By Jojo Ruba
As I've followed the news, read the blogs, and filtered through the endless stream of rainbow-coloured Facebook pictures, it's obvious that our culture is confused about how to react to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S.
It's even worse for us as Christians who've run the gamut from celebrating the decision, to despairing of the decision, to apologizing for either reaction!
But as a Canadian organization, we've seen this before. Canada legalized same-sex marriage about 10 years ago and it's important we share with our U.S. friends what happened here. Canada is like the canary in the mine for the U.S. since we're years ahead of you in terms of social change. That's why what happens to us can serve as a warning of what will happen to you.
And though no Christians have been thrown in jail yet for our faith, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a huge step in marginalizing the Christian worldview and making it more difficult to share a biblical faith with our secular culture.
Not thrown in jail yet but . . .
Many of my American friends (at least on Facebook) are already preparing for the worst. They're anticipating churches losing their charitable status or Christian organizations being banned from sharing their beliefs. But that's likely not going to happen right away.
The first thing that will happen is not much. The most important goal proponents of same-sex marriage have is to normalize it, and changing the law is a big step in making that happen. Using that decision to beat up Christians (at least right away) will be counter-productive to that goal.
1. Which is Worse, Ignorance or Evil?
That doesn't mean that there won't be an odd decision by a gay rights group or the local civil liberties association here and there. But most of these activities will be done because of ignorance, not malice.
For example, last year, the city council of a small Canadian tourist town banned Christians from using public property. The Nanaimo city council was to host a leadership simulcast on city property. The conference had nothing to do with sexuality and featured such benign (at least on the topic) speakers as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Laura Bush.
But two gay activists called a city councillor and complained to him that the conference was sponsored by Chick-fil-A, whose president supported traditional marriage campaigns, and hosted Christian psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud, who believes that same-sex attractions can be changed. This prompted the councillor to pass a motion that read
that as owners of the facility, any events that are associated with organizations or people that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia, or other expressions of hate, and as such advise the [city-owned centre] to not permit the upcoming Leadercast event to occur in a City owned facility that is scheduled for Saturday, May the 9th.
After comparing anyone who disagreed with their views on sexuality to criminals and Boko Haram kidnappers (who ironically force Christian girls to convert to Islam), the council passed the motion 8-1. Most of the national media ignored the story.
After an outcry from the local Christian community, human rights groups, and one Jewish reporter, the council sheepishly rescinded the motion, as it likely violated Canada's constitution. But the council's decision laid bare the ignorance of so many Canadians about Christian teachings on sexuality. Banning anyone from using public property because they believe sexuality can be changed would of course ban the Apostle Paul, but also many top gay researchers who openly acknowledge that sexuality is not immutable.
The same thing will happen as Americans become more biblically illiterate. They will pass motions that directly contravene not only Christian belief but the right of Christians to put those beliefs into practice. I asked William Lane Craig once which was worse, a culture that was stupid or a culture that was evil. He laughed and he said they were very similar because one leads to another.
2. Treating Sexual Behaviour as Identity
The more likely place to start for these groups is to ensure that any vestige of treating homosexuality as abnormal is removed. This is the most obvious next step because well-meaning people can be convinced that they are doing a good.
For example, the openly lesbian premier of Ontario recently banned counseling for teens and preteens who want to change their same-sex attractions. Though New Jersey, among other places, beat her to that, the push to get rid of any kind of help for people with unwanted same-sex attractions will get stronger. They believe it is harmful to want to change your sexual orientation just as it would be wrong to want to change your racial or ethnic identity.
Another way to normalize same-sex behaviour is to target schools. The former education minister of Alberta, himself a former pastor of a local megachurch, was instrumental in passing a law forcing all schools that get government funding, including Christian schools, to host gay-straight alliance groups (GSAs). GSAs openly promote homosexuality as normal and any opposition as intolerance. In fact, the Alberta Teachers' Association's own website gives advice on how to start a GSA in religious schools and how to overcome religious opposition to their views.
3. Redefining theology
Targeting religious institutions as the source of opposition is, of course, key to normalizing homosexuality. But not all of the action will be direct or through the law.
My colleague Janie recently described a Canadian group that put on a seminar on sexuality in our city last year. The group calls itself Christian and tries to create an open dialogue on homosexuality in churches. Rather than outright calling homosexuality acceptable, they want to create "space" for their view and argue that the Bible can be interpreted to both oppose and support same-sex sexual relations.
Taking a page from Matthew Vines and his Reformation Project, they've tasked their adherents to go into local Canadian churches to begin this "dialogue" with the explicit goal to change the theological teachings of their churches and to get them to eventually accept their views on sexuality.
This subtle approach (they compare the controversy over homosexuality to the controversy over the eating of food sacrificed to idols) is very Canadian because it avoids confrontation. But it is meant to achieve the same goal as changing the law: normalizing homosexuality.
4. Who Can Come Out
Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, Canadians have become used to it and many of the subtle approaches no longer need to be subtle.
