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In reading Mr. Murphy’s recent piece in the National Post titled “Christian’s Need not Apply”, Mr. Murphy references profound ethical dilemmas at the intersection of politics and religion; I assert there should never be a dilemma there. Mr. Murphy was contemplating the challenge of religious conscience, voting, the abortion issue and Justin Trudeau’s insistence that all liberals must vote in favour of pro-choice. Now, the abortion is the most difficult of issues by which to make a point because, it has been so badly tarnished by an extended and heated debate; one hopes if the point can be made here, it will provision a means by which to conduct governance absent the inappropriate imposition of what is often religious doctrine. I should premise this discourse by saying that I live in harmony with the Charter or Rights and freedoms and most Christians would find little fault with the way I live, save perhaps a little too much zeal in Scotch consumption; the key thing to note however, is the delineation between the two – religion & governance.
In forging policy, the very first question is “what are we endeavouring to manage”. If the policy is related to human action and or human interface, the next question is “what goods are being moved forward or harms are being reduced”. Here we take our guidance from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Section 7, Life, Liberty and Security of person provisions that we are at liberty to conduct our lives as we see fit, save a direct and immediate threat to another or the public at large. The Supreme Court of Canada has read the charter and is applying it, and this will be the rigour by which legislation will be tested in the future. The only time a personal action can be managed by a statute in Canada and have continuity with the Charter, is when it has externalities that affect public health & safety – in an immediate way. Mr. Trudeau Sr. said “the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation” and he was right, nor the kitchen, nor my liquor cabinet, nor my medicine cabinet – the government has no role to play in private and personal choice. To have a diverse and secular society this is as it must be.
The critical assumption that must be maintained in the contemplation of legislation is that we are governing a population of informed adults who have the right to make choices and resist the inclination to protect people from themselves. The paternalist bent in governance in Canada is offensive to the informed and enlightened. The encroachment on personal liberty is insidiously escalating in Canada and has been for some time, government finds it’s way into every aspect of our personal lives. The channel by which government often finds it’s way into our personal lives is via morality based legislation, the other channel is though government provisioned services – e.g. medical services, between the two, Canada has become a totalitarian state. By accepting that other’s truths are as valid as our own, we can forge human interface between diverse groups that is harmonious. Societal harmony is in no way everyone believing the same thing, it is providing a venue by which people of diverging belief can co-exist.
The abortion issue is most challenging, for me and most others I believe, because it bumps up against a universal concern for the sanctity of life. At the other end of life, death, the way is crystal clear; it is an adult managing their own life’s end. With the issue of abortion it is the suspension of a created life that is so troubling for us all. Here to however, we need ask ourselves, what rational woman would end a pregnancy absent good reason. How is an organization as blunt and unwieldy as government going to intervene effectively in such a herculean choice to be made by a woman?
If offering council to a young woman who was contemplating ending an accidental pregnancy, my advice would be to carry to term and find an agreeable arrangement for the child’s well-being. This advice would be offered less from a moral perspective and more from concern for the long term happiness of the young woman. I have limited experience here, I do know, that no one I’ve encountered has found happiness from having an abortion and many have from happiness witnessing a new life. The most important consideration here, is that there was an accidental pregnancy in the first place – the event in of itself demonstrates a complete lack of leadership in the young girl’s life – she has really been failed by the people responsible for her. Even in the case of just an unwanted pregnancy, the personal circumstance is so nuanced there is no way to draft legislation to address what is a deeply personal issue. We have to rely on the good judgement of women and support mechanisms to maintain this as a very last resort in the most difficult of circumstances – where the whole complex of events makes it medically necessary. Will there be errors made, it is inherent the whole human endeavor tragic errors occur, it is a question of finding the best means to mitigate human tragedy.
The very best way to address any moral issue, and this is no exception, is by being active in civil society. Seek to effect good and wholesome behavior through culture, a culture of love, informing, support and health, rather than a culture of the persecution of the sinner. It is the ambient culture of shame, the overzealous suppression sexual inclination and the seeming unquenchable desire for the “moral” to punish that has driven so many women to abortion and many to extreme harm and death. If it is Christian morality you’re drawing on for guidance here, the look to Christ for direction, as opposed to dogma, Christ taught about tolerance and love as opposed to fear and control. Most of the pain associated with the whole challenge could be avoided with openness and being proactive, this of all issues calls for leadership at the forefront, rather than managing the aftermath.
As a nation we had reached equilibrium on this issue, an awkward consensus – perhaps an agreement to disagree; it is odd that this issue came into election concern from the progressives, normally it is the pro-life group railing against the present Canadian circumstance. The fact that it could be activated in political interests as Mr. Murphy asserts, reflects the mercenary nature of politics; it is my sense, that in this case it was a predominantly progressive Canada protecting hard earned ground.
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