Jojo Ruba

An Unsafe Christmas

By Jojo Ruba

I still remember their chants as they protested, "It's time for you to go!"

In 2009, I was invited to speak at McGill University in Montreal. The room was booked by the pro-life student club and the booking was approved by the university. Around 50 people were in the room, attracted by the controversy around my talk. I barely got two sentences out when about 20 students and supporters began to disrupt the presentation. They sang songs, yelled slogans and kept me from finishing my presentation. In their minds, my pro-life view that abortion takes a child's life and that abortion is akin to other past genocides, was so offensive that I had to be stopped from speaking. You can still watch the video of the event here.

If you've been following what's been happening on university campuses across North America, you'll know that it's gotten even worse. It's no longer just pro-life presentations that are being censored. Legitimate discussions on rape culture, politics, and even Halloween costumes are being shouted down and censored because these debates may "harm" students. Many campuses have created "safe spaces" that purport to provide a space where no potentially offensive ideas are ever spoken or heard. Many include children's toys like Lego or Play-Doh to help students alleviate stress. All of them define a "safe space" as a place where no "harm," either physical or emotional, is allowed. Harm is so broadly defined that it can mean simply disagreeing with someone's beliefs.[1] Today, this definition of safety is permeating into other parts of society.

At a gay conference I recently attended, several prominent businesses spoke about how they screen out applicants to their companies who may not agree with their views on homosexuality. Though it is illegal to do this, panelists talked about other ways they screen out people in their application process. This was to ensure they create a "safe" and "affirming" space where dissent isn't welcome. I hear stories like this all the time now.

Worse, this kind of thinking isn't confined to the secular community any longer. Even in Christian schools and churches that we speak at, "safety" has become a paramount value. Of course, wanting children to be physically safe, or preventing damaging and manipulative teaching from being promoted, is a good idea. But this version of safety means discouraging any speech offensive to students or members of the congregation. And "offensive" simply means ideas that may threaten the feelings of safety of some Christians.

I thought about this trend as I heard the first Christmas songs of the season playing at the mall last week. As I listened, I realized that all of those lyrics celebrating Jesus' birth often mask an important truth, namely, that the first Christmas wasn't safe.

Jesus wasn't sent as an armed warrior with a host of angels surrounding Him. Instead, He first grew as an insignificant human embryo, inside the womb of an unmarried young woman. She was likely still in her teens and could easily have been abandoned or worse by the man she was engaged to. Jesus could have been born an orphan. Even His birthplace wasn't a safe place. He was born into a race that was long ago conquered by its enemies and was now under their rule. Death was a common form of punishment in their society, a fate many other children in His town soon faced simply for being born in the wrong place. One has to wonder if Mary, as she cradled her Son, ever thought how she and Joseph could protect the child. Clearly the manger wasn't a safe space.

Rather than looking for a place to hide from any potential hurt, Jesus' birth reminds us that God's main concern wasn't our safety. The Christian message was never a call to remove any offending ideas or hurtful actions. Rather, His life, death, and resurrection show us that the gospel is not safe, but it is good. And He wants us to love people enough to say and do things that are risky and often painful, because that's what He did for us at Christmas.

[1] "A place where everyone can feel comfortable about expressing their identity without fear of discrimination or attack." MacMillan Dictonary, http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/american/safe-space, accessed December 1, 2016.

A Lesson in Power

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By Jojo Ruba

When we were younger, my parents only let us watch one show on school nights, the nightly news. Back then, it was only half an hour long and it aired at the right time—just after dinner and before we had to do our homework. Though I first resented the rule, I quickly began to enjoy knowing about what was happening in the world. I particularly loved the back-and-forth of political news. I enjoyed watching the debates and following the candidates and on rare occasions, I would be allowed to stay up late to watch the election results roll in.

That is probably one of the reasons why I went to our nation's capital to study journalism and politics in university. What I found in Ottawa was a great political community. Everyone was either working for the government or was related to someone who was, and so they deeply cared about how our country runs.

CanadianFederalElection2015PollingStationI also found Christians who were passionate about making government work. Whether they were civil servants or partisans on Parliament Hill, they truly wanted to bring our values as Christians to the marketplace of ideas. They strongly believed Christians had something positive to contribute to the country. There were days where I even imagined running for office and gaining political power.

Yet as I watched the most recent election results roll in, I couldn't help but feel personally rejected, as if Christians like me would never be part of the political world again. This had nothing to do, of course, with which party won the election—Christians have been involved in all the major parties, and we at Faith Beyond Belief take no partisan stance. But it has everything to do with what was said during the election—that Christians who didn't take a pro-choice view on abortion or pro-same-sex marriage stance were not even allowed to run for office on behalf of some parties. And when Canadians chose one of these parties to govern us, they wholeheartedly said they had no problem with this view. For the first time in Canadian history, then, no practising Christian with a Christian worldview will sit on the government benches on Parliament Hill.

When I point this out, I get pushback. Some Christians argue that there are practicing believers in government, like the health minister who apparently attends a Mennonite church.[1] But the point I am making is not that there aren't people who call themselves Christian on the government side of the House. It's that there is no one who holds a Christian worldview on that side of the house. Columnist Rex Murphy said it this way:

As things now are, a truly religious person must actually stay out of politics—must forgo an active role in democratic government—because in our brazen and new age, he or she will be faced with irreconcilable moral choices. If elected, he or she will be required to betray their faith and themselves, and on those very issues that matter most: issues of life, family, autonomy and the dignity of persons.[2]

When a political leader insists that those who run for his party must be willing to put that party's beliefs ahead of their faith's teachings, then its clear their faith is compromised. Abortion particularly is a tricky issue to enforce such a rigid morality. Given that Christians, and frankly many people of many faiths and no faith, believe that abortion takes the life of a human being like us, it is impossible to be "pro-choice" on taking those lives. It would be akin to saying I personally oppose killing gay people but it's okay if others choose to kill gay people. From a Christian perspective, killing innocent people is not something you can just be "pro-choice" about and still be a faithful Christian.

It's ironic that so many Canadians argued that requiring a Muslim to temporarily uncover her face while voting was prejudiced and anti-Muslim, but requiring a Christian to compromise her faith's teaching to value all human life before she could be part of the government, was not.

