So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Public Faith: the wearing of religious symbols.

Catholics often wear crucifixes. The crucifix or cross is a religious symbol that is for Christians a sign of hope, a sign of God's love for all mankind. A crucifix embodies the Catholic Faith. A crucifix is a proposal to others to consider the gift of eternal life that God offers in Jesus Christ.

A crucifix is no trivial token. Neither is it mere jewelry, or at least it shouldn't be. In some countries the wearing of a crucifix, underneath or outside one's clothing, can land you a fine or jail time and can result in deportation. In some western nations, surprisingly, Christians face intimidation for wearing a cross or crucifix. Christians in Denmark, for example, increasingly face violent harassment [video link; content warning: crude language] for wearing crosses or crucifixes.

In Canada, the public display of wearable religious symbols and clothing that is commonly worn as part of one's faith is not a problem. There have been burps along the way, but accommodations have been made where freedom of religion was rightly upheld.
In Canada, some time ago now, a Sikh fellow by the name of Baltej Singh Dhillon petitioned to be able to wear his turban as an RCMP officer. There was a kerfuffle at first causing many of those who understood the Mounties' Belgian Belly stetson to be a defining symbol of the force to become quite upset at the prospect of change. Because the turban for Sikhs is religious headgear, not some arbitrary decoration or piece of sports memorabilia such as a baseball cap decorated with a favourite team logo, permission was rightly granted to Sikhs to wear a turban in place of the stetson.
The question also came up concerning the wearing of headgear in branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Veterans typically remove their headgear as a sign of respect before entering a branch of the Legion. Again, after some heated debate, Sikh veterans were permitted to wear their turbans in Legions.
Religious signs or symbols celebrating one's faith remind others that authentic diversity is more than what some people raised without religion might imagine. People of faith comprise much of Canadian society. There are more people of faith than many secularized individuals might be aware of or might be willing to admit to.
A priest's collar or a nun's habit are signs that can, and often do, invite people to reevaluate their thinking and to ask questions of the wearer. A Roman collar and a friar's habit also give permission, so-to-speak, to lay Catholics to embrace and celebrate Catholic identity in the public square.
Like all forms of art, wearable art such as a religious habit reaches beyond the narrow confines of secular rationalistic opinion to engage and inform the heart and invite the imagination to enter into dialogue with what the symbol represents.
In a free and civilized society, the fact that people wear religious symbols representing something of their faith is a healthy sign that fundamental freedoms such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are respected.

In a way, the freedom to wear religious symbols is the proverbial canary in a coal mine. Where the wearing of religious symbols is proscribed by an unjust law or repressive policy, one can bet that additional fundamental human rights are or soon will be at risk.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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