Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ethical Dilemma (1)

Post 17

I belong to a small organization that is busy at promoting the teaching of BC’s different world views in the public school system. The organization is called "World Views Collaborative" (WVC). Its members are consciously recruited from different religions and world views. They include secular Humanists, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Unitarians and various kinds of Christians. We are all aware of the stark differences between our respective worldviews, but, in the interest of a common mission that we all espouse, we have decided to work together and have gradually developed strong personal bonds between each other. Though we are all firm adherents to our respective world views, we have decided to be tolerant of our differences. We talk about them freely, accept and respect each other and, though disagreeing, we do not criticize each other’s perspective.

Among other exercises, we have devised an ethical dilemma project in which each member explains how she would solve the dilemma on basis of her worldview. So, various members have submitted their contribution, all of which are found on the WVC’s webpage

Below I reproduce the first ethical dilemma assigned to all of us, after which I reproduce my response to the dilemma from a Calvinist perspective.

Dilemma (1) – Medical Intervention vs. Death

Your 80 year old brother, who lives at a great distance from you, has been hospitalized with pneumonia. He has no "living will." The treating physician asks your sister-in-law to authorize a surgical procedure that would make it very difficult for the patient to speak and would also require that he be fed through a gastric tube for an indeterminate length of time. Without these measures the patient is not expected to survive longer than a week.

A Calvinist Perspective (slightly edited from the website version)

My basic Christian view is that, even under extraordinary circumstances, human life is always inviolate and sacred. It must be protected. That is true for everyone’s life, poor and rich, young and old. At both ends of life. One of the issues in this case may be resources and finances, where a choice must be made between the life of this one elderly man or of some younger or more vital people who are responsible for the lives of dependents. The example is not clear. But given his age and the information at hand,

I would recommend the procedure–

-- if the brother can live with the intervention in reasonable comfort;
-- if his post-pneumonia health is of viable quality that could still qualify as life, in distinction
from a very poor and painful existence;
-- if there are viable care-taking arrangements in place.
-- if the procedure and subsequent care will not make heavy demands on the public purse that
would lead to younger people with dependents being bypassed.

I would recommend that the situation be allowed to take its natural course–

-- if his life during intervention would be (next to) intolerable;
-- if there are no viable care-taking arrangements available;
-- if the resources expended on extending this life would be at the expense of a younger persons
lives, especially those with dependents.

I invite readers to challenge me on this one, especially fellow Christians. We are facing unfamiliar situations today. Medical technology allows amazing life extension sometimes, but usually at terrific expense. In Canada and many other Western countries, such expenses will often have to be borne by the public. The public purse can be stretched only so far and therefore choices have often to be made. Should this life be preserved at any cost, even if it should mean that a younger, more vital, person with dependents would not get needed treatment and be kept from supporting his dependents? Should that course be followed, the total expense would be horrific. A fragile life would be preserved, most likely under very negative conditions hardly worthy of the designation "life." The younger persons with dependents might go down the tube, with several promising lives perhaps forever thwarted, which would potentially drag out expenses over many decades of distorted lives. In BC, at least, the cost of a street person is something like $60,000 per annum. All lives are sacred, that of the younger person and her dependents as much as that of this fragile elder who has lived his life. What would be your solution?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

For the Love of Food Animals (3)

Post 9

I was going to move on to another topic, but an article by Peter Fricker in the Vancouver Sun caught my attention. The title is “Are Food Animals Victims of Their Poor Image?” (Vancouver Sun, 20 Sep/2010). Fricker is a departmental director for the Vancouver Humane Society and has given me leave to use his article as I see fit. For not knowing me at all, that’s pretty generous and daring. So, thanks, Peter.

In the previous post, I dealt shortly with how food animals are treated and insisted that they must be treated with respect, compassion, mercy and in ways appropriate to their nature. They are, after all, creatures of God who are entrusted to us for care, protection and, where necessary, control.

Fricker wonders why not more outrage is expressed at cruelty to animals in general, including food animals. His is not the only one. A couple of years ago there was a public campaign against Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)for the atrociously cruel way they treat(ed) their chickens. It was fought on various fronts, including on the sidewalk in front of KFC outlets. I understand the company promised to do better and the street campaign, at least, has ceased. I hope it is true.