Of course it isn't just practising Christians who are excluded. Muslims, Hindus and even many atheists take the same life-saving position. I met a Sikh representative at my door of one of the parties who takes the radical pro-abortion stance that abortions even at the ninth month of pregnancy should be legal and publicly funded for any or no reason at all (the current law in Canada). He was trying to get me to put up a lawn sign for them. But as I quizzed him about his faith, it was obvious he didn't agree with his party's extreme stance. I asked him, "How can you support a party that won't let you run for them unless you compromise your faith?" I was expecting an argument but instead, he glumly agreed saying I was right and walked off visibly shaken.

Unfortunately, the lack of Christian representation also gets another response: sheer happiness. Many Canadians are glad to get rid of any religious, particularly Christian, influence from the public sphere. One Canadian I debated in an on-line forum insisted that religious people could only participate in politics if they first swear allegiance to the government. I told him that's exactly what the Communists in China and North Korea insist on doing and the comparison didn't bother him.

In fact, it's an ongoing story in Canada: BC's Trinity Western University has a biblical moral code for its staff and students, and because of that code, is in courts across Canada just to ensure their law students can actually practice law. In Quebec, all schools except for a handful must teach that religious views can't be right or wrong—they are all equal. In Ontario, an African church is banned from using public property in downtown Toronto because city officials think singing "There is no God like Jehovah" is proselytizing.

When I debated a top Canadian atheist at the University of Calgary, she insisted that all religious influence be removed from political life. Christians and other religious people can practice their faith, but that faith should have no influence on public policy.

I responded by saying that religious people, particularly Christians, have positively influenced politics too. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist pastor when he fought for civil rights for African-Americans, and one of the founding fathers of the NDP was a Baptist pastor named Tommy Douglas who fought for nationalized healthcare because of his Christian views of taking care of others. Interestingly enough, she conceded this point but said only values that can benefit everyone should be allowed to influence government.

And that's why the move to exclude faith from the public sphere is so heartbreaking. These arguments come from people who don't realize that Christ did come to earth to benefit everyone. That's not an invitation to force people to become Christians through the government (as I pointed out during another debate with that atheist, Christians don't consider people who are forced to convert to our faith as actual Christians, so we have no incentive to do so), but it is a reminder of what Christians ought to do in a culture that is increasingly hostile to us.

Rather than lamenting about being excluded from political power, I realized that the power Christians have isn't found in Ottawa or in politics. It is found in what Jesus said about who is greatest in His kingdom. In Mark 9, in response to His disciples arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus said, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Jesus' life showed that real power didn't come through the one who wielded the biggest sword or who made the most brilliant campaign ad. Instead, His message transformed the world because His power was accepting how much others hated Him and His views and then choosing to serve them anyway, even at the cost of His life.

And this is our commitment at Faith Beyond Belief too. Regardless of who is in government and how much they want to exclude us, we will continue to speak from God's word; we will continue to share how much He cares both for the preborn and the poor; we will continue to offer as an alternative to this culture's insistence that any sexual act will do, His plan for real wholeness for the sexually broken and confused; and no matter how many times we are told that we are no longer welcome in the public arena, we will continue to go those public places so we can proclaim that there is no God like Jehovah as we wash our enemies' feet. And in doing so we pray many understand that power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive today in a church that still chooses to be a servant of all.


[1] Dick Benner, "Philpott Named New Health Minister," Canadian Mennonite, November 4, 2015, accessed November 12, 2015, http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/philpott-named-new-health-minister.

[2] Rex Murphy, "In Justin Trudeau's World, Christians Need Not Apply," National Post, June 21, 2014, accessed November 12, 2015, http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-in-justin-trudeaus-world-christians-need-not-apply.

Two More Things Apologetics Can't Do

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By Jojo Ruba

Last week, I started looking at some limitations of apologetics, which still show why apologetics is important. I continue my thoughts this week with two more things apologetics "can't do," but still shouldn't stop us from using them anyway.

3. Apologetics isn't the Bible.

Now, some believers argue that apologetics isn't the Bible; therefore, we shouldn't do anything other than share the Bible with others. Again, as apologists, we should admit that we must always share the truths we learn in Scripture. It's obvious that the Bible shapes the Christian worldview, and apologetics can't replace Scripture.

However, any missionary will tell you that when you go to a foreign country, you also need to teach the skills to read the Bible along with the Bible, especially if the people you speak to don't have a written language. You have to teach them everything from learning how to read the Bible in their own language to understanding basic cultural practices in the Bible.

In our culture, there is so much biblical illiteracy that we often have to do the same thing in explaining the Bible to others. One Christian told me she can't even share her faith with two co-workers because they think she is "homophobic." If she isn't equipped to explain the biblical view of sexuality in a way her non-Christian friends can understand, then they would never go to her to explain her views about the Bible. That's what good apologetics can do.

Now, I understand there are differences in apologetic approaches and our goal at FBB is not to debate them here. But regardless of our approach, it is important to point out that apologetics isn't the Bible and that we must always share the truth of Scripture. But in doing so, we also have to teach important skills that help others understand Scripture, and apologetics can help them gain those skills.

4. Apologetics can't replace the Holy Spirit.

One other Christian objection to apologetics is that Christians don't need to study apologetics because the Holy Spirit will provide the words when we need them.

Unlike the other objections, this idea actually sounds biblical. In Matthew 10:19 (and the parallel passage in Luke 12:8-12), Jesus says, "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say."[1]

Now, of course, God can have us speak whatever He wants. In fact, there are several examples in Scripture where this happens. In Luke 1, Elizabeth and the preborn John the Baptist are both filled with the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth declares God's blessing on Mary and the preborn Messiah (vv. 42-45). In Acts 7, Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit as He confronts the people about to kill him (vv. 56-60).

But this passage is used against apologetics because some argue that since the Holy Spirit will just put words in our mouths like magic, we don't need to prepare for any kind of interaction with others. Of course, this would be a good excuse not to read your Bible or even evangelize too. But that would make no sense since Jesus specifically taught the disciples so that they can share their experiences with others.

