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Sunday, April 26, 2015

When Religion and Libertarians merge

On Saturday the 18th of April, as I stood watching the communion of my grandson, I began to think about how my Canada had changed, going from religious and cultural intolerance in the early part of the 20th century to being the leaders in human rights, compassion and a home to the down trodden by the latter part of the century, only to be thrust back in time some one hundred years in first part of the 21st century. 

You would be hard pressed to find me sitting in a pew on Sunday’s but that does not mean that I don’t believe or have a religion based upbringing, it simply means I am disillusioned with my government and those who claim to be “religious”.

Having grown up in a mixed religious environment, dad and his family were Catholics while mom’s family were Evangelical Protestant, we attended Bethany Presbyterian, what was then the remnants of the French Protestant Evangelical movement in Quebec. My great great grandfather Basile Piche converted to Protestantism in 1850 and was instrumental in the French Protestant movement in Quebec. The Piche family along with Madam Feller established missionary schools in Point aux Tremble and Grande Linge, Quebec.

Both schools were run as boarding schools and catered to Catholic and Protestant children. In the 1919 paper sent home with students of Point aux Trembles Missionary School there is a paragraph that stands out as being inflammatory which explains the eventual failure of the movement. 

That paragraph reads in part…. 

“The Roman Catholic students, over one hundred in number, follow the religious course of the school. At first they may not give their full attention to it, but the teaching is so directed as to show the points common to both Protestants and Catholics. Soon a great interest is manifested, questions are asked, the Bible is studied, verses are committed to memory and Roman Catholics are asking for enlightenment.” 

That was 1919, and as time passed and the population of Canada grew its people became more accepting and more tolerant, laws were enacted to protect and educate the general public. With this new found tolerance came a wave of immigration and new religions many Canadians, those who were second, third and fourth generation, reverted back to the old ways of intolerance to these new Canadians but our government once again stepped up and made it clear that we, as a people, were to work together for the betterment of the whole country. 

Dad’s first wife died shortly after giving birth to a girl and not long after he met mom fell in love and asked her to marry him. Because of their religious differences they decided to elope. They married, however neither had the courage to tell their families so after the wedding they each went to their own home. This was 1942 and there was little religious tolerance between Catholic and Protestant let alone an Evangelical Protestant family hell bent “to give to the youth of Quebec a knowledge of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ”. 

To compound matters dad was a single father so when they decided to tell their families they were in love and wanted to marry, yes they left out the part of already being married, so when both families accepted their love for each other wedding plans were quickly made, a date was set, on that auspicious day the family gathered for the grand union, but not all would go smoothly, as they stood at the altar the minister asked “does anyone know why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony” a woman in back, who had also been in church February 14th 1942, the date of their first marriage, spoke up saying “they are already married”. 

Dad, being the dutiful husband decided to bring his daughter up in the Protestant faith despite her having been baptized Catholic. He sang in the choir at Bethany and played Santa at Christmas becoming an integral part of church life. 

As I am typing this I am reminded of the time he told me that the Catholic Church has a saying “Give me a child until they are eight, and they will be mine forever”. I believe that to this day. It didn’t dawn on me at the time but he was nearing the end of his life and shortly after he passed away my mother told me a family friend had quietly taken him to confession, this was 1987 and he had not been to confession since marrying mom in 1942, he was a good man but not without fault they likely had to change priests several times during his confession of living forty-five years as a guilt free Protestant. 

His daughter, my sister, was raised in the Presbyterian Church alongside me, when she married she returned to the Catholic faith and at one point she decided to join the Pentecostal church latter returning to the Catholic Church. 

Our entire family, dad’s eight brothers and sisters and mom’s family were all tolerant and accepting of others, it was a family trait rather than a religious based belief and I am thankful for that. My wife and I have tried to instill that belief in our four children.  

The thing people of differing religions must realized is that whether they are Sikh, Hindu, Muslim Catholic, Hebrew or Protestant is that we all believe in a higher being and have hopes of one day meeting in the afterlife. 

Compassion, tolerance and respect for others should not require legislation however when they become a subliminal message from ones government and the electorate fails to protect society from these acts it is inevitable that there is a loss or respect for one another and a distrust of the government.

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