Chickens seem to be among the most vulnerable of food animals. They run into the billions. According to Fricker, Canadians slaughter 580 million of them annually. Our giant cousin, no fewer than 9 billion p.a.! Now that’s some chicken!

How do they suffer? Well, they are bred to grow so fast that “their bones cannot support their weight, leading to chronic painful conditions and injuries.” When they are to be transported for slaughter, “they endure rough handling, often breaking (brittle) bones.” En route, they are “exposed to extreme weather over long distances, with some dying” along the way. Survivors so far are often “shackled upside down, dragged through a sometimes ineffective stun bath and having their throats slit.”

Though Christian tradition and the Bible allow animals to be used for human consumption, that does not make it acceptable for them to “be treated so inhumanely.” Fricker suggests that “breeding for unnaturally fast growth could be stopped” Based on the responsibility for treating animals according to their kind, I would see that such breaking should be stopped. An imperative, especially for Christians who should know better. They should also be allowed more space to move around beyond the “half-square foot of space,” as Fricker puts it. While en route, they should be fed and watered more frequently. Slaughter methods should become more human—by gas perhaps, as Fricker would prefer to see.

Like our pets, chickens “feel fear, pain and distress. Capacity for suffering is something all animals share,” but “it appears that, for most of us, that is acceptable.” Thanks, Fricker, for this pungent article.

One of the things that bothers me in all this is that Christians are among these poultry keepers. There are several of them in the Fraser Valley of BC’s Bible Belt. Why is that we do not hear them speak up in protest as professionals and as people who are aware of Biblical teachings? It is perhaps because few people write about it and few express outrage. Preachers hardly ever preach on the subject. I have never heard one sermon on the subject, not even from my own mouth!

The problem I believe is that handy little escape hatch many Christians use as an excuse. It goes by various names. My favourite name for it is “<dualism.” It describes the worldview held by many Christians that divides religious, spiritual and churchly concerns from the rest of culture. We are left with two realms: religion and the world. In the world you do as you please, as long as you do God’s things in the religious real. Chickens are part of that world cut off from religion. So, therefore you can do with chickens as you please. It is not of God’s concern.

I’ve got news for you, you Christian dualists. That ain’t the way things are or go. The entire world and all that’s in it belong to God and they are to be treated accordingly. That’s one of the time-honoured emphases of the Calvinistic tradition. That dualistic perspective is a secular worldview with which Christians ought to have no truck. The Christian Religion is not that cheap or easy.

The same reasoning and perspective hold for keeping any other animals for profit. Profit is legitimate; it is the oil of the economy. But it cannot be the sole bottom line. I invite you to take it from there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

For the Love ofAnimals (2)--and Control

Post 8

Yes, it is a cause for celebration that we are so much more humane in relationship to the animal world around us. But, based on the Bible, theology and well-established Christian tradition, animals are not our equals. We need to respect them and protect them. We are meant to enjoy them, but we need also to control them. The safety and well-being of people have priority over those of animals.

When in emergencies we are forced to choose between rescuing people or animals, we choose the former. When animals become dangerous to the human community, we must do what we can to accommodate them, but they must give way. When deer and bears attack people in their towns and villages as they do in some BC communities like North Vancouver and Grand Forks, then ways have to be found to move them away or, under extreme circumstances, even kill them. When rabbits on a university campus as in Victoria, threaten to take over the place, government regulations should not prevent authorities from taking the necessary steps to alleviate the problem. When Canada geese poop all over the lawns of Stanley Park so that they can no longer be used for recreational purposes by the tax payers, then there must be freedom to solve the problem, probably by killing them. When large birds endanger airplanes or disrupt power supplies, the community must protect itself against such onslaughts, possibly by killing them.

Biblically, we have priority. An early Bible account has Adam and Eve giving names to animals. You don’t give names if you don’t have the authority to do so--except perhaps place names changed arbitrarily by colonial adventurers—or if you don’t have the required insight into the nature of the individual animal. Our earliest ancestors in the Bible stories are given the assignment, the obligation, to rule over the entire world and all its creatures. The fact that the human race has often messed up this assignment due to the fall does not reduce our authority over animals or our obligation to rule and control them.

