are thus arguing that we are hardwired to be religious. In other words, that it is natural for us to be religious. In a way this seems a case of rediscovering the wheel, except that this time around it is supported by secular scientists. Non-secular scientists have long recognized this along with philosophers and theologians, while there is nothing in science itself to deny it. In response to debates around the 9/11 horror, Leonard Stern wrote in 2008 that “religiosity is hard-wired into the human condition” and that the secularist expectation—and hope-- shared by T&A, that religion is going to disappear and be replaced by reason has proven totally unreal. Stern also noted that the alleged hostility between religion and reason has little basis in fact, since the percentage of highly educated adherents is striking. For example, leaving the Christian majority religion aside, a quarter of US Buddhists have post-graduate degrees; Jews, 35%; Hindus, 48% (“Religion Isn’t Going Away, but It Needs Examination,” Vancouver Sun, March 25, 2008, p. A11). I will resist the urge to present you with an extensive bibliography of published writers who affirm the human hard-wiredness of religion, of belief systems, of faith, of worldviews and satisfy that urge by referring you to Volume 5, Part 2, of my series Studies in Christian-Muslim Relations (See Islamica page in my < www.SocialTheology. Com > or type in < Jan H Boer > on < www.lulu.com >. It is especially the Kuyperian Christian school of thought, including its numerous scientist adherents, that has affirmed this view for nearly a century and a half.

Twisted Logic
What I find very strange and twisted logic is the assumption that if science can prove that we are hardwired by nature to be religious, then religion is proven false! This is absolutely absurd! If, as Christianity and Islam both affirm, the human race is created to be religious, then one should not be surprised if science found physical evidence supporting this. On what basis would such scientific hunches prove their opposite?! It is the same logical distortion applied to miracles: If you have a scientific explanation for an event interpreted as a miracle, then it cannot be a miracle! There is a decided antithesis between this kind of “science” and Christianity. Behind this strange “science” of A&T is an ardent anti-religion attitude shared by many secularists who just hope that religion will go away and not constantly call them to account. And then there is a deeper layer that consists of a dichotomy or dualism between religion and the world, including science, between the spiritual and the physical, that has been central to the major western secular worldview for centuries and, in fact, constitutes the western “common sense.” Few scientists, not being inclined to philosophy and other abstract ways of reasoning, are aware of this dualism. Why waste time on “common sense?” Again, at this point I can only refer you for details here to that same series and that same < lulu.com >, Volume 5, Chapter 5, especially pp. 151-157. One day I will devote a post or two to this subject.

A sneak preview: next post will deal with my alleged fixation on secularism.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Old Secular Saw: Reason vs Faith/Religion

Post 42—:

Why Again on This Stuff
If you’ve been following this blog, you will know that a major emphasis has been the relationship between Reason and Faith and/or Religion. (I capitalize these words to emphasize their centrality in this post.) I am putting you on notice that I don’t get tired of this subject and I won’t in the future as long as spokesmen/spokeswomen of the secular establishment don’t get tired of the subject and keep foisting their vision as the only reasonable one on the rest of us. As long as they unload their secular old saw about Reason vs Faith/Religion on us, so long will I counter them with my Kuyperian Christian guns about Faith/Religion and Reason or, better, Faith/Religion in and underlying Reason.

The "Sensible" World of the Secularist
This time the subject is triggered by an article the Vancouver Sun borrowed from the Los Angeles Times by Anderson Thompson and Clare Aukofer (A&T), co-authors of the book Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith (“Imagine: Man Created God,” July 22, 2011). The article begins by declaring upfront that they strongly wish for a world without religion. To clarify their religionless utopia they pit a number of things against each other. In a world cleansed of religion, “mistakes like the avoidable loss of life in Hurricane Katrina, would be rectified rather than chalked up to ‘God’s will.’” Or take this gem: “…Politicians would no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and untenable.” They long for a world “where critical thinking is an ideal. In short, a world that makes sense.”