"The predictions of the prophets . . . were read, they were corroborated by powerful signs, and the truth was seen to be not contradictory to reason, but only different from customary ideas, so that at length the world embraced the faith it had furiously persecuted." —Augustine of HippoThe passage can't be used against apologetics in general, because Jesus is talking about a specific time and place when He said the Holy Spirit will give us words. He never says we shouldn't prepare for conversations with others. He says for us "not to worry" about what to say, "when they hand you over" to authorities to attack your faith. In fact, if you read the entire context, this has verse has nothing to do with preparing for everyday interactions but with special interactions when we are treated unjustly by the authorities. This was the exact situation Peter found himself in Acts 4. Being dragged unjustly in front of the ruling council of priests and elders, the Holy Spirit gave Peter the exact words he needed. Yet even in that situation, Peter never once indicates that it is a waste of time using apologetics! In fact, the Holy Spirit, through Peter, declares that the curing of a disabled man was evidence of Christ's divinity. He was using a miracle that everyone in the city observed as good reason for others to trust in Jesus!

In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles once again were brought before the council. This time, Peter declared, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross…And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him" (vv. 30-32). If God intended for the apostles to rely solely on the Holy Spirit to give the apostles "words" to say, why did the apostles have to be "witnesses"? It's clear even in the exact situation that Jesus talked about in Matthew, that the Holy Spirit doesn't just give us words but also uses His witnesses' experiences and training. He lets us experience events and learn things so that we can be useful to Him. Many examples in the Bible (Moses and Aaron in Exodus, Esther in front of her king, Nehemiah asking to bring His people back to Israel, etc.) have God's people giving reasons to authorities without specific words from the Holy Spirit.

In other words, apologetics can never replace the role of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit uses apologetics and experiences we have to help convince others to obey God. He doesn't just give us "magic" words to say at the moment, but many times speaks through our experiences and arguments.

Conclusion

In high school, I learned that there is nothing wrong with admitting that you have limits and as Christian apologists, we should be willing to admit the same. But apologists shouldn't be embarrassed by these limits. Rather, they should show how these limitations actually show the need for apologetics in many aspects of our Christian life, from relationship building to Bible reading and sharing. It allows us to be effective in living out our faith as God's representatives on earth.

Next week, we'll examine the most common argument based on "what apologetics can't do": "Apologetics can't save people". If you want a hard copy of this series, Faith Beyond Belief will be publishing this series as a booklet that you will be able to order on-line.


[1] Scripture citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

What Apologetics Can't Do

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By Jojo Ruba

When I was in grade 12, I was part of as many student clubs as I could be. I was elected to be on student council, joined the yearbook club, was part of the choir's musical, and even showed up at a few juggling club meetings. I did all of this while I was taking a full course load. Eventually, the long days and lack of sleep took their toll and the quality of my work suffered. I had to cut back, dropping a few classes and clubs.

When Christians argue against using apologetics, it's important to accept that apologetics also has limitations. Those of us defending the use of apologetics shouldn't exaggerate what a reasoned defense of the faith can do. But even by acknowledging what apologetics can't do, it becomes clear why apologetics is such a necessary part of the Christian life. Here are two of the top things apologetics "can't do" that actually show why apologetics is essential.

1. Apologetics can't replace relationships with people.

I was at a huge Christian youth event when I talked to a young woman who was sitting in an information booth for the conference. As I chatted with her, I mentioned the idea of learning good reasons to share our faith. Her response was that she didn't really spend a lot of time doing that. Instead, she said, she just built relationships with people and that's how people became Christians.

"Conversion is exclusively the role of the Spirit. But we can rationally commend our faith to thers in the confidence that some, whose hearts he has opened, will respond to the apologetic we present and place their faith in Christ." —William Lane CraigThis popular argument against apologetics is attractive, especially for those of us who don't like to "argue" or make others feel uncomfortable. And as apologists, we should be willing to agree that apologetics can't replace relationships. But here's a question that those who hold this view should be asked: "What do you talk about in those relationships to get people to become Christians?"

If you were to adopt the model this young woman advocates for, you would still have to learn how to explain the faith to someone you are in a relationship with. When the atheist you have befriended begins to ask why you believe in the Christian God or why you trust the Bible, would you simply say, "I don't know but you should believe in that God because I'm your friend"? How much of a friend would you be with that attitude?

In contrast, no one I've heard teaching apologetics has ever come out against relationship building. In fact, in our training, we encourage Christians to learn how to begin a conversation so as to be in relationship with others around us.

The other point to remember is that the Bible never says we have to be in relationship with someone before we share our faith with that person. In fact, there are several examples where the opposite happened. For instance, Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell everything he has and then follow Him, prompting that man to leave and not have a relationship with Him (Matthew 19). He also tells a mocking thief that he was going to Paradise based on just a few words and no prior relationship (Luke 23). Philip also showed the Ethiopian eunuch who the Messiah was and then promptly disappeared (Acts 8). This doesn't mean we shouldn't build relationships when we can, but it does mean relationship-building and apologetics aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, relationship-building requires apologetics, though apologetics can be used outside of relationship.

2. Apologetics doesn't appeal to a world that embraces relativism.

I was teaching an apologetics class when Ambrose interrupted the class to argue against what I was teaching on truth. He said that "apologetics" doesn't work because our culture doesn't embrace propositional truths.

This argument is popular among those who embrace the emergent church or the teachings of Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard (though it is debated whether they properly interpret him). The argument basically goes like this: Our culture has rejected modernity and all the hard claims about "truth" because we recognize that truth is subjective—it is always seen through the subjective understanding of flawed people. Therefore, the only way to reach a postmodern culture is to tell them stories instead of "facts." People who embrace the Christian faith do so not because it is more rational, but because it meets their subjective "needs."

Ambrose later wrote a public comment on our Facebook page that even goes further. He says not only is the "modern" view of truth unreliable, it actually contradicts the Christian message. He wrote:

Reason itself has to be sanctified to be of any use. 2 + 2 = 4 has a kind of rightness. But its rightness is defined in a closed system that is part of a fallen order. What becomes of "reason" and "arguments" once they are sanctified? My point is, the modern apologetic obsession with reason and arguments is already too great an acquiescence to the present age and, by association, its ruler. We are called to get a new mind, not one that thinks more skillfully by the world's own definition. The entire underlying worldview of fbb, from what I have seen, is unbiblical.

