News Round-Up -- September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II's death, Pierre Poilievre's election, and the decline of Christianity in the US.

My writing hasn’t recovered from an emotionally brutal summer, but I’m still around. Here I reflect on three news that share a common theme: they highlight that our most important fight remains the fight for reality.

Queen Elizabeth’s Death

The death of Queen Elizabeth II rightfully dominated the September news cycle. The funeral of the longest reigning British monarch ever was declared a federal holiday in Canada, but not all provinces mirrored it with a provincial holiday.

Her Late Majesty garnered much sympathy around the world. She became the epitome of a selfless server, and the perfect example of how the monarch personifies the state in constitutional monarchies. By many trusted accounts, she was a genuine Christian. That’s not to say she was perfect, and her death will inevitably trigger reassessments of her character and actions. She died at a time when the concept of monarchy is more debated than ever. 25% of adult Britons would prefer an elected head of state, a figure that rises to 41% among those aged 18 to 24. I suspect that a similar situation holds in Canada. The reputation of monarchies (not just the British) is marred with claims of anachronism and colonialist harm.

Monarchies, even our modern constitutional ones, are deficient forms of government. But in their own way, they stem from the ultimate, most deeply rooted human longing: intimate communion with our Creator God. Worldly monarchies and God’s Kingdom aren’t the same, any more than a picture of nature fully captures its sheer expanse and glory. (Niagara Falls comes to mind.) I suspect that simile or inspiration won’t justify perpetually putting up with imperfect copies of desired ideals. Elizabeth’s integrity, devotion and life of service buoyed the Crown’s reputation and helped it weather significant storms. In time, we shall learn just how much of the Crown’s remaining esteem and respect died with her. But whatever happens with our monarchies, our longing for Kingdom will persist.

Today, I’m just grateful for her example of stability, service and leadership, and I offer my condolences to the Royal Family and other sympathizers around the world. And I’m reminded one more time that our worldviews define reality for us. Our definition of reality drives us to support or reject every aspect of our lives, including how we structure and govern our countries.

Pierre Poilievre Elected Conservative Leader

In the shadow of these regal news, the Conservative Party of Canada elected their next leader on September 10. As expected, Pierre Poilievre won. However, his unprecedented margin of victory was surprising, underscoring how hard he is to put in a box.

Everyone agrees that Poilievre is a polarizing and intriguing figure. Critics are quick to point out his more controversial views and his willingness to associate with causes and figures deemed politically questionable. Supporters admire his unwavering consistence and his seemingly unshakeable commitment to the positions he takes. Politicians often veer to the edges of the political spectrum to rally the bases around them and win primaries. They then move to the centre for broader appeal in national contests. Poilievre has already stated he won’t do that, and a whole country eagerly awaits to see if he’ll keep his word on this too.

I don’t endorse all of Poilievre’s viewpoints. But I suspect a reason he’s so popular is that he seems to be genuinely authentic. He wears his views on his sleeve, and he can articulate his arguments clearly and succinctly. In a time where saccharine speeches abound and the zeitgeist teems with remarkable inconsistencies, Poilievre’s straightforward positions are refreshing and reassuring. (I can’t imagine him saying “saccharine”, “zeitgeist”, or “teeming”.) Here, again, is a confrontation around reality. What’s the true state of our nation? Of our economy? What is good? What is bad? You can disagree with this man’s answers, but he’s yet to be accused of beating around the bush.

One thing I find notable is this: the Liberal government definitely sees a political threat in Poilievre, and is reacting accordingly. Prime Minister Trudeau reacted sharply to Poilievre’s criticism of the government’s handling of the economy. But more tellingly, rumour has it that the federal government might finally end COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates at the border. This government has been notoriously reluctant to relax these measures, despite solid evidence that they no longer serve their original purpose. However, eliminating them could weaken Poilievre’s rally cry of freedom – one of his planks along with the economy and a general distrust of “elites” (however he defines them).

To be clear, the current mandates are set to expire on September 30. The government must act on them by that deadline irrespective of who leads the CPC. We now have bivalent vaccines and a better understanding of COVID. Simply put, we’re just in a different place with this pandemic. But if the measures do come to an end, I’ll be curious to see if the government somehow connects that to the freedom of Canadians.

One more thing: in the name of freedom, Poilievre has vowed to repeal Bill C11. I still want to deep dive this bill and share my thoughts with you. Watch this space.

The Decline of Christianity in the US

Finally, last week the Washington Post and other outlets reported on the latest Pew Research Center projections about Christianity’s steady decline in the US. Notably, the projections put Christianity becoming a minority belief by 2070, which would be a first in the history of the country.

My broad reactions to this echo what I wrote before about similar findings in Canada. Today, I want to connect this topic, again, to the matter of reality. What many unbelievers in North America fail to realize is that many of the benefits they enjoy don’t merely align with Christianity, but actually stem from it. If we live in regimes where we get to elect our leaders, it’s because of our Christian foundations. They’re the reason our leaders don’t cement their authority in claims of divine lineage and identity. They’re why we have strong protections for our freedoms of religion, conscience, association and press. They’re why we are endowed with rights that government simply cannot take away.

This is true irrespective of our personal religious convictions. These rights and freedoms don’t just overlap or coincide with Christianity; in Canada, they stem from it. I suspect that’s why the Pew report found that “many Americans still see a community value in religion”. I don’t expect that trend to continue, and it will entail great social loss. To be sure, Christians believe that the greatest possible human loss is failure to acknowledge Christ as saviour. The specifics of our theology will dictate how much these news worry us in terms of how many are lost or saved. Regardless, I think that a decline in the social benefits that come from our worldview adds substantial insult to injury. Yes, salvation is what matters most. But it is from God and not from us. And it’s aggravating to witness a loss of common good as society shuns Christian values on top of the core tragedy of unrepentant sinners.

Reality still has a way of imposing itself. These news tell me that even as we worry about the cost of living and other very real issues, reality trumps every other concern. The fight for reality can be unnerving, but the fact that it continues makes me cautiously hopeful.

Published: September 20, 2022