We have zoos, where we keep animals out of their natural habitat for human entertainment, but also for education. Is this legitimate? Purely for recreation, probably not. For education, I believe it is, especially if they are kept in humane ways and in environments as natural as possible. How many children have not enjoyed and profited from seeing wild animals, perhaps even petted them? It should lead to awareness, admiration and respect on their part.

For a long time, people have hunted and fished to supply themselves with food and this continues to be so. This is a legitimate use of the creatures placed under our authority. However, when hunting and fishing is reduced to recreation, then it becomes another issue. Recently my grandson and I watched some recreational fishermen on the White Rock BC dock roughly pull the hook out of small fish or even cut them with knives and then throw them back in the water. My 8-year old grandson was rightly horrified and indignant. I know of people who derive pleasure from shooting elephants in Africa, those magnificent beasts! Just imagine: pleasure! The fact that the villagers got to eat their meat does not undo the affront of the pleasure. That is not the authority over and responsibility for our animals that can be Christianly justified.

But hunting and fishing as part of a community’s food chain is legitimate—as is the raising of animals for meat. At least, in my estimation and understanding, though I have considerable sympathy for the vegetarians among us. I may well be ever so slowly moving into that direction, but I am not ready for it—yet! But raising chickens or hogs or any other meat for human consumption must take into consideration their nature, something that has been ignored for too long. Thousands of chickens in crowded batteries is no Christian way to treat them. The Bible says, they all have their own nature and must be treated accordingly. Filling them with chemicals for greater profit is an abuse of human authority and cruel, quite apart from the human disease such practices cause. At the same time, raising rabbits on the ground may be natural to them, but will lead to their disappearance and, quite likely, lead to an out-of-control rabbit plague.

And with this,I leave you to ponder.

Friday, September 17, 2010

For the Love of Animals (1)

I love it when birds carelessly stroll in my path on the city sidewalk, pecking away at seeds or insects invisible to me. I feel so honoured that birds and other wild creatures have come to feel so much at home with us humans that they share intimate space with us without fear. Though our society has plenty of raw sides that I can and in due time will rant and rave about, it says some very good things about our communal values. Not only do we humans regard untamed animals as our friends and respect them, but they have also learned to accept us in what is their territory just as much as ours.

This mutual sharing of space and respect is, probably with the exception of our bovine friends in India, hardly practiced in most non-western countries. There animals are seldom treated with kindness. Even domesticated animals such as dogs or cats, those we consider pets, are routinely roughly chased out of people’s way without a grain of kindness. I have lived in such countries for 30 years and have seen it all. Closer to home, the other day I watched an obviously foreign mother with two small children in Stanley Park. The children were, playfully to be sure, chasing the large gaggle of Canadian geese strolling in the grass. The mother, rather than restraining and teaching them the better way, obviously encouraged the children. I was there with two grandchildren who were also tempted to the chase, but my wife and I restrained them, even though I am no particular lover of those geese in the Park for reasons my Vancouver readers will understand. So much for my fellow immigrants accepting Canadian values. Or has love of, respect for and delight in animals not yet been included in the hallowed status of Canadian values?

But neither has it always been that way in our own western society. When I was a child, pets were usually treated with kindness by its owners. Other than that, animals were seldom treated with respect or love. Of course, cattle and other animals kept for profit were treated well, but others were readily chased away with no one challenging it. We had no birds or ducks sharing our space, for they knew we were their enemies.

During my forties—a long, long time ago, I admit it—I was once part of a relaxed circle of chatting friends. One of us—not me, I rush to say it!—saw an ant close to his foot and he casually crushed it with his foot. Another member—not me, I hesitate to admit—stopped the conversation and asked that friend why he so callously crushed that ant for no reason. He had no explanation, of course, certainly not a valid one. That incident was a turning point in my life when it comes to treatment of insects, animals, birds, fish, whatever, and my relationship to them, though the friend who gave the challenge did not remember the incident when I reminded him years later.

It is good that we in our society have come to this stage in our relationship with birds and animals, including wild ones. It is good, for these are God’s creatures that He made for a purpose. They enrich nature and, once you begin to study their world, you will delight in how these creatures fill this world with incredible diversity in the sky, on the land or under the waters. It has taken us way too long to reach this stage. Apart from that, of course, they largely keep the entire ecological system in balance, though imbalance can and does set in occasionally.

