Now, as someone who--strictly based on the news that has recently come like a torrent--is starting to believe that Christians in the West--and, indeed, just about everywhere in the world--are facing a coming persecution, I read the article with some interest [Sidebar: The thought it will no longer be possible in the “Land of the Free” to be able to freely practice my religion some day is something beyond saddening. Yet from what I've read over the last two years week after week and sometimes several times a day, I must realistically address that possibility.], thinking, 'Maybe this will show me some places to which this possible.'
No such luck.
It seems that “friendly” isn't friendly in terms of the sort of freedom I hope to maintain in my life. Rather, it's the people who are friendly, as well as the culture's similarities to that of the US. From what I saw, only one might -- might -- qualify.
Let's go down the list:
O Canada ... This nation popped up no. 1 on the list, and Canucks are known for their friendliness. However, in the last 10-15 years, they have become one of the most aggressively secular societies on the planet. A man was sued for merely posting an add with biblical citations in his local paper. The cites weren't quoted, mind you. However, since each one referenced scriptural prohibitions against homosexuality, his actions were seen as being discriminatory. It was considered to be something of a miracle when Stephen Harper, an unapologetic Evangelical, won election as Prime Minister. The Catholic bishop of Calgary has been sued simply for his outspoken proclamation of traditional Christian morality. And Marc Cardinal Ouellet, then cardinal archbishop of Quebec (once Canada's most Catholic region; now its least), raised a raging tempest of protest when he deigned to say what the Church has always taught, that abortion is a “moral outrage.” A Catholic priest and former parliamentarian who has never acted in the public square to promote a culture of life has sued LifeSiteNews.com for $500,000 for calling him “pro-abortion.” Given Canada's current anti-Christian climate, most observers believe he will win, which would shut down this valuable source of pro-life news.
More popularly known as England or Great Britain, this nation, once known as “Our Lady's Dowry”--and arguably the greatest all-around Christian-nation-qua-Christian-nation until the Reformation--has seen a huge rash of discrimination against Christians lately. A Christian couple that owns a B&B was sued and lost because they refused to let to a homosexual couple. The owners argue their policy to not let to any unmarried couples. Too bad, the judge said. Your Christian views have no place in the public square. A Christian couple who were long-time foster parents were denied the right to be so again because they wouldn't promise to not witness to their views on homosexuality if they were given one to foster. People have lost their public sector jobs for saying, “God bless you” and “I'll pray for you.” Observing his nation's foreign policy, Keith Cardinal O'Brien of Glasgow has said it is an “anti-Christian” one.
The only majority Muslim nation on the list is also one with rising religious tensions. This is mostly spurred by anti-US sentiment as well as a reassertive Christianity there. For instance, the government blocked distribution of 35,000 Bibles rendered in the native language. There have also been recent calls for jihad against all Christians.
Religious praxy here has plummetted and, thanks to recent revelations of clergy sex abuse, “droves” have left the Church. But this is only the stated reason. If they were honest, they spiritually left long ago, given the high level of heterodoxy in this nation. If you want to homeschool your children there, you may have to apply for political asylum.
This is arguably one of the most aggressively secular countries in Europe. Were a French president to end his nationally televised speaches with, “God bless you, and God bless France,“ the negative uproar would be near complete and awesome to behold. As current French leader President Nicholas Sarkozy said in 2007, “Laïcité is to be affirmed as necessary and opportune, but laïcité should not mean negation of the past. It does not have the power to eliminate from France its Christian roots. It has tried to do so, and it shouldn’t have.” The biggest problem today, however, is not what the state does against the Faith, but rather the atrocious state of the Church in this country. It is not a coincidence that weekly Mass attendance is 8-12 percent (the lowest in Western Europe) and that the so-called Traditionalist and schismatic Society of St. Pius X is strongest here. Where modernism (i.e., theological liberalism and relativism) reign, such things inevitably result.
