Vol 3 No. 2 Shut Up and Sing

On December 8th, 2006 in the Globe and Mail, the columnist John Ibbitson wrote a tirade entitled: “Evangelicals need to ask themselves hard questions”.  In that he re-enforced the concept of separation of church and state (excising the entire influence of either) he was correct.  In that he knows virtually nothing about Canadian Christianity and gets the American and Canadian faith scene confused is inexcusable for a journalist of his general caliber.  What follows are some extracts from his rant and religious profiling and my letter to the editor.  An article will follow.  Let me make perfectly clear that I believe the political and religious right and left have behaved inappropriately in some very important areas recently; in same sex marriage, the environment, and just as I begin to list things I discover too many to re-call.  My point is this:  the prophetic voice of the Christian faith does not need to be in power (here Ibbitson is correct) but it needs to be heard.  The voice of a clear and compassionate Christian faith in this country will continue to be heard.  If you want to read Ibbiston’s entire article you’ll have to subscribe.  We tried to purchase copyright and couldn’t.  No comment.

Some Ibbitson Quotes:

 Yesterday’s vote to reopen the same-sex marriage debate wasn’t even close. Now thoughtful evangelical Christians must ask themselves some hard questions.

 Such as: Isn’t it about time we admit we’ve failed? That, both here and in the United States, our efforts to influence the political agenda have achieved virtually nothing? That we’ve wasted enormous amounts of money and time electing politicians who have betrayed us, when we could and should have been bringing Good News to the world and offering succour to those in distress?

 For faith-based politics is not growing in influence. By its own definition of success, it has not succeeded and is on the wane.

 * * *

 “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” Christ told His disciples. The Great Commission, it is called. But the evangelical church has lost its way. Too many of its leaders have surrendered to the false allure of political influence. They have struggles, and failed, to impose a Bible-based agenda on Congress and Parliament. Billions of souls, meanwhile, are at risk; millions are at risk from violence and hunger.

My “letter to the editor”


Shut Up and Sing

 I am reminded of the advice given to the Dixie Chicks in a recent film entitled “Shut Up and Sing” when I read about John Ibbitson’s article entitled “Evangelicals need to ask themselves hard questions” from your December 8th, 2006 issue.  The advice addressed to Christians of any stripe would deprive the public arena of everyone from Tommy Douglas and John Diefenbaker to Mother Theresa. Jean Vanier, and Jimmy Carter. A featureless and sad prospect indeed.


First of all, the article can not make up its mind whether it’s addressing Christians in general or fundamentalist Christians in particular. The article is devoid of clear religious definitions. For instance, the fundamentalist left, mainline, liberal, evangelical, conservative and fundamentalist right are a mish-mash of terms not necessarily a continuum. For that matter, Ibbitson does not seem to realize that while the far right and far left in this country demonize each other on a regular basis, it does not mean to say for all their bluster that they are accurate. Religious profiling is the sick and twisted cousin of the racial profiling that we all abhor. I am surprised that someone as gifted as Ibbitson would engage in religious profiling. It demeans us all.


It is quite clear that cultural, religious and political liberals and conservatives have not engaged in a particularly civil discussion on a wide range of social topics in recent years. The divisiveness created in Canadian society is problematic for us all. The Hon. Mr Justice Mackenzie, in a judgement from the Court of Appeal in British Colombia, dated September 20th, 2000 wrote that “no society can be said to be truly free where only those whose morals are uninfluenced by religion are entitled to participate in deliberations related to moral issues…in my respectful view ‘strictly secular’ so interpreted could not survive scrutiny in the light of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by Section 2 of the Charter and the equality rights guaranteed by Section 15”. While Justice Mackenzie is referring to public education in this judgement, his meaning can be applied to public discourse in general as Canadians are more interested in honestly engaging each other than actually bullying one another into silence. We have not behaved well lately as custodians of healthy and open discussion in public life in Canada. But Mr. Ibbitson needs to know that many biblical and social issues are often distinctly political. While I am sure it distresses many, including myself, when anything threatens the separation of church and state, you need to know that Christians of many denominations will be agitating for change in the months ahead. If, to pick only one topic; affordable housing and homelessness is not a joint calling of both people of faith and public officials, I don’t know what is. Former American President Jimmy Carter has been working on a document regarding a wide range of social issues that he feels people of faith need to be involved with. I will be meeting with him next month, along with 2 dozen other heads of denominations in North America. The implications of taking Ibbitson’s advice are really quite astounding, but if I took Ibbitson’s advice when I sit down with former President Jimmy  Carter to talk about healing and advocacy around the elderly, homelessness, affordable housing, women, HIV / AIDS, poverty in general, racial injustice, peace, the environment, the rights of minorities and the needs of children as well, maybe, just maybe, at the beginning of our gathering, I will timidly raise my hand and say “Mr. Carter, John Ibbitson has told us we are wasting our time. We should just shut up and sing”. 

 Yours sincerely,

 Rev. Jeremy Bell

Executive Minister

Baptist Union of Western Canada



In Christ,

Jeremy Bell


P.S. These are commonly two reactions to this kind of stuff; we do too little as Christians, we do too much in this area.  In the Baptist Union we strive in Christ to be a “both /and kind of people” the gospel has both a salvation and a compassionate voice.