Month: May 2016

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his party have proposed new legislation to expand Canada’s blasphemy laws, er… hate speech laws… to cover transgender issues. Anyone who dares to speak wrongly on transgender issues could face penalties of up to two years in jail. You can read favorable mainstream media coverage, for example, at

Canada is no stranger to using hate speech law to curb religious expression. The Christian Post has bundled with this story a mention of the following chilling example:

An identical ban on anti-gay “hate propaganda” has been in place for several years and has caused problems for Christians who oppose gay marriage. In 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Christian street preacher for distributing fliers denouncing homosexual behavior.

The court justified the preacher’s conviction on the grounds that he used “vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred” against homosexuals. The court held that the pastor’s religious freedom did not excuse him from violating “hate propaganda laws”.

The case in question from 2013 was Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v Whatcott, which ruled against a street preacher named Whatcott, an activist who had been convicted and fined in Saskatchewan Province, for hate speech. He had handed out fliers denouncing homosexual acts and the promotion of the same among public school students.

Justice Rothstein described hate speech as describing:
“…the targeted group as a menace that could threaten the safety and well-being of others, makes reference to respected sources (in this case the Bible) to lend credibility to negative generalizations, and uses vilifying and derogatory representations to create a tone of hatred.”

(Source: Atlantic Canada Legal Examiner)

Now, to be fair, the opinion did take pains elsewhere to clarify that religious texts aren’t to be regarded as hate speech. Furthermore I am not going to claim moral or spiritual solidarity with Mr. Whatcott, as I haven’t read his brochures. He appears to have had numerous prior run-ins with authorities, who have found his statements to be “polemical and impolite”–I will even presume that to be understatement.

Still, to those who hold to orthodox Christianity, the message is clear. The notion of freedom of religious expression will no longer afford anyone in Canada protection against hate speech censorship.

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

This quote is of unknown origin. Frequently it is misattributed to St. Francis of Assissi, who nonetheless once stated something fairly similar in sentiment:

Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” (St Anthony Messenger)

In many Christian calendars, the feast day of Saint Monica nearly coincides with Mother’s Day. May 4th is commemorated as her feast day by some Lutheran bodies, the Eastern Orthodox, and The Episcopal Church USA.


Monica shines as a powerful example of maternal love and devotion. She prayed unceasingly for her wayward son as well as for the conversion of her husband. Famously, she was told by a bishop “the child of those tears shall never perish.”

Her tears paid off well, for her, for her son, and for the church. Her son repented of his previous lifestyle, converted to Christianity, and eventually became a bishop. His writings are some of the most brilliant and penetrating of his era. He is known and remembered to us as Saint Augustine of Hippo.

In Roman Catholicism Monica is regarded as a patron saint for mothers, among others.

Happy Mothers Days.

Somewhat belatedly I was treated to a viewing of “The Revenant”, last year’s historic drama of a man’s survival against impossible odds in 1800’s Montana. The picture won numerous awards and earned Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar for Best Actor.

The movie retells the story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper who in 1823 was mauled by a grizzly bear. His companions felt that he was on the brink of death, and fearing for their own lives they abandoned him. He managed somehow to survive. The bulk of the film follows him as he struggles through the wilds of Montana, braving the worst of nature and hostile Native warriors, fueled by a lust for vengeance.

First, I will praise some aspects of the film. The acting was superb. More than this, the eerie music and stunning cinematography made this a haunting and atmospheric experience. The cool beauty of Montana in winter could almost be said to crowd out Leonardo DiCaprio as the principle star. Even before I realized that Emmanuel Lubezki was the cinematographer, I was put in mind of the lonely and ethereal visuals from “Gravity”.

The major themes of justice and vengeance resonate through the film. The movie was a powerful emotional experience. Still, at the end, I couldn’t help but feel that an opportunity was missed. One comes away from “The Revenant” feeling as though we have witnessed the 18th century version of a fatal car crash, with victims’ entrails spilled across the pavement. I could be more charitable and liken it to a great Shakespearean tragedy, such as Hamlet.

Clearly, though, historical accuracy was sacrificed at many points to make this a full blown revenge movie. In real life, Glass forgave Bridger (as in the film) and did not kill John Fitzgerald. John Fitzgerald may not have been as cartoonishly evil as he was portrayed here. A slightly different spin on history would be to forego the death duel feel of the final scenes and end on a theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. As it stands, “The Revenant” is illuminating but not inspiring. It illuminates the darkness of the human heart, but doesn’t inspire better. Showing humanity rising above bloodlust would have enhanced, not diminished, the emotional power of the film.

In honor of the recently passed milestone of 100 posts, I feel it a fine time to play the actual “Brother James Air” (the music by that name, not my airs). This is performed by the choristers of Canterbury Cathedral in England. The text is a variation of Psalm 23. The piece was written by Scottish minister and hymn writer James Leith Bain (1860–1925).