Perhaps there is an explanation for this difference between the West and others in this respect. Part of it, no doubt, is the continuing penetration of Christo-humanism in the minds of Westerners. Growing realization of the need to respect creation in general based on a combination of both Bible and reason for some and only on reason for others. It is part of the promise of Jesus that God will lead us collectively into truth as we make our way in this world.

But there is also the economic factor of greater wealth that makes us more relaxed. My wife and I were in our office in Nigeria together with a Nigerian friend. A beautiful bird was flying about outside, jumping from tree branch to branch. My wife and I both commented on its beauty, but our Nigerian friend shrugged his shoulder and muttered, “But you can’t eat it!” Though he may not have been poor himself, he was part of an economically challenged community that naturally reacted in that way. It had no value for him and he had no respect for it. We don’t crave the meat of animals in the space around us, for we are already satiated. And we have the time to admire animals without that craving.

But then we have other animal issues that seem to militate against the love and respect we have for them. I will deal with some of these issues in the next blog.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Qur'an Burning Condemned

This is a new blog that has not yet established a reputation sufficient to draw many readers at this point. I trust this will develop as time goes on. Nevertheless, rather than re-inventing my own wheel, I hereby pass on to you the statement from Barnabas Aid condemning the plans of an American church to publicly burn the Qur’an. Barnabas is a British-based international organization that ministers to oppressed Christians the world over. It is currently busy collecting money for Pakistani Christian flood victims. See < >.

Though I might have said it somewhat differently, I wholeheartedly support the main thrust of this statement. I herewith go on record as strongly opposing the burning plan. Furthermore, I urge American authorities to stop this deranged church from engaging in a project that is sure to further enflame anti-Christian, anti-Western and anti-American emotions among Muslims everywhere, including Americans. It is almost sure to lead to bloody riots, loss of lives and destruction of properties. It flies flat in the face of Christian attempts to promote a more positive image of Christ among Muslims. Though I fully support and insist on freedom of speech and expression, I do not support extreme forms of it that seem calculated to cause violence and bloodshed.

Here, then, the Barnabas statement:

Qur’an burning: “an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture”
Barnabas Aid statement on the proposed burning of Qur’ans in Florida

A church in Gainsville, Florida, USA, the Dove World Outreach Centre, has announced that it will burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday September 11 to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The stated purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the ideology and teaching of Islam and to warn against its dangers.

Barnabas Aid condemns the proposed action, for the following reasons:

1. Barnabas Aid is fully committed to making known the aspects of Islam that result in injustice and oppression of non-Muslims, not least the persecution of Christians. But we believe that the biblical and Christ-like way to do this is by speaking the truth in the power of God’s love, and by extending that love to Muslim people even when they are hostile to us. In that context it can never be justified to destroy a book that Muslims regard as sacred, however firmly and profoundly we may disagree with its contents.

2. The effect of the proposed action on Christians in Muslim-majority contexts is likely to be extremely serious. Already Muslim militants in Indonesia have promised to kill Indonesian Christians if Qur’ans are burned in Florida, and the history of anti-Christian violence in the country suggests that this is not an idle threat. Barnabas partners in Iraq have expressed concern at the probable Muslim backlash against an already beleaguered Iraqi Church. And Christians in numerous other places who live in daily fear of potentially deadly attacks will at once be placed in much greater danger. It cannot be right to exercise our freedom to protest in a way that puts at risk the lives of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ died.

3. There is a further risk that Christian minorities may be divided among themselves as churches with links to the West come to be unfairly associated with the action taken in Florida and its destructive consequences. It is important for Christians under pressure to be united, as their division serves only to weaken the Church and increase its vulnerability to Muslim attacks. It is therefore wholly inappropriate to undermine that unity for the sake of an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture.

For these reasons Barnabas Aid urges the Dove World Outreach Centre and its supporters to refrain from burning Qur’ans on the anniversary of 9/11. It invites all Christians instead to join with us in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, and that the hatred and violence that endanger them may be overcome by the grace and love of Christ.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director
Barnabas Aid
September 7, 2010

PS--I have published a statement on the same subject on my Companion Blog . That one is published by the Christian Reformed Church, the denomination to which I belong. The term "Reformed" is another word for "Calvinism."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tamil Refugees (3)

I do want you to realize that I am not talking about refugees or refugee programmes in general. I am talking only about the specific case of the Tamil boat people that recently arrived on Canadian soil. Well, sort of.... Should Canada accept them or send them packing? And what should she do about any future such arrivals?