Now to be fair, Ambrose is right that human reason is tainted by sin. He is also right that apologetics simply doesn't appeal to a postmodern mindset—it doesn't "work" in changing everyone's minds. As apologists we should be willing to accept that apologetics can't make someone rational.

However, we already know this because Jesus promised that when we talk to others about Him, they will say all kinds of evil about us (Matthew 5:11). But this fact doesn't make Jesus conclude that, "Lack of appeal means you shouldn't share reasons for your beliefs!" Rather, He makes clear that our success or failure has nothing to do with whether the person accepts the arguments. Rather, we are commanded to bring these reasons to people so that the gospel can be understood (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, that's exactly why Luke said he wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts so that his friend, Theophilus could know the "exact truth" of what he believed (Luke 1: 1-4).

And surprisingly, Ambrose's own arguments show that he can't escape the need for reason. When he argues against reason, he does so using arguments he thinks are reasonable! In fact, postmodern Christians who chastise apologists for defending the Christian faith must use their own rules of logic to come to their conclusions! They make an observation (culture rejects truth) and come up with a conclusion that they think will help rectify the problem (Christians should reject modernism's obsession with truth). Despite its tainted nature, they can't escape the tool of reason to help them come to their conclusion. Which is why when I asked Ambrose how he came to that conclusion (that is, how did he reason his way to that view?), he never responded.

As Dallas Willard says:

Today, by contrast, we commonly depend upon the emotional pull of stories and images to "move" people. We fail to understand that, in the very nature of the human mind, emotion does not reliably generate belief or faith, if it generates it at all. Not even "seeing" does, unless you know what you are seeing. It is understanding, insight, that generates belief. In vain do we try to change peoples' heart or character by "moving" them to do things in ways that bypass their understanding.[1]

In my next article, I'll discuss two more things apologetics can't do, but which nonetheless underscore its importance.


[1] Dallas Willard, "Jesus the Logician," Christian Scholar's Review, 28 no. 4 (Summer 1999): 605-614. http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=39.

I'm Sorry! But the Church Needs Apologetics

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By Scott McClare and Jojo Ruba

An elderly Christian woman once told me that she didn't need to learn apologetics. She said she knew enough to be convinced that Christianity was correct, and didn't need any more information. In response, I asked her a question (something we at Faith Beyond Belief train a lot on). I asked her, "I'm glad you know enough to be convinced of Christianity. But do you have non-Christian friends who might need to know a little more in order to be convinced to become Christians? Couldn't you learn more for their sake?"

She said I made a good point.

Unfortunately, her initial resistance to apologetics is something too many Christians adopt when we share what we do at Faith Beyond Belief. Christians raise all kinds of objections to why they shouldn't have to learn about how to defend their faith in an increasingly hostile culture.

francis-schaefferThat's why we created this series. We want to examine some of the top arguments from Christians who think apologetics is unnecessary or, worse, damaging to the cause of Christ. Many of these arguments are ones we've heard from friends or family or Christian critics. Many of these arguments are also left unspoken—they are lingering doubts we hear between the lines when we introduce FBB to Bible college professors or pastors or Christian students at Christian schools.

Interestingly enough, simply defining apologetics helps dispel many of the critics' arguments. It's important to start here because there is so much confusion and ungrounded prejudice against apologetics because of how it is defined. And of course, if we want a biblically-minded Christian to listen to the case for apologetics, we should look for a definition in Scripture.

The word apologetics comes from a Greek word, apologia, which means "to give a verbal defense." This is the word Peter uses when he writes, "in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).[1] Christian apologetics, then, is the defense of the Christian faith. Generally, apologetics focuses on answering objections from non-Christians. Hence we can contrast apologetics with polemics, which is the refutation of false ideas within the Christian faith.

When the apostle Paul writes about fighting spiritual battles, one of the two "weapons of our warfare" he tells Christians to use is effective apologetics: "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The other weapon is practical holiness, and as Peter writes, that in itself can also be an apologetic: "even if some [husbands] do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct" (1 Peter 3:1).

One of my pastors used to be fond of saying that everyone is a theologian; it was just a matter of how good a theologian you were. Similarly, everyone is an apologist. Muslims and Mormons begin their training as youth; Jehovah's Witnesses practice how to have conversations with people at the door. And every atheist I've met seeks to get Christians to adopt their worldview. We all have a belief system we believe is true. As Christians in particular, we want to persuade others that our beliefs are true, as well. Hence, the goal of Christian apologetics is to persuasively answer honest objections that keep people from faith in Jesus.

Why do apologetics? Again, scripture has the answer. We do apologetics because God commands it (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3-4). We live in a society whose institutions, such as schools, media, popular culture, and government, are increasingly hostile to faith. That's nothing new, of course. The first generation of the church fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian, were largely apologists who saw a need to appeal to the authorities who were persecuting the church, and tell them not to believe the false rumours that circulated about what Christians believed and how they behaved.

We do apologetics because we want to persuade non-Christians to repent and believe in Jesus. Skeptics have many barriers to faith: the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the Resurrection, the reality of miracles, and others. Reasoned apologetics can remove those barriers.

We do apologetics because we want to help other Christians strengthen their faith. Unfortunately, many Christians are not well-informed about Christianity and cannot clearly define even its core tenets: for example, the Trinity, the relationship of Christ's two natures, the meaning of the Atonement, or the difference between justification and sanctification. This is increasingly worsening as the Internet steadily provides false information that causes further confusion. It's no wonder Christian teachers and youth pastors agree that the average age for a young person to face a crisis of faith is now 13. They don't have to go to university to hear all kinds of false ideas about Christianity—they can just hear them on YouTube.

Apologetics helps define the truth of the Gospel. Other Christians may also hear the answers given to the objections of skeptics, and be encouraged and emboldened themselves. We then become role-models for how we can engage and teach the truth of the gospel of believers who may have no one else to help them.

