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Why Are People Afraid of “Christ”?
Canada has never had a constitutional or other recognition of the “separation of Church and state.”

New Democratic Party MP Pat Martin invited others to join him in an attack on a good public policy project in Winnipeg that would seem otherwise to be non-objectionable but that the plan is promoted by an organization that has “Christ” as a part of its name. Let’s be clear, if this was “Youth for Youth” or “Youth for Young People on the Street” or even the YMCA – formerly known as the Young Men’s Christian Association, and still motivated by its founding values – there would be no objection.

The location of the proposed building is a long vacant lot in a needy area of downtown Winnipeg. The project is designed to meet a longstanding need identified by the City and no one else has advanced a proposal to meet the needs in question. The City has been actively looking for someone to handle this or a similar project in this neighbourhood. Councillors admit the current youth facilities in the downtown core are in a state of disrepair. The federal, provincial and municipal governments assessed this as a valuable undertaking, although the provincial government has backtracked on its commitment following Mr. Martin’s diatribe.

Another similar proposed project was scheduled to receive funding using federal infrastructure dollars coming to the city, but that project fell through because the sponsor was unable to make the financial commitment that Youth For Christ (YFC) has agreed to make to get the project done. In the youth centre equation, no self-funding means no public funding means no youth centre.

YFC is not the extreme fundamentalist organization portrayed by some who have objected. YFC has given us some great examples of people who are respectful of others in meeting their needs. Billy Graham started with YFC and developed his internationally respected ministry that offers people freedom of choice to make their own decision. Brian Stiller led YFC in Canada before moving to The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and heightening the voice for pluralism in the public square, focusing on the development of good public policy. And Tim Huff, currently with YFC in Toronto, has expressed the approach to loving youth neighbours living on the street in his excellent book Bent Hope.

YFC is definitely motivated by the Man who said those who follow Him are called to “love your neighbour as yourself.” No one has come forward to meet this need motivated by belief in “survival of the fittest.” In fact, the ardent relativists, sanguine secularists and pugnacious atheists who object to the project are doing just that, objecting, and offering no constructive alternative solution.

Canada has never had a constitutional or other recognition of the “separation of Church and state” message that is being spouted by opponents. Canada has a long recognition of the differences between Church and state, a healthy recognition that both serve overlapping constituencies and longstanding cooperation between the two when it makes good public policy sense to do so. Hospitals, schools, half-way houses, shelters … and the list goes on … have been initiated by those motivated by love for neighbour and cooperatively developed with government, sometimes moving into government hands and sometimes receiving government funding. Organizations like YFC, The Salvation Army, World Vision and others have all stretched government dollars to an increased level of effectiveness while their faith motivation established superior service delivery as well.

The wise use of funds for a good public policy initiative in the general interest of society is sound decision-making on the part of any government. While social relativists or self-described secularists speak of tolerance, YFC and similar Christian faith-based organizations are motivated by love in what they do. They are motivated by Christ’s love that demands contemporary standards of child protection screening and parental consent when working with children while shunning manipulative methods that, in the end, would not be at all loving.

It was heartening to see that Mr. Martin has changed his position since the final decision was made and he realized he had lost the debate. Pluralist engagement in the public square results in all sides having opportunity to be heard, then working with the outcome once the decision is made. It’s unfortunate that the damage done by Mr. Martin’s earlier stand has cost provincial dollars and caused unnecessary unrest for YFC and other community stakeholders to work through as what will be an excellent community resource begins development.

People who object to compassion, care and concern being shown by the commitment of a Christian organization, but offer no alternative lessen their legitimacy to speak on the issue. I encourage them to first find their motivation to engage positively, start doing the work and then let’s work together for the greater good. But if you’re simply a naysayer, then please get out of the way and let good be done – good public policy, good use of public funds and good resources for a community in need of them.

Don Hutchinson is Vice-President, General Legal Counsel with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life.

The above article may be republished with permission in print publications. For more information contact Gail Reid:  

Originally posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 at the EFC’s ActivateCFPL  blog.

Used with permission. Copyright © 2010

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