Canadians reacted differently to their arrival, all the way from a warm embrace to a cold “send them back.” What is the real reason behind that negative attitude that I, as you will have noticed from the last two blogs, share? To dismiss the negative response haughtily as tribalism as did Stephen Hume is nonsense. That explanation is cheap and, it seems to me, represents mere political correctness that refuses to face a tough issue. But Hume did force me to examine myself as to the reason for my negative attitude in this situation.

Before I read his column, I came to the same conclusion about myself and others as did Jon Ferry. It is disgust with the Canadian federal bureaucracy more than with our uninvited guests. Ferry said it well. “But what really seems to annoy many Canadians is the feeling they’re being played for suckers by slick immigration lawyers and coerced into paying millions in legal fees, welfare payments and health benefits to migrants who, at least by their home country’s standards, appear to be quite well off,” since they reportedly paid a handsome price for their journey.

Yes, all that largess to strangers, needy strangers to be sure, while the citizens complain about the resources they require for their ordinary needs are not available. The ordinary tax payer works hard but is given the run around when she “hits a rough patch.” The system has been bled dry, according to one writer. He does not identify the culprits, but, if I may insert my own two cents worth, they are not refugees so much as members of the bureaucracy that cow tow to all too many citizens with their culture of human rights and entitlement without a proper balance of human and citizen responsibility.

I live in Vancouver’s West End and meet, see and hear all too many people who are indeed sucking the system dry. When you see with your own eyes strong, tall young men with heavy backpacks strapped to their backs, pick up rent checks from some whimpy bureaucrat, then you know something is amiss. When people who regularly travel the entire world, ride our transit system with nearly free annual passes, you know we are bled. When people who annually traverse the continent by Amtrack but have their rent subsidized and pay no MSP, you wonder who approved the cozy arrangement. And now another 500 of these refugees forcing themselves upon the already emaciated system! When is this blood letting of the system going to end?

Ferry writes, “…the overall cynicism among Canadians about the system is now so great, it needs a complete overhaul.” There we have the real reason. If this blood letting of the system, its abuse by our own entitlement “citizens” were not so rife, the country would be more relaxed. And if our bureaucracy developed the necessary spine to stop this local blood letting, people, myself included, would not be so upset about our Sri Lankan guests. And, not the least, if our politicians dared to clamp down on these bureaucratic wimps and our entitlement champions with tougher legislation, we might even embrace them with open arms. But as it is, we are tired of it all. Hard working tax payers need a break. They want some accountability in quarters where it now seems totally lacking

And if the Toronto Sri Lankan community wants to retain its reputation and respect at all with the Canadian people, it should take the bull by the horns as I suggest in the previous blog. Put your money where your mouth is. Practice being responsible Canadians instead of a tribalistic enclave. Demonstrate that your citizenship certificate is genuine, not just one of convenience and entitlement.

One final logical comment: The logic of the Sri Lankan situation could lead to the demand that Canada take in the entire Tamil tribe. Isn’t the situation basically the same for all of them? Why stop at this boat load? Most of those left behind do not have the $45,000 our current crop paid for the passage and are thus in greater need. Yea, and while we’re at it, why not all southern Sudanese as well? We have the room! But perhaps there are other issues besides those of logic?

Tomorrow, I promise, I will broach another subject. Don't know yet what it will be, but the media will bring up something of interest, if not significance. Enjoy your day in God's Kingdom.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tamil Refugees (2)

Yea, that refugee question—a tough one. I am dealing with the issue kind of as stream of consciousness, considering various aspects that must be taken into account. Right now, I am glad I am free to write about it without having to make the final decisions. I happily leave that to our unfortunate Government. I recognize that this is kind of cheap and easy, but flatter myself into thinking that, cheap and easy as it may be, all such writings by citizens high and low, may help a government if it is inclined to listen. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Maybe my input on the subject will be read, if they realize I am a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, albeit a disappointed one. Mr. Harper & Co., yoho! I am here! Your member! I voted for you—or would have if you had a candidate in my riding!

