Fines and public pressure won’t stop nonconforming churches.
Many churches who have not conformed to the recent public health orders banning religious gatherings have received fines or negative publicity.
Yet, I’m not aware of a single instance in which one of these churches have ceased holding weekly services.
I’m not surprised.
The reason is that the leadership and members of such churches are convinced that they are in the right. They are not selfish, as some have characterized them. They believe that they are fulfilling the command to love God and neighbour by continuing to worship while providing spiritual, emotional and mental support to each other through their weekly gatherings. They also believe that the current regulations, which ban services but keep businesses and schools open, are not defensible under the Charter. Therefore, instead of breaking the law, some would argue that such churches are in fact upholding a higher law — the Constitution of Canada.
One might think that public pressure might bring these groups into line.
But such sentiments ignore Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12).
The more public pressure is brought to bear, the more these words ring true, and the more such church members will be convinced that they are doing the right thing.
History shows that there are a few ways to eliminate opposition from nonconforming religious groups. One is genocide, either through extermination (as with the Turkish Armenians) or through forcible removal of children (as in the Balkans under the Ottomans). Another is forcible relocation or expulsion (as in the Spanish expulsion of Jews or the exodus of Mennonites from Russia).
Assuming that our provincial leaders would be reluctant to use such tactics, another avenue still remains.
Showing respect for the role of religious institutions and engaging in dialogue with them about ways to reduce transmission may not stop all gatherings, but it would surely be more effective than the current strategies.
Sadly, respect and dialogue have both been sorely lacking. Maybe it’s time to give them a try.
Kent Dykstra, Cloverdale
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