French atheist Bernard-Henri Lévy has said, “In France there is much talk about the desecrations of Jewish and Muslim cemeteries, but nobody knows that the tombs of Catholics are continually desecrated. There is a sort of anti-clericalism in France that is not healthy at all. We have a right to criticize religions,” but he said the scale of the criticism was “out of proportion.”[i]
[i] “French atheist defends Catholicism,” Independent Catholic News, September 28, 2010, http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=16812
While France's aggressive secularist revolution was over with the passage of the 1905 law that pushed religion completely out of the public square, Spain's secularist revolution has recently begun in earnest. Since he took power in 2004, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez y Zapatero has launched a sustained assault on the Church and her role in Spanish society. This is aided by a society that--while officially 73 percent Catholic--only sees a Mass attendance rate of 15-19 percent, robust compared to its northern neighbor, but a drop of 25 percent since 1980.
As George Weigel recently wrote, “Textbooks were being rewritten to enforce the government’s leftist view of modern Spanish history; students aiming for admission to prestigious universities would be required to give the “correct” answers about such traumas as the Spanish Civil War in order to pass their entrance exams. Street names were being changed to eradicate the memory of the politically disfavored from Spain’s past. Marriage had been legislatively redefined so that any two people, of whatever gender, could be civilly “married.” (Shortly after I left the country, another law enabled a Spaniard to enter a civil registry office and “change” his or her sex simply by making a declaration to a government bureaucrat that she was now he, or vice versa. Some things are so absurd that they compel ridicule, and this one prompted me to a knockoff from “My Fair Lady”: “The dame in Spain is mainly in the name.”)
“In March, dozens of secularist student gangsters, armed with a megaphone and defamatory posters, crashed into the chapel of Madrid’s Complutense University while Catholic students were at prayer. The radicals shouted deprecations of the Church, Pope Benedict, and the Catholic clergy; several of their number, women, stood on the altar and undressed from the waste up; two of the striptease artists boasted of their lesbianism. This obscene spectacle in the Spanish capital came shortly after several Spanish churches throughout the country had been trashed.
“All of which suggests that Spain is now Ground Zero in the European contest between Catholicism and the dictatorship of relativism. And the latter is precisely what the secularist radicals of Spain are up to: imposing their concept of freedom-as-license through coercive state power and intimidation-through-violence. Bizarre legislation that rewrites history and redefines human nature is the first half of the equation; gang violence is its new and ominous complement. A different kind of war has been declared on the Church.
“It hardly seems accidental that these attacks against Catholic facilities have come in the months before World Youth Day 2011, which will be held in Madrid from Aug. 16 through Aug. 21. The gauntlet has been thrown down. A tremendous turnout at Madrid in five months will demonstrate that the challenge has been accepted.”
Except that it doesn't have a law like the one passed in France in 1905, the religious situation is very much like that in the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.” In few other places has the “Spirit of Vatican II” held so much sway and done so much damage. Priests feel free to change the formula of Baptism, “marry” homosexual domestic partners, change the words to the Mass, and at least one bishop engages in open dissent from the Church and her teachings. Australia's Catholic population is 26 percent (interestingly, it is the largest Christian confession), although only 14 percent or so fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation each week, a drop of 13 percent since 1996, which followed a drop of 10 percent between 1991 and 1996. There is the very good George Cardinal Pell, but at 70-years-old, his health is rumored to be in decline. No other Catholic diocesan ordinary stands out here.
In Australia, a competition was held to see which of two advertising agencies could make adverts that best made the case for compulsory euthanasia at age 80.
Overall, not a promising place to consider.
This country is just over 6-8 percent Catholic, and the bishops here are uniformly liberal, with, the few South Africans I know report, the usual results. Although I couldn't find weekly Mass attendance statistics in South Africa, weekly church attendance amongst all adherents is 46-56 percent. Furthermore, this nation doesn't seem to have the same sort of persecution of the Church and other Christians we see burgeoning in places such as Canada. However, its laws increasingly reflect a relativistic, secular humanist worldview. Where this worldview increases, human rights decrease.