Tough as the issue is, Canada must respond to it and solve it to a degree that we can live with as a nation--and do so on the side of compassion and justice. At the same time, she should do so on her own free will, not forced by cheap majority votes at the UN. Free will does not mean considering only our own Canadian interest. Canada has a reputation, among its own citizens at least, of a helpful, caring nation that sacrifices for the sake of others. That tradition needs to be incorporated in that free will. As a TV commercial puts it, “because it’s the right thing to do.” Certainly the Calvinist thing. Erring on that side even. That’s why I pleaded in my letter to accept these people and not turn them back into the Pacific.

But there’s also a tougher side to my letter. While accepting the present group for refugee processing, Canada should let it be known loud and clear that she will simply force the next ships to turn around as soon as they reach Canadian territorial waters. Potential refugees in Sri Lanka should know that, $45,000 or not, they will not be allowed to land on Canadian soil. It has been suggested that any boat heading for Canada should be diverted to some isolated island for refugee processing. Those accepted could proceed to Canada; those not accepted must find their own way out. That should discourage those who know themselves to be risky for whatever reason or come with hidden agendas. It would be similar to the US’ operating immigration posts at foreign airports with the explicit aim of sorting out risky travelers away from US borders, before they get there. Diverting them might also separate the sheep from the goats. That is, those inclined to respect our laws and procedures and those who don/t. Not a bad way to go, I believe.

Jon Ferry, another Province columnist, has his heart in the right place. Like me, a former immigrant himself, he is full of compassion for the new Tamil arrivals, especially the women among them. Perhaps a tinge of chauvinism? They should be treated “as humanely as possible while they’re in our care.” Does that last clause suggest they should be rejected humanely? Even if Canada should dare do that, it would not be experienced as “humane” by them.

Then Ferry gets tough. He has no “sympathy at all for unscrupulous people smugglers and queue jumpers who come to our country by the back door. Their exploitation of our absurdly lax immigration rules is unfair to other would-be immigrants waiting patiently….” Canada is in a pickle, according to Ferry. If she accepts the group, she will be seen as a soft touch and encourage others to follow. If she rejects the group, she will “risk losing our reputation as a big country with a big heart.” Perhaps. She may also gain the respect of those honest enough to recognize what is really going on. Should Canada even worry about that? Once again, just do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t think it will be a disaster, though the nefarious of this world may try to turn it so.

The Toronto Tamil community and their lawyers stubbornly defend the new arrivals. Some will no doubt have siblings and other relatives among them. They insist that they be admitted, even those they do not know. They totally disregard the Government’s suspicion of Tamil terrorists among them, possibly even knowingly are mute about them. After all, this is a tribe and tribal sentiment demands that, in response to outsiders, you close rank, regardless of the issues or individuals involved. Canada has already more tribalists than it needs. It shows up every time a nation with a sizable group of its citizens in Canada finds itself in turmoil. All the immigrants from that country will band together and make this or that demand on the Canadian government. They may even turn against each other on basis of home country divisions, as we have seen in some Asian immigrant communities.

I challenge the Tamil immigrant community. Put your money where your mouth is. If you want these people to be accepted so badly, then offer to put up substantial bail for each individual. In addition, put them up in your community, provide them with jobs and teach them English. Your first priority should be to keep them off Canadian welfare rolls. Prove yourself. Demonstrate your seriousness as Canadians first of all who have the welfare of Canada at heart! We don’t need your tribalism. That’s destructive to the nation.

To be continued in the next blog. See you there.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tamil Refugees (1)

Welcome back. I was afraid I may have lost some of you after you read the previous entry. Though I do not intend to “go on the air” daily, I thought I better waste no time after that rather scholastic presentation. But, you’re back and I’m happy the damage was not irreversible. That blog was just something I had to do to make my location in the scheme of things clear for the sake of the academics among you. Now we’re ready to move into the real world.