Now, if you want to work at any government department that administers marriage certificates, you must be willing to perform same-sex ceremonies. Even businesses that take a stand against the issue can be targeted for their beliefs.
The most egregious example of this is what is happening to Trinity Western University's law program. Trinity, Canada's only private Christian university, wants to start a law program. But several law societies in Canada have openly stated that they will refuse to recognize any student who graduates from that program because of the school's policy on homosexuality. Trinity has a code of conduct for all of its students. Though students don't have to be Christians to go to school, they must adhere to a code of conduct where they agree to having no sexual relationships outside of a traditional marriage.
These law societies argue that Trinity graduates cannot practice law because they hold views contrary to the law of the land. In other words, the only lawyers that they will accept are those that support same-sex marriage. (Of course, they didn't take that position when the law of the land was against same-sex marriage.)
These societies have made these decisions through plebiscites of their own members. And I've heard through lawyer friends how even some Christian lawyers have voted to ban graduates from Trinity out of fear of losing their jobs or promotions.
The fight is still in the courts but this echoes another fight the school had a decade ago over Christian teachers who graduated from the school. Back then, teachers' unions refused graduates from the school because they saw them as "homophobic" and therefore incapable of teaching gay students.
Though the courts eventually mandated that the teachers' college could not discriminate against Christians, this kind of harassment of Christian institutions will continue and get worse.
Human Rights Commissions, quasi-judicial bodies that act like courts on some human rights cases, have had a history of punishing Christians for their views on homosexuality. One case punished a pastor for writing a letter against homosexuality in his local paper. The commission ruled that the pastor could not even speak about homosexuality at his church or in conversation (thankfully this was overturned, but only after a long, expensive legal process)!
Recently, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that even if Bible verses told the truth, if they were offensive enough to others, they could still be considered hate speech. In other words, truth is no longer a defense in Canada, especially on this issue.
Both cases show that when truth is no longer a standard, the only standard left is the feelings of the most sensitive person in the room.
Knowing that this is what to expect, how should Christians prepare? In part 2 of this article, we will suggest three lessons Americans can take from Canada's experience with same-sex marriage.
 Jonathan Morrow, "(Part 6) Answering the Toughest Questions About Homosexuality with Alan Shlemon," Think Christianly (blog), January 25, 2012, accessed July 2, 2015, http://thinkchristianly.blogspot.ca/2012/01/part-6-answering-toughest-questions.html.
 Rob Ferguson, "Ontario Becomes First Province to Ban 'Conversion Therapy' for LGBTQ children," Toronto Star, Jun 04 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/06/04/ontario-becomes-first-province-to-ban-conversion-therapy-for-lgbtq-children.html.
 Mariam Ibrahim and Karen Kleiss, "Gay-straight Alliances Now Mandatory in Alberta: 'We're No Longer That Redneck, Roughneck Province,'" National Post, March 11, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/gay-straight-alliances-now-mandatory-in-alberta-were-no-longer-that-redneck-roughneck-province.
 Kristopher Wells, Gay-Straight Alliances: A Guide for Teachers (Edmonton: Alberta Teachers' Association, 2006), 26, http://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Human-Rights-Issues/Gay–Straight%20Student%20Alliances%20in%20Alberta%20Schools%20A%20Guide%20for%20Teachers.pdf.
 Janie Bont, "Finding Space for the Bible in 'Generous Spaciousness'", Faith Beyond Belief (blog), November 20, 2014, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.faithbeyondbelief.ca/2014/11/20/finding-space-for-the-bible-in-generous-spaciousness/.
 "Marriage officials can't refuse gays: Sask. Court, CBC News, Jan 10, 2011, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/marriage-officials-can-t-refuse-gays-sask-court-1.1011669.
 "Jewelry store to refund engagement ring deposit to same-sex couple," CBC News, May 19, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/jewelry-store-to-refund-engagement-ring-deposit-to-same-sex-couple-1.3078557.
 Kelly McParland, "Crusade Against Trinity Western Law School Runs Up Against a Sensible Judge," National Post, January 30, 2015, accessed July 7, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/kelly-mcparland-crusade-against-trinity-western-law-school-runs-up-against-an-intelligent-judge.
 Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers,  1 S.C.R. 772, 2001 S.C.C. 31 (CanLII), May 17, 2001, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/2001/2001scc31/2001scc31.html.
 Jenn Ruddy, "Stephen Boissoin on Free Speech, Porn and His Anti-Gay Letter," Daily Xtra, December 8, 2009, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.dailyxtra.com/canada/news-and-ideas/news/stephen-boissoin-free-speech-porn-and-anti-gay-letter-52317. See also "Lund v Boissoin," Wikipedia, updated January 7, 2015, accessed July 2, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lund_v_Boissoin.
 Bruce Bawer, "Canadian Supreme Court Kills Last Hope for Free Speech," Frontpage Mag, February 28, 2013, accessed July 2, 2015, http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/179449/canadian-supreme-court-kills-last-hope-free-speech-bruce-bawer.