Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Difference between Canada and the USA

I just got back from a week in Florida with family. Apart from the chance to swim in the ocean in January and eat a full hamburger as an appetizer, the trip gave me the opportunity to think about cultural differences between Canada and the United States.

Sunset at the beach in Naples, FLA
Certainly, Canada has a long history of receiving culture from America with open arms. Most of our songs on the radio, movies in the theatre, and athletes in the CFL are American. It’s easy to take all that for granted. But during my stay, I was struck by one thing that definitely stopped at the border: religious nationalism.

You might first notice it when you exchange currency at the airport. Suddenly all of the bank notes and coins in your hand bear the refrain “In God We Trust.” Later on, as you toast the New Year, the band leader says “This next song is dedicated to our troops in the field – may God bring them home soon,” and they begin to play, not Auld Lang Syne, but God Bless America. A few days later, you are browsing a large bookstore and you find a thick volume titled Southern by the Grace of God, singing praises to sweet home Alabama et al. And as you drive around town, you are struck by the insistent presence of Old Glory, the flag that adorns public buildings and houses everywhere.

In application, religious nationalism can lead people to present their political values in religious language, intensifying debate from matters of justice to matters of good and evil, righteousness and sin. At its most extreme expression, this has produced the “God Hates Fags” movement out of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

It is wrong to pray for blessing upon your country? Surely not. Is it wrong to love your flag? Nope. Is it wrong to let religion inform your views of justice? No, we all do this. Is it wrong for interest groups to use language of sin and evil in public debate? Yes, and I’m grateful that the practice is foreign to Canada. It's not easy to maintain a language of shared values, especially given that people from every religion and worldview have made Canada their home. But for the sake of unity and understanding, surely it's worth the effort.

For a brief overview of religious nationalism, see:

No comments:

Post a Comment