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Discussion 5 to Meditation 109
What power? Which Church? And why?

by: JT

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Your demand for half the federal government's power makes no sense at all.

First of all, you don't specify what type of powers you are after. Do you want half of all the powers of the federal government? Do you want a say in diplomacy, such as whether or not Canada should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and / or Palestine? Do you want an equal voice to the government in federal / provincial relations and perhaps determine the equalization formula? Do you want to have half the responsibility for the Department of Health and Welfare and start approving food and drug safety measures? Are you after half the responsibility for Immigration? For the prison system? For the Supreme Court? Just what are you asking for? If you are seeking specific powers, then state exactly what those powers are. If you are seeking the full range of powers, you are seeking to establish a theocracy, and impose it on all those who are of different views than you.

Secondly, you say the church has no power. Obviously you are wrong. Every church, mosque, and temple has the power to tell its followers what to do and what to believe. They have the power to collect tax-deductable money from their members and to spend it on endeavors they see fit. They have the power to promulgate their views freely. They have the power to banish from their membership anyone who does not come up to their standards. Even you, with your proprietary view of Christianity, have all these powers with your followers.

What more power do you want? Churches have all the power they need now, and in many countries, they have far too much power. The only significant power churches lack in secular democracies is the power to impose their teachings on those who are not part of their membership.

Last Friday, there was an article in the newspaper about a woman in Nigeria who confessed to adultery. The local religious court convicted her and she was buried up to her neck, then stoned to death by the men in her community. Then in the Sunday paper, there was a report of a 13 year old girl in Somalia who complained she was raped by 3 men. Again a religious court found her guilty of adultery. She suffered the same fate in a soccer stadium before a cheering crowd of about a thousand men. No action was taken against the rapists. In the Iranian national assembly, a bill has been introduced which will make it a crime to convert from Islam; the penalty - life in prison for women, death for men.

That's what happens when religion overreaches in a search for power - tyranny and abuse. And while my example, being from today, are about Islamic power, it is not hard to find equivalent examples in history when various denominations of the Christian Church had too much power and committed their own abuses and exercised tyrannical power.

I could rant for pages more on how thoroughly offensive and dangerous your suggestion is - particularly to those of us whose religious views are not based on the teachings of the Biblical Jesus. However, I'll just close with a poem from the January 30, 1869 edition of Punch in response to an ritualist[1] Church of England clergyman seeking to re-establish church courts. (Like you, appealing to take power from the government for religious purposes.)


“CHURCH Courts for Church Causes” MACKONOCHIE[2] cries –
“Law Courts in all cases" BRITANNIA replies.
“The Law of the Land by the Judges laid down,
And the will of the Clergy controlled by the Crown”

Your Parson would fain culprits try by the rule
Which pedagogues practise on children at school ;
Make laws for the nonce, as occasions require,
As they did who heretics sent to the fire.

No, Parson, to do legal justice we find
As simply unable the clerical mind,
As that of the Jury, more famous than bright,
Who, asked for their verdict, returned “Serve him right.”

Construction of words the judicial mind needs,
Alike in a question of statutes or creeds.
Just fancy a Judge who defined an offence,
Expounding a law in non-natural sense.

“Church Courts for Church Causes?” O Reverend Divine,
That cry, long ago, was another's than thine.
Of one who did seal with his blood that same cause
As thine, the Church Courts set above the Realm's laws.

Art thou, too, prepared to encounter the fate
Of THOMAS À BECKETT and brave a cleft pate?
First let it be shaved, get thyself taken home,
Or go, where consistency calls thee, to Rome.



  1. Code word of the time for Church of England sympathisers with Roman Catholic forms of worship
  2. Of course in some ways, Mackonochie was right. If the Church of England was not the Established Church in England, he would not have been such a cause celebre at the time. But disestablishmentarianism would be the appropriate remedy, not Church Courts.