We do apologetics to protect the church from harmful influences. There are many cults and new religious movements that call themselves "Christian," but they promote false doctrines. These need to be answered and refuted so that they do not lead the church astray. John warned his readers not to even invite false teachers into their homes, because it gave the appearance of approving their message and giving them a base from which to spread it (2 John 10-11). In addition to false religious influences, the church also needs to be protected from secular influences, such as immorality and worldly thinking. We need to clearly articulate God's will that God's people be holy, in both their bodies and their minds. As apologist Matt Slick has written:

The fact is that Christianity is under attack in the world, and we need to fight the good fight of the faith without shrinking back. We need apologetics to give rational, intelligent, and relevant explanations of Christian viability to the critics and the prejudiced who would seek to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus.[2]

With all the clear biblical commands, why, then, does it seem like many Christians and churches are indifferent, or even hostile, to apologetics? In this series, we'll examine some of these arguments and excuses to reject making the case for Christ. We've asked our FBB writers to take the most vocal Christian critics of apologetics head-on and provide some solid responses to their concerns.

Ironically, many people not familiar with the term apologetics thinks it refers to apologizing or having to say we are sorry for doing something. Through this series, we want Christians to realize that when they engage in Christian apologetics and defend the faith with "gentleness and respect," they have nothing to apologize for.


[1] Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] Matt Slick, "Eight Reasons Why We Need Apologetics," CARM, accessed September 1, 2015, https://carm.org/eight-reasons-why-we-need-apologetics.

The Unsafe Gospel

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By Jojo Ruba

As a public speaker, you get used to being called all kinds of names. Considering all the tough topics we cover, one learns to develop a tough skin.

But I wasn't ready for what one Christian leader called me. He was to meet with my dad and another representative of the church. As pastor, my dad had to meet with him about some of the issues at the church and wanted to bring me as the youth coordinator.

The Christian leader however insisted that my dad bring someone else with him because he felt "unsafe" around me. Now this leader knew about my pro-life work where I did some pretty bold things like speak on abortion. I also had a reputation for asking pointed questions of him at public meetings. One time, during a Q and A session, I asked him to explain some of the financial decisions that he had made on behalf of our church and other churches (as a good ambassador, I of course asked in as kind a tone as I could). I knew these questions challenged him but I never thought they threatened his safety!

When I finally got a chance to ask him why he described me as "unsafe," his response was, "Because you are so intense in your views." That wasn't satisfying as an answer and I had to ask more pointed questions.

I asked, "But how does being intense make someone unsafe?"

Conformity_HazardThe more he responded, the more it became clear to me that he was using that word the same way too many in our culture are using it—when someone's ideas or beliefs challenge or threaten your own and make you feel uncomfortable. If someone's thoughts or words make other people feel bad or wronged, they are "unsafe" people.

What's interesting is that though Christians and pro-lifers are used to this kind of treatment, the secular media are starting to pay attention too. There have been several well-written pieces about this phenomenon, particularly on university campuses.

For example, the (very liberal) New York Times published an op-ed piece by Judith Shulevitz that talked about the extents to which people on campus go to feel "safe." The article cites a debate planned at Brown University centered around the term "rape culture" and whether it was being used to censor free speech on campus.[1]

Because the debate featured someone critical of the usage of "rape culture," Katherine Byron of the local Sexual Assault Task Force organized a "safe space" for people who could be hurt by the debate. "Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people's experiences," she told Shulevitz. It could be, in her words, "damaging." The "safe space" was for people who might find comments "troubling" or "triggering," and needed a place to recuperate.

One of the workers at the "safe space" was Emma Hall, a rape survivor herself who helped set up the room. She admitted that she did go see the debate but returned to the "safe space" because she "was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs."

Not only then are safe spaces supposed to protect students from views that offend them, but now they are seen as protecting views that go against deeply held beliefs!

But it gets worse. In the same article, Shulevitz mentions a lecture at the University of Chicago by Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo. She spoke about how her colleagues were killed by radical Muslim extremists. And as someone who works for the magazine that published pictures of Mohammed, she had to travel with armed bodyguards because of death threats made against her.

Amazingly, a few days later, a student newspaper editorial said that El Rhazoui failed to ensure "that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions." It argued that Ms. El Rhazoui's "relative position of power" gave her a "free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university."

In other words, by speaking on her own experience of being silenced and attacked, El Rhazoui was silencing and attacking people who disagreed with her.

Now, none of this is new. Christians and pro-lifers were being censored and attacked for holding our beliefs in Canada for several decades. And the most common excuse for this was the so-called "safety" of students' views.

At Carleton University in Ottawa, pro-life students were arrested for bringing graphic abortion images to the student quad. The university wanted the group to set up in a closed-off space where no one could see them. The students pointed out that the university had hosted graphic images of dead Palestinians and female victims of violence before, but none of those images were censored. But the university cited "safety" as one of the reasons pro-life images were not welcome.

But it isn't just pro-life views that are being censored. At Mount Royal University in Calgary, a university administrator responsible for campus safety took down posters we put up advertising a talk on moral absolutes. Her argument was that because the poster asked if moral absolutes are objective or subjective, like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, our posters were potentially racist. Why? Because it compared brown chocolate with white vanilla.

In its September issue, The Atlantic (another liberal media source) suggests this isn't just political correctness run amok. Rather, it is the result of a generation that was coddled since conception. The students entering university now are the students whose parents were warned even before their birth of all kinds of dangers. They were warned about bad seafood that could hinder growth, or of escaped sex offenders who were living in the neighbourhood, or of peanut-butter sandwiches that could kill a classmate.

In response, these parents did everything they could to protect their children. But protection meant keeping them away from anything that potentially could hurt them. As The Atlantic article says, "children born after 1980—the Millennials—got a consistent message from adults: life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well."[2]

It's heartbreaking, however, to see this idea filter into the church. Jesus never promised that Christians would be safe from any kind of offensive comments. Rather, He said that whoever follows Him would be hated just as He was.

But time and time again, I am debating pastors(!) who tell me the way to successfully engage non-believers or even fellow believers is to make sure they feel safe.

