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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Divine Right of Statisticians

The long-form Census boosters have hit the bottom of the pressure group totem pole, they have now sought out the mainline churches:

Protecting a harmonious society, care for the poor and vulnerable, and safeguarding religious liberty are at the heart of their complaints. Like Moses’s nemesis the Pharaoh, the federal government has turned a deaf ear.

Church leaders representing 76 per cent of Canadians (according to a 2003 Statistics Canada report) have written eloquent protests, all to no avail. For example, Anglicans said removing the mandatory long-form census would place the government in danger of overlooking the value and complexity of charitable work. Anglican officials reminded Industry Minister Tony Clement how the science of charity works: “In spiritual terms, this loving human response comes by the Grace of God, but in practical terms, it is emboldened and upheld by reliable information and sound methodologies. Statistical information has to help transform thought into action in profound and life-giving ways.

A lobbyist in holy orders is still a lobbyist. The Lord may move in mysterious ways, but Church officials are more obvious in their methods and goals. The Anglican Church of Canada, which once upon a time was referred to as the Conservative Party at prayer, has largely marginalized hum drum activities like preaching Christianity. This has been largely left to the parvenus in the evangelical churches. As aging parishioners grow ever closer to the Lord in the purely practical sense, the mainline churches grow ever more distant in the spiritual sense. Its servants have become, and present themselves, as eccentrically attired social workers. Helping the poor was always part of the Church's mission, but this was in addition to preparing for the world to come. The article finishes with this humdinger:

So while Christians seem to be at risk of losing the scientific data they need to do their social efforts, teaching about giving information to God will go on. That’s what people do when they pray. An important part of prayer is the practice of letting God have your information. Somehow, conclusions emerge in that mysterious practice, conclusions leading to discovery of self, purpose and meaning. Counted or not, that kind of activity has got to be a good thing for nation building.

"[L]etting God have your information." Isn't God omniscient? Maybe the new God isn't like the old God. Like the new Churches aren't like the old Churches. In any case we are not filing out the long-form Census for the Almighty, we are filling it out for the Government of Canada. That's an important distinction. You shall have no other gods before him?

Posted by Richard Anderson on August 24, 2010 | Permalink


I read a letter in the local rag the other day ,letter writer accused Stephen Harper of being an extreme libertarian for making the long form voluntary.

Posted by: don b | 2010-08-24 8:42:05 AM

This is a load of horse spit. Christians have managed to do charity work for 2,000 years without government statisticians. Is it lost upon anyone that the source for this 76% support figure is none other than the same Statistics Canada that is up in arms? So much for this "non-partisan" institution.

Just IMAGINE the political flash Harper would bring upon himself if he ever got rid of the GST.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-08-24 9:11:21 AM

The Christian ideal of caring for the poor is found in caring for the one - the individual. A Christian is not going to find the one in aggregated Stats Canada data. A Christian is going to find someone to help by looking around them and seeing who is in need nearby. It looks like Anglican leaders need to read up on their Hayek and realize that those in need are better served by a little bit of “spontaneous order”...or, better yet, “spontaneous service”.

Posted by: JTH | 2010-08-24 9:33:24 AM

Equating God to the government has always been a very very bad thing.

Posted by: TM | 2010-08-24 10:49:18 AM

The "mainline" Churches have been in serious decline for decades thanks in great part to their adoption of watermelon politics, which, I suppose was predictable, given that Pseudo environmentalism has largely replaced them (along with communism) as Western faith-based movements. Three decades ago, the World Council of Churches could be counted on to support every Marxist regime in Africa. The Archbishop of Canterbury now talks of concessions to Shariah. I've heard that the only significant number of Anglicans that support the traditional church are to be found in Africa. In BC, the United Church is essentially an NDP prep school. I can see why Christians have gravitated towards the evangelicals.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-08-24 10:52:36 AM

Hang on a minute. Are not these people who are using the "mainline churches'" statement to support their agenda the same ones who scream like stuck pigs at any hint of religion influencing government policy? Yes, of course they are, which is why no one takes them seriously, or for that matter the leftist doctrine of the day spouted by the "mainline churches".

Posted by: Alain | 2010-08-24 11:12:19 AM

Another great post from Publius. Substance, style and snark.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2010-08-24 1:39:12 PM

Snark was my minor at U of T...

Posted by: Publius | 2010-08-24 2:51:32 PM

Sounds like God has way too much time on his hands if he concerns himself with fluff like this.
This is more a case of losing the power to snoop, meddle and being kicked off their high horses. The lefties hate the idea of losing power to meddle.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-08-24 5:38:15 PM

Government charity,
scrimped and iced
served by a cautious,
statistical Christ.

Sounds like the old verse (Tennyson?) could be applied to the mainline churches these days.

In any case, I seem to recall that one of the sins of David was conducting a census. In Biblical language, he "numbered the people." As a matter of fact, I think the census was what really landed him in hot water.

Let the churches -- and their politicians -- ruminate on that one.

Posted by: John HOB | 2010-08-24 8:25:06 PM

    As a matter of fact, I think the census was what really landed him in hot water.

As a result, seventy thousand people died in a plague.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-08-25 11:25:36 PM

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