The last month, much of Canada, but especially BC, was up in arms about the arrival of a shipload of nearly 500 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. Totally uninvited or approved. This was the second such shipment from Sri Lanka. During summer 2009, a ship offloaded a mere 76 onto Canadian soil. Apparently each passenger paid someone $45,000 for the journey. The 2009 folks, according to an editorial in The Province , a Vancouver-based daily, are still “awaiting processing by Canada’s inefficient refugee-claims system.” The editorial agreed with the Federal Government’s claim that the group most likely included a number of “Tamil Tiger terrorists” who are planning to continue their Sri Lankan terrorist campaign from a base in peaceful Canada. The writer concluded that it is obvious organized criminals are taking advantage of “Canada’s too compassionate refugee and immigration laws.”

As to solutions, it was suggested that laws be tightened and the claim process sped up so that candidates don’t spend years in limbo. The people smugglers should be put behind bars for many years to “take the profit out of their terrible trade.” So far, this editorial. There are rumours of more ships on the way!

The paper published my response to their editorial, the first in the lineup, that reads as follows:
Your short editorial on the Tamil Boat Show is right on. Hohum, another boat full of…, yes, of what or whom? It is clear by now that we have developed a sucker reputation with people coming to our country by hook or by crook. They fully expect to be accepted by a timid, weak-kneed refugee administration that is supported by a citizenry so compassionate, it can’t think its way straight through such invasions.

If I’m not mistaken, we are bullied into these situations by UN provisions we have “voluntarily” signed on to under “moral” pressure from a UN majority. It is cheap and easy for that majority to pass such provisions, for few will ever face this mess. No one in their right mind would even think of going there.

Let’s accept this boat and make it clear to the world that it is the last. It is time for Canada to stand up, sign off from that convention and do her own thing. Be compassionate, absolutely, but that is different from being a sucker.


The Vancouver Sun’s Stephen Hume weighed in with a mighty shout of “Racism!” That was the only reason for people’s objections to their acceptance in Canada. His accusation brought a wild angry chorus of people deeply insulted by this charge. The f… word and its synonyms, always on the tip of most “sophisticated” Vancouver tongues, was used more than I have ever seen in any newspaper.

What do we have here? Would you agree with the sentiments in my letter? Am I a racist? Throughout my 30 years in Africa, I have several times been praised for the opposite. I want us to consider a few points without necessarily coming to a clear or final conclusion. Clear final conclusions are difficult to come by when there are so many unknowns in an equation.

First of all, we have a problem at the UN, where a majority votes in favour of measures that will never affect them. Western votes represent a minority there. Few of those voting in favour of the current refugee regime will ever be inundated with refugees. Canada has for too many years played the good boy or the saint on the block and submitted to the regime. She feels obligated to accept such shipments. I believe that Canada must be compassionate and not be afraid to err on that side. However, she must insist on realistic conditions that do not include terrorists. She must sign off from this UN convention and re-establish her independence. It is cheap for Hume to ignore a factor that government cannot ignore. He was not privy to confidential government information on this subject at the time.

Hume is right that a number of “developing nations” take the brunt of the refugee burden and that Canada’s load is comparatively miniscule. Tanzania, e.g., took in more than seven Western countries combined in 2006! Similar statistics hold for other non-Western nations. But most of these are the neighbours of countries that generate the refugees, where they naturally congregate. From what I have read, the suffering in many of these camps is heart rending. It is often from there that refugees find their way to the West, either by individual effort or by sponsorship. But that is not the case with our Tamil friends.

Well, I leave it at this for today and will continue with the subject in the next post. Sleep well. Give special thanks to God you’re not a refugee or that your country does not generate such folk.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Calvinism by Any Other Name

In my previous blog, I introduced myself as a modern-day Calvinist. I did not define it but encouraged you to continue reading my blogs and so discover for yourself what's involved. So, you got yourself a job--you've become a detective!

But things are not quite as simple as I put it last time. Like every philosophy, school of thought, worldview or religion, so Calvinism has numerous variations. You've got orthodox, conservative, liberal, Swiss, Dutch, Scottish versions. Then there's the American scene in which you find all of them. Even within these schools you find variations.

OK, here comes a bit of a boring paragraph. So, either brace yourself or just skip it. If you are academically inclined, you may find it interesting. I am about to describe my life orientation with reference to schools of thought. Here goes:

Though I am a Canadian citizen and live in Vancouver, I am born in The Netherlands and hold dual citizenship. I have also spend around 15 years in Michigan, USA, and nearly 30 in Nigeria. My root Calvinism is of the Dutch variety, the most unique of which is known by names such as "Kuyperian" after its founder Abraham Kuyper(see Kuyperiana page on my website). I tend to lean towards the "Neo-Kuyperian" or "Neo-Calvinistic" branch of this one, which is also described as "Reformational. I am only giving you these names in case you decide to follow up on some of my blogs in the future. Then having these terms at hand will facilitate your research on the internet. Apart from that, forget these names.