By the pictures and videos I've seen, this is a beautiful island paradise. Its population is 15 percent Catholic. Being a British colony, its citizens are conceivably subject to the same pressures as those in the UK.
We live in a country where the number of non-affiliated citizens grows and thus does the number of unchurched, and thus does the number of relativists. One of the two major political parties, the Democrat Party, is predominantly made up of secular humanists or those who relativize the practice of their faith in the public square. Fealty to the anti-life doctrine (at least where it concerns the unborn) is almost de rigeur for politicians in the Party. Areas where such politicians predominate and hold the most power--the West and New England, in particular--are progressively becoming denuded of Catholics or any type of Christian who take historic orthodox Christianity seriously. As a result (and as only one example), California has in the last 10 years easily passed domestic partnership bills, homosexual marriage bills, bills preventing Christians from becoming foster parents if they believe homosexuality is unnatural, bills making assisted suicide and euthanasia a possibility, bills to foist radical sexual education curricula on schools and not give parents any say in this, and on and on and on have all passed the state's Legislature (and increasingly been signed into law).
With each victory, the far Left has increasingly demonstrated its virulence toward those who have are serious about their faith. As such, they have lamented that certain conservatives weren't aborted whilst in utero, they have organized boycotts of corporations and local businesses that exercised their freedom of political expression, and they have arranged for the firing of private sector employees who go against liberal orthodoxy (e.g., on abortion and same-sex unions). But this will all seem as annoying child's play given some of the very scary things prominent liberal activists are saying. For instance, in early 2011, US Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) expressed his belief that pro-lifers don't deserve the constitutional protection of free speech.
Before he left office in 2011, US Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, introducing legislation that would have prevented faith-based organizations from receiving federal funds if they used their faith as a basis for hiring. He called such scrutinization “discrimination.”
President Obama has said our nation will no longer allow moral considerations to interfere with scientific decisions.[i]
A recent and laudatory documentary on Hugh Hefner raised hardly an eyebrow, whereas the issuance of a stamp bearing the likeness of Bl. Mother Teresa or lighting up the Empire State Building at night in her honor draw heavy controversy.
Each year brings a so-called “War on Christmas,” where believers contest with secularists to either display or prevent items related with traditional Christmas celebrations--e.g., creches, certain greetings, religious seasonal songs, etc. Sometimes Christians win. More often, they lose.
Prayer in public schools or at school functions has been outlawed, and public employees have even been fired simply for their faith (e.g., for having a Bible on their desk).
In October 2010, an Indiana bakery was threatened with legal action because it had refused to make rainbow frosted cupcakes for a homosexual group at a local university. Since the owners had not refused to serve the homosexual students but only to decorate the cupcakes in the manner requested, it was later ruled the business’ owners had not violated any laws. But just the fact that they could be brought up on charges in the first place has to be sobering.
A Florida man asked his local City Council to stop prayers before PeeWee football games since games are played on public land. This despite the controlling organization is private and receives no public funds at all. Ironically, the gentleman, a league coach, claimed he was standing up for religious freedom, even though his actions threatened the religious freedom of others, not to mention a long-standing practice that provides comfort and hope for many.[i]
America as we have known it is gone. To think that it will return is Pollyanish. The question is: Where else would we go?
[i] “‘Left-Wing Liberal’ Turns Embryonic Stem-Cell Opponent,” September 2, 2010, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2010/09/02/left-wing-liberal-turns-embryonic-stem-cell-opponent/
If Ed Miliband, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party (the UK’s equivalent of the US’s Democratic Party) and an avowed atheist has his way, people of faith would not even have free speech rights. Writing for the homosexual website PinkNews, Miliband said free speech laws allowing people to opine about homosexuality in a politically incorrect way should go away.
But haven’t they already? A registrar in the UK named Lillian Ladele “was bullied at work and disciplined for her religious stance on homosexual civil partnerships.”[i]
The list goes on and is long and depressing.
[i] “Ed Miliband would scrap free speech safeguard,” www.christian.org.uk/news/ed-miliband-would-scrap-free-speech-safeguard