By Lydia McGeorge
B.A. International Studies with a track in International Affairs and Global Policy and a Minor in Christianity and Culture
The demise of the “other?”
I was not raised in a restricted and isolated Christian experience. A Christian home, yes, but I lived in popular culture. I have seen it be steeped in Christian sentiment and I have seen it change and grow weary of that tradition.
I have seen both—I have grappled with both.
So, as I stood and listened to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ottawa last week that ruled law societies do not have to accredit graduates of Trinity Western University’s law school due to a mandatory covenant, I wouldn’t say that I was shocked or stunned. I wasn’t angry nor out for vengeance. I was confused. Confused by what seemed to me to be inconsistency in the foundational ideals of Canada.
The Canada I know is one that seeks to accept other cultures and religions—maintaining its distinctive identity, yet seeking to welcome the “other.”
However, last week, following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision, I witnessed a Canada willing to mute Canadian voices for fear of their “otherness.”
Suddenly, “otherness”—that which is different—became not worth the risk of including in the future of Canada.
Not because it posed a real injustice but because it posed the threat of an injustice.
The threat, I presume, that Christian lawyers will be unjust, unloving, and unwilling to help those who are “other.”
Those who fear this outcome do not know true Christianity.
I concede that there are “Christians” who do not handle difference of opinion and belief well or rightly, but, just as is true of every group, the actions of some don’t speak for the whole. Unfortunately, people today seem to believe that accepting the “other” means changing your own beliefs to match theirs – that’s not the case, and it is crucial that we remember that.
In echoing the words Father Deacon Andrew Bennett, Director of Cardus Law, spoke after the Supreme Court’s decision, “It’s not a hateful view, it is a different view.” I extrapolate that to mean Christian lawyers—who already exist—do not seek to sow hate with clients who differ theologically, and the proposed Christian law school is meant to teach how best to apply a Christian belief system in the confines of the Canadian legal system.
The secular belief system is not the clear set of glasses that you start from, they are coloured just like any other belief system.
And as I stood in the foyer of the Supreme Court replaying Father Deacon Andrew Bennett’s words in my mind, I realized how true they were. And then it hit me: through this decision, we as Canadians have decided that having a different belief system—a different set of colored lenses—is now considered a hateful action.
I am not a lawyer nor am I well versed in the hundreds of pages of arguments and retorts in this case, but as a student of Trinity Western, I have been present. Present through the discussions at my school, and present as this case went to trial, and present through my own grappling.
From what I do understand, one of the major contributing factors to the opposition of the Trinity Western Law School centered on the community covenant each student must sign upon enrolling at the university. Citing not the portion of the covenant espousing a heterosexual lifestyle, but rather citing the fact that our Christian community is not an exclusive Christian institution. The problem lay not in our covenant, but in the fact that all students were required to sign it upon enrolling.
Now, I understand the opposing view. I understand that this covenant seems discriminatory.
But, is it?
I see this covenant as any other—a statement of willingness to acknowledge and abide by the beliefs of the institution.
Membership in a church is no different. All are welcome to come and share the experience and the community, but becoming a member—or enrolled student—requires a commitment to the foundational belief system.
To use a secular example, the Liberal party requires members to support abortion rights. People from all walks and beliefs may even run as a Liberal candidate provided they sign a covenant to support abortion rights—whether it reflects their true belief or not.
And just like Trinity Western, the Liberal party does not oversee—nor should it—the actions of the individual past their Liberal terms.
Just like the Liberal party of Canada, Trinity Western makes its statement of faith clear and concise, and optional.
Just like the Liberal party, no one is forced to run and no one is forced to attend Trinity Western nor sign the covenant. However, if an individual decides, that for a period of time, they will abide by the belief systems of that institution, then they are welcomed with open arms.
It’s not my job to change people’s beliefs; it is my job to live out my own.
People often assume Christians hate people who believe differently, but that is not true, and that is certainly not true of Trinity Western University.
Just because my faith is often misunderstood and portrayed poorly by others, that does not mean my beliefs will change. I will simply try to portray Christianity better myself by showing the unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding that I have been shown by Jesus Christ.