You still there? Great! It is from that Reformational perspective that I am going to approach things. Of all Western Christian perspectives, it is the most world-affirming Christian tradition that I know of,that has not lost its classical orthodox orientation. World affirming! Now you can understand the title of this blog and where this comes from.If you're interested in knowing more about this school and its world affirmation more quickly, without waiting for my blogs, you can google any of the terms found in the above paragraphs and you'll find plenty to occupy yourself.

I promised that I am mainly going to engage in discussions about current events and writings. I will do so in terms of the world-affirming perspective promoted by Kuyper and his followers. You will probably find that I move around quite a bit between left and right, liberal and conservative, if those are your categories of thought. You may even wish I could make up my mind about where I belong. The reason for that is that Kuyperianism is beyond those categories. It is simply different. I was almost going to say that it is a third way, but that is a tired claim made by so many who reject those narrow cliches. So, let's just say I am beyond the conservative/liberal axis, while clearly within the orthodox camp.

If this blog kind of gives you cold feet, relax, put your socks on. I promise next time to feature a current topic. I confess I don't yet know what it will be, for I have so many to choose from. If you have a suggestion, send it to me and we'll see where it takes us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Switching Gears after a Long Break

It's been a year and a quarter since my last post. Things got too wild for me. Felt pressured to complete the last volume of my 8-volume series on Christian-Muslim relations. For details, go to my < >. I did get it completed after close to ten good years, a lot of dollars that I was surprised to be able to muster, several computers and printers and 2700+ pages. You can purchase them from me, from the publisher, from Amazon and their ilk. You can also access it free of charge as e-books from < >. Yes, free of charge! Just peck "janhboer" there and you will find them, all eight of them. The archives that emerged from this project are now lodged at Yale University.

After completion, I had to spend more time on getting the Nigerian side of the publication in place and I continue to be busy with that. Nigeria? you ask. Well, yes, my wife and I spent 30 years there. This series has ramifications for the entire world with its Christians and Muslims, but its primary focus is on Nigeria as a detailed case study of its 60 million plus of both Christians and Muslims. The place is a virtual laboratory of how these two religions can co-exist in relative peace.

Relative peace. I don't think you can expect more than that, if for no other reason than that they tend to have such opposite views about the functions of government. In addition to that, they have such different views on the nature and function of religion as well as on freedom of religion, that achieving anything more than relative peace may be asking for too much. But that is a whole lot better than what they have today, each with a knife at each other's throat. My series has a number of purposes, but the main one is to provide especially my fellow Christians there with more wholistic parameters so they can better understand the Muslim challenge and thus better respond to it.

OK, you got me going on a favourite subject of mine. Sorry. But you will hear more of that in the future, I am sure.

My early posts deal with some Christian foundational issues in the form of meditations on Genesis. These will remain foundational to my future writings. I will occasionally return to those subjects, but most likely in response to current events on which I intend to comment. Comment, not proclaim. Modern culture is too complicated to have many fixed ideas about almost anything of significance. Often my comments are going to be in the nature of scattering the seed for you to join me in the search for greater clarity. I am always interested in arriving at some Christian conclusion to issues, provisional conclusions, even if during the search I may sound dogmatic at times.

So, you cannot expect a consistent ongoing series of posts on a single subject for the immediate future. I am going to respond in a Christian spirit to events or to writers as they happen or write, without pretending to have the last Christian wisdom and I'm going to do this from a contemporary Calvinist point of view. If you stick with me, you will slowly discover what such an exotic perspective might look like. Yes, there is such a perspective and it is alive and well in Canada and many other countries. You might be surprised at the organizations and institutions it has fostered. It is active and working and making a difference, but often without flying the Calvinist flag, so that people do not recognize it even as they benefit from it.

This, then, is my re-introduction of my good self. I hope that in time you will draw your friends to this blog and join me in conversation. Till next time--inshallah!