Happy Canada Day!
I am proud to live in Canada, I can’t think of a better country to live in. But as a Christian my first loyalty is to my faith, patriotism does not come close to that commitment. If I had to choose between my faith-filled life and my duty as a Canadian the former would always come first. I would not obey an unjust law. If my faith called me to defend, house and protect a refugee whom I felt was fleeing an oppressive state I would go to jail rather than hand that person over if the state determined s/he had to return to their homeland.
Some might say “you can’t only obey the laws you like”. I agree. I obey lots of laws I don’t agree with and I support lots of governments I did not vote for. But choosing to break an unjust law means you live with the consequences, and that usually means jail. If you are going to break a law it ought to be a matter of conscience, it ought to be rare and you must be ready to face the consequences.
That is why I find the uniformity to our new found nationalism in Canada problematic. Must we dress in red and white today? Must we wear our patriotism on our sleeves? I find such visible affection strange. Why? What I love most about Canada is how we are permitted to live lives that are different than one another, that we need not be of one faith, one ethnicity, one ideology, one sexual orientation, one middle-class lifestyle. As long as we have bonds of compassion, an interest in each other, and a desire to be involved in our communities we are good Canadians. Our identity is not formed at our birth, rather it is developed through the interaction with our fellow Canadians and the lessons learned.
But there is always a tendency in every institution to codify behavior, to make “normal” what we do as members of this group, to enforce said practices with an implicit kind of intimidation. “Don’t you love your country?” Other questions along these lines are directed at those who dare to question our traditions and norms. But a good Canadian can also be someone who questions the justice of a law, who is prepared to be arrested to live to a higher law, someone who dares live outside the norms to be in solidarity with those who are being neglected or mistreated.
This sketch from Monty Python’s movie Life of Brian reminds me of the need to nurture one’s conscience and think for one’s self, not merely parrot the party line of a government or another institution.
From the script of the movie Life of Brian
BRIAN: Good morning.
FOLLOWERS: A blessing! A blessing! A blessing!
BRIAN: No. No, please! Please! Please listen. I've got one or two things to say.
FOLLOWERS: Tell us. Tell us both of them.
BRIAN: Look. You've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we're all individuals!
BRIAN: You're all different!
FOLLOWERS: Yes, we are all different!
DENNIS: I'm not.
FOLLOWERS: Shh. Shhhh. Shhh.
O Canada! God keep our land glorious and free!