That church leader who called me unsafe in fact invited a Christian author to speak at a conference about evangelism. The strategy he advocated was that Christians should pursue activities that would please the community. Activities like adopting after-school programs or providing school lunches would result in Christians "not being sued for doing it"—a phrase he used liberally.

This author, then, wasn't just talking about making non-believers feel safe, but now was arguing that the standard we use for evangelism was whether or not the technique ensured Christians feel safe!

Now, there's nothing wrong with providing meals for the poor, of course, but if we determine our evangelism standards by whether or not outsiders judge us or whether or not we are safe when we evangelize, then the early church in the book of Acts must have been terrible evangelists. Everywhere the church went, they were dragged before magistrates and judged for evangelizing. They were being sued!

Frankly, throughout history, Christians have proven just how unsafe the gospel is. Whether it was Stephen being stoned for his testimony, to Corrie ten Boom losing her family because they hid Jews during the Holocaust, Christianity has never been a safe belief for its adherents.

The book of Acts even described how some Thessalonicans reacted to Paul and others preaching the gospel, stating "These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus" (Acts 17:6-7 NASB).

Sound like any university campus or even church you know?

As I have pondered about being called "unsafe," I've realized that I'm in good company. The Lord I serve and the gospel He has commanded us to share were never meant to make us safe or feel good—they were meant to help us be good and that requires us to accept some pain.

Ironically, my dad never brought me to meet that church leader who felt that I was too unsafe to talk to. Instead, he brought someone else from our church—my mom. And if you want to meet someone who isn't "safe" and who is "intense," just insult a Filipina mom's child and then try to talk to her about spiritual maturity.


[1] Judith Shulevitz, "In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas," New York Times, March 21, 2015, accessed August 13, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/opinion/sunday/judith-shulevitz-hiding-from-scary-ideas.html.

[2] Grek Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, "The Coddling of the American Mind," The Atlantic, September 2015, accessed August 13, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/.

Some (Same-sex) Marriage Advice from Canada, Part 2

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By Jojo Ruba

In the first part of my article, I made a list of what Americans can expect after the ruling on same-sex marriage last week. As Canadians, we've observed how our rights are being taken away and our voices not-so-slowly being silenced. But there are three important lessons that Americans can take away from the Canadian experience as you deal with the repercussions of same-sex marriage.

What You Need to Do

1. Stop Making This About You

We share your concerns about the ramifications of same-sex marriage to culture and to individual and religious liberty. But, frankly, when we complain about losing our charitable status or make our religious liberties the centerpiece of our arguments against same-sex marriage, we sound just as self-absorbed as the culture that celebrates it. It makes it sound like Christians care more about the money or power.

By Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAs believers, the greatest damage decisions like this have is to limit the freedom to speak God's truth to a hurting culture. One of the lines we use at Faith Beyond Belief is that rather than hating the sin but loving the sinner, we must hate the sin because we love the sinner. God wants us to speak out against destructive behaviour like pornography, divorce, and yes, same-sex marriage, because it damages the people involved. Though we've made brilliant arguments for traditional marriage, I see few articulate why same-sex marriage actually harms the consenting adults who participate in it.

And that's why we also need to stop apologizing for all Christians! I know we're Canadian and we apologize for everything, but don't apologize for trying to love people. Not every Christian is a jerk who has no empathy for same-sex-attracted people. For the most part, Christians are doing their best to show God's love in this situation. They just don't know how.

Instead, let's start by following what Jesus says are the greatest commands: love God first and then love our neighbours as we love ourselves—and aren't there times when we need a bit of tough love?

2. Fear Not

A Calgary Herald columnist actually defended discrimination against Christians based on the issue of homosexuality because, she said, other Christians don't all agree on homosexuality. She argued that it is "extremist" to hold the view that practicing homosexuals will go to Hell, and anyone who holds such views should be screened out of public office.

She quoted Kris Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, who told the National Post: "I have no problem with people of faith running for public office. It's about how one exercises that faith. . . ."[1]

In other words, the director of a pro-gay organization gets to determine how Christians who go into public office should be able to practice their faith. And the Herald columnist calls Christians the extreme ones!

This columnist, however, can only get away with saying something so inane because so many of our culture—and worse, our churches—no longer understand what Christians believe. For example, the Bible Engagement Study found that 69% of Canadians believe the Bible is full of irreconcilable contradictions, but 55% of Canadians have never read the Bible![2]

But that kind of confusion in a once biblically literate culture can only happen when Christians fail to educate others about the Bible. Worse, we can't educate non-believers about our faith if we don't know it ourselves.

I've spoken across Canada for over a decade on issues like abortion and homosexuality, and I can tell you countless stories of Christian leaders and laypeople telling me that they didn't want to hear from me. Most church members I talk to also can't recall a time when their pastor ever talked about homosexuality. Some pastors simply refuse to talk about such issues.[3]

And when we stopped talking about these issues, we stopped linking biblical truth to the relevant issues in our culture. That's why so many Christians can't articulate a well-reasoned explanation for their faith on issues such as truth, morality, and sexuality. We're too ill-informed and too scared to speak.

Yet this level of biblical ignorance is not a time for fear. It is a time for faith. Have you noticed how the debate on same-sex marriage invariably turns into discussion of the Bible and God's will? Rather than running away from it as many Canadians have, why don't you take it as an opportunity to explain the Christian worldview to your friends? Discuss the issue with family members who have rainbow-coloured FB pictures. And of course, before you do, understand what the biblical worldview is. Take this as an opportunity for you to learn why God's love for humanity means discouraging harmful behaviour like homosexuality.

3. Keep Fighting the Good Fight

An apologist friend of mine recently insisted that the "culture war is over" and that "we lost" and we should move on to other issues. He said we can't expect a non-Christian culture to act like Christians.

Interestingly, when I asked him if he was glad William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, didn't share that sentiment, he never responded. If Christian leaders like him gave up on fights against slavery or racial discrimination, the world we would live in would not only be far worse, but it would be far harder to share the gospel to it.

In fact, many Canadian Christians use the "we lost" sentiment to never raise controversial issues again. They have capitulated to culture and act no differently than their secular colleagues. The more "normal" sin gets, the harder it is want to be "abnormal" by speaking out against it.