"Scientific" Caricatures
Since I am an openly religious person and a missionary at that, those scenarios are supposed to describe me. You know what? I don’t recognize myself in any of that. Our “faith scientists” have just drawn up a scarecrow. To be sure, there may be some individuals, groups of them even, that fit one or more of these caricatures, but as a general situation, these are just silly caricatures hardly worthy of serious scientists. They express secular prejudice more than anything else, certainly not serious science.

Inside vs Outside Knowledge
True, Christians and Muslims—I confess that I don’t know enough about the other religions to speak for them—may see natural and other catastrophes as somehow incorporated in the will of God. However, I don’t know of any Christian or Muslim who would, on basis of that perspective, not work at or, at least, not favour preventing their re-occurrence. Seeing things in relation to divine will simply does not negate corrective or preventive action. Muslims have a reputation of being fatalistic, but they are very active and even pro-active in life’s affairs and by no means twiddle their thumbs while life overtakes them. Pitting such concepts against each other is typical of the outsider who makes logical deductions without having delved deeply into the subject, in this case, specific religions. They appear to have asked some scientific questions of and applied some scientific methods to religion, but they seem to know very little about the content or the inside of religion or about the way adherents experience their religion. How scientific, rational and critical is that?

Utopia: Freedom from the Irrational
Or take their snide at politicians. Most politicians are, unfortunately, politicians. Many will appeal to almost anything they think will bring votes. If it is not religion, it will be something else that A&T would describe as “irrational and untenable.” There are plenty of other issues to which voters cling with strong convictions and emotions. A&T seem to want a total make over of humanity so as to exclude all the “irrational and untenable,” their characterizations of Religion/Faith. They want a world of “critical thinking,” one that “makes sense” to their secular souls. Being isolated academics, they seem to demand that everyone should drop all of life’s reactions to reality except the rational. What an impoverished life that would be—a cold, strict, linear rational affair. God help us!

Secular Faith in Reason
As a serious Christian, I am at this very moment engaged in critical thinking and I am trying to make sense of this world, including the extremely biased views of A&T. Again, they are pitting concepts against each other that in real life always co-exist, namely Faith and Reason, even in their own article! It is they who are uncritical, for they do not seem to have subjected their own secular faith to the critical thinking they demand of others. They appear to simply accept it as the plain unassailable truth that does not require any corroboration or proof. Reason is the source of all truth. Punkt. That’s it. And don’t you dare to challenge that, for then you have ventured into the land of the politically incorrect. But pray tell: who has ever proved that assumed “unassailable” assumption? A&T, until you have proved that article of your faith, you are contradicting yourself. Yes, your faith, your belief system. You are demanding a world without faith on basis of your own belief in unassailable Reason. I can’t rewrite the same things time and again. So, if you're really interested in this issue, skim your way through previous posts and you will find it referred to repeatedly.

Next Post
I hope to deal with A&T’s scientific explanations of religion in the next post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Change of Course: Introducing an Additional Blog

Post 41--:

For some time I have been aware of the need for a change in this blog. It is too much a mixture of the concrete and abstract, of comments on events and on more philosophical-theological issues, on principial issues if you will. Though some people will read both, I sense that some people prefer the one over the other and read the one more readily than the other. In order not to bore either group, I am from here on going to separate these two.

The Old and the New
This blog will continue under its present name and will deal with more abstract considerations. I will open a new blog for the events part of the discussion. Its principial underpinnings and the basis of my opinions will be dealt with, but not in great detail. For that kind of material you will have to turn to this existing blog. The new blog with its event character will be called “Christian InTheSecularCity.blogspot.com.” The capital letters are only for easy reading; they are not necessary when opening up the blog. The numbering of this blog will continue on into the new, so that, like this post, it will start with Post 41. This is in order to provide a sense of continuity. I foresee that there will occasionally be cross references from the one blog to the other.

Reminder: ChristianMuslimWorld.blogspot.com
I remind you that the other blog will continue under the title “ChristianMuslimWorld.blogspot.com.”

Schedule Change
I hope you will appreciate the new arrangement. As for me, it will be more work. So, it may well be that the average time span between posts on these two blogs will somewhat increase. I hope you will stay with me and even that some of you will read both blogs regularly. I will appreciate any comments you may have on this new arrangement.