But as our American friends get used to the new "normal," please remember this:The day before the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage, I was speaking about homosexuality to a church youth group where two young women recently came out as bisexual. Both approached me at the end of my talk and thanked me for it. One in particular told me that she was trying her best to be faithful to God's word but it was so hard because the rest of culture is telling her just to act on her feelings.

I explained to her what I've learned when I've struggled with unwanted sexual attractions—that God understands how we feel and grieves with us. Though we might think the most loving thing to do for someone is to enter into a relationship with them, the most loving thing we can do is to introduce them to Christ. She agreed and said she would do her best to follow Jesus first.

The fight to normalize homosexuality in the U.S. may have been fought over a few months in a courtroom, but it's a daily battle for people like this young woman who want to do the right thing. Your court just made it harder for her to do so.

Rather than giving up and claiming all is lost, don't you think people like her need Christians who are willing to speak truth when no one else does? That's why we have to keep speaking—because millions of people like this girl need to know that only Jesus can bring hope to a confused culture and their confused hearts.


[1] Naomi Lakritz, "It's Not Anti-Christian—It's Anti-Extremist," Calgary Herald, September 19, 2014, accessed July 2, 2015, http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/lakritz-its-not-anti-christian-its-anti-extremist.

[2] "Are Canadians Done with the Bible?," Canadian Bible Forum, accessed July 8, 2015, http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca.

[3] Jonathan Merritt, "Hillsong's Brian Houston Says Church Won't Take Public Position on LGBT Issues, Jonathan Merritt on Faith & Culture (blog), Oct. 16, 2014, accessed July 7, 2015, http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/10/16/hillsongs-brian-houston-says-church-lgbt-issues/.

Some (Same-sex) Marriage Advice from Canada, Part 1

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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.

White House rainbow colors to celebrate June 2015 SCOTUS same-sex marriage rulingAnd 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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3] 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).[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] Even businesses that take a stand against the issue can be targeted for their beliefs.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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)![11]

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.[12]

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.


[1] You can watch a clip of Ezra Levant speaking on this on Sun News at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUaODful6vY.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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/.

[7] "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.

[8] "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.

[9] 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.

[10] Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, [2001] 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.

[11] 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.

[12] 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.

Coming Out as Trans-Racial

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By Jojo Ruba

(With special thanks to Jonathan Swift, the father of modern-day social satire.)

I never thought I would be writing this. Not even my closest friends or family know about the pain I face every day or how lonely it feels not to be able to tell anyone.

But recent events give me hope that I will be accepted for who I really am: a white person trapped in a brown person's body.

Interest in trans-racial people like myself of course has piqued because of the controversy surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the past president of a local NAACP group in Washington State. The NAACP is a US civil-rights group that primarily helps African-Americans.

The problem is that Rachel was born white, not black, and many people think this disqualifies her from leading a black group. Even her parents, who are both Caucasian, are accusing Rachel of lying about her race.

But Rachel insists that she has identified as a black person even as a five-year-old. "I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon, and black curly hair," she told Today Show host, Matt Lauer.[1] However, she didn't feel free to fully express who she was when she was younger. She said social pressure forced her to live as a white person, even though she identified as black. "I was socially conditioned to be limited to whatever biological identity was thrust upon me and narrated to me. And so I kind of felt pretty awkward with that at times."[2]

Many have mocked Rachel because they don't understand her struggle. I can. I too was five when we moved from the Philippines to Canada and it was a difficult struggle for me to fit in. In fact, there were hardly any Asian kids in my elementary school—they were mostly white. As I began going to school, I noticed things about my culture that I didn't want to identify with. For example, as I learned proper English, I began to correct my parents' funny accent (ironically, Filipinos have a problem with the letter "F"). I would also make sure we never brought rice to school for lunch because white people only ate sandwiches. Even when we played video games, I would choose to be the white characters not the brown ones.

As I moved into high school, I had non-white friends but I began to identify with the white kids at school and act like them. In fact, many of my white friends told me that they often "forgot" that I wasn't white! I even heard a term to describe how I was feeling: I was a "coconut," white inside but brown outside.

Some might think that I am just a victim of a culture that values "whiteness." I don't identify as brown because I was never given a chance to see that there was nothing wrong with my ethnic identity. Anyone who feels trapped in the wrong race faces this ignorance.

When an ad for skin-whitening lotion was put inside buses in Toronto, there was public outcry! Many accused the ad of being racist because it encouraged people to try to change something, their skin colour, when there was nothing wrong with their skin.[3]

But what cis-racial[4] people don't realize is, just like gender, race is a social construct. We create it in the cultures we come from. Because it is a social construct, it is fluid and can change.

Ironically, some transgendered people don't support trans-racial people despite the fact we use the exact same arguments. They even argue there may be genetic causes for transgenderism (even though it's inconclusive so far),[5] but no such genetic variation has been discovered for trans-racial people.

Whitening soapHowever, if our gender identities cannot be limited by our bodies, why should our race be limited by our bodies? I remember hearing about the beginning of a local training event for LGBT and pro-choice activists. That's when participants were asked to introduce themselves by saying their name and what pronoun they wanted to be called at the meeting—he, she, it or they. They could decide for themselves if they were male, female, an inanimate object or a plural entity for the day. No one was going to make that decision about their identity for them!

In the same way, all trans-racial people are asking for that same right! When our view of who we are clashes with our physical bodies, we can't be happy. And isn't that the most important thing in this debate, helping people live at peace with themselves by getting them to change their bodies?

In fact, there are likely more transracial people because so many are interested in adjusting if not outright changing their racial features. For example, the global market for skin-whitening lotion, soap and other cosmetic products is expected to have $19.8 billion in sales by 2018 especially in places like Asia, the Middle East and even Africa.[6] You can even find many of these products in Canada at local Asian markets.

In Vancouver, Asians are spending up to $10 000 on plastic surgery to get their noses less flat and more Caucasian.[7] Meanwhile, around the world, over 700 000 people yearly get blepharoplasties and epicanthoplasties—eyelid surgeries that make their eyes look more Western and less Asian. The operations can total up to $25 000.[8]

One journalist researching plastic surgery in South Korea discovered that it is so common and so radical that some Korean hospitals "offer certificates of identity to foreign patients, who might need help convincing immigration officers that they're not in the Witness Protection Program."[9]

In China, these racial changes are even more important. They have height requirements to get into law school or to get a job as a stewardess. To get into the foreign ministry, for example, male applicants need to be at least 5ft 7in, while women must be at least 5ft 3in. This is because Chinese diplomats must match the height of their foreign counterparts.[10] To fix this, many go through painful surgery where their legs are literally broken in two so they can extend their height. One reporter described the procedure this way:

[A] doctor sawed through the flesh and bone below her knee to insert what looks an awful lot like knitting needles through the length of her tibiae. . . . These giant steel pins are connected by eight screws punched horizontally through her ankle and calf to a steel cage surrounding each leg. Once the bone starts to heal, these cages will act like a medieval torture device—each day over the next few months [she] will turn the screws a fraction and stretch her limbs more and more until she has grown by 8 cm.[11]

As I've now come out as trans-racial, I am considering all of those options so that my outside self will reflect what I've always been inside. Unfortunately, my province does not pay for any of these procedures yet under our free healthcare, though they do pay for sex reassignment surgery. But as more people recognize the voices of trans-racial people, our government must be convinced to cover this surgery so trans-racial people can be more like ourselves.

Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do to educate Canadians. One of my friends, "Eugene," is a Christian who actually went through gender reassignment surgery from male to female and lived as a female for 10 years.[12] He said the urge to change was so overwhelming, that he left his wife and children to live a different life. But after hearing a sermon from Billy Graham on the radio, he realized that he had destroyed his life and now lives as a man again.

When he learned that I wanted to get operations to change my race, he told me what he tells others who want to change their identity: if your mind doesn't feel compatible with your healthy body, work on changing your mind, not your body. He said I needed to accept myself for who God made me because there was nothing wrong with my body. "We have all been made by God as a unique creation and made as He designed us. He made us according to His plan and purpose," he said.

I told him God made me trans-racial so I had the right to change my body because God designed us to act on our feelings. He must have wanted me to change my race; otherwise, He wouldn't have given me these feelings and the technology to make it happen!

Some progressive voices are at least starting to listen. CBC personality Neil Macdonald states, "The notion of deciding your race is becoming more relevant every day in America. Don't forget, this is a country practically founded on the concept of self-invention and reinvention…In addition, race is becoming a relative notion."[13]

That's progress. He understands that ethnicity is a social construct and the reality of our physical bodies can no longer dictate who we are. Rather, it's what we feel and how we think that shape our identity, not our bodies.

I realize that it's hard to change conventions like this, but in order to be accommodating of all Canadians, we must be willing to change our thinking—and even I am still learning.When I excitedly told a friend about my article and that Neil Macdonald supports trans-racial rights, he said that was impossible. Why? Because he was Neil Macdonald. At first, I didn't understand and was about to argue with him.

But then he explained. Even though he was born a black girl, he always identified with the CBC reporter he watched on TV. "I even dressed up like him as a kid," he said. "If our identities shouldn't be limited by our physical bodies, then can't I live the way I always felt? Can't I be Neil Macdonald?" Neil was right, of course. If my physical features don't shape my identity, then neither could the fact that he was born a poor, black girl from Calgary, stop him from identifying as a rich, white CBC reporter from Toronto. I even encouraged him to contact the CBC to get paid the other Neil's salary.

If our physical bodies no longer limit how we identify ourselves, then we can be anyone or anything we feel. We no longer have to conform to any social construct: gender, race, geography, species etc. We would all be free to live as we truly want—and have the government cover all our plastic surgeries!

Next, I am exploring the idea that I am not just white but actually a 69-year-old British woman from the North Pole, trapped in a 30-something male Filipino body in Southern Alberta. I have always felt like a cold, old soul, so doesn't it make sense that I deserve to get my government pension and northern living allowance?


[1] Eun Hyung Kim, "Rachel Dolezal Breaks Her Silence on TODAY: 'I Identify as Black,'" June 16, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.today.com/news/rachel-dolezal-speaks-today-show-matt-lauer-after-naacp-resignation-t26371.

[2] Neil Macdonald, "Why Can't Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be?" CBC News, June 17, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-can-t-rachel-dolezal-be-as-black-as-she-wants-to-be-1.3116030.

[3] "TTC Removing Controversial Skin-Lighening Ads After Outcry," CBC News, December 5, 2014, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ttc-removing-controversial-skin-lightening-ads-after-outcry-1.2862061.

[4] Cis-race is when your race matches your physical ethnicity. Transgender people use the terms cis-male and cis-female for those whose gender identity matches their physical bodies.

[5] Julia Wallace, "Discovery of a 'Transsexual Gene' Raises More Questions Than Answers," Popular Science, November 18, 2008, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-11/discovery-transsexual-gene-raises-more-questions-answers.

[6] Andrew McDougall, "Skin Lightening Trend in Asia Booses Global Market," CosmeticsDesign-Asia.com, June 4, 2013, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.cosmeticsdesign-asia.com/Market-Trends/Skin-lightening-trend-in-Asia-boosts-global-market.

[7] "Asian Plastic Surgery Is a Vancouver Growth Industry," Vancouver Sun, June 22, 2012, accessed June 18, 2015, http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/06/22/asian-plastic-surgery-is-a-vancouver-growth-industry/.

[8] Chris Stokel-Walker, "When Does Plastic Surgery Become Racial Transformation?," BuzzFeed, May 16, 2013, accessed June 18, 2014, http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisstokelwalker/when-does-plastic-surgery-become-racial-transformation#.mt2nM4R0dY.

[9] Patricia Marx, "About Face," The New Yorker, March 23, 2015, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/about-face.

[10] Jonathan Watts, "A Tall Order," The Guardian, December 15, 2003, accessed June 18, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/dec/15/gender.uk.

[11] Ibid.

[12] This story is real even if the name is not.

[13] Neil Macdonald, "Why Can't Rachel Dolezal Be as Black as She Wants to Be?"