Entries tagged with “Canada”.


luther-playmobil

In news that took everyone by surprise, Playmobil has announced that a new figurine of Martin Luther has become their fastest selling toy ever. Their initial run of 34,000 figurines sold out in less than 72 hours (see Deutsche Welle’s report here).

The set was released in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (which will take place in 2017—five centuries after Luther first posted his 95 theses on the Castle Door in Wittenberg). The Playmobil set features a little Martin Luther, complete with scholar’s hat, academic gown and quill. He comes also with an open Bible, which reads (in German) “Here ends the Old Testament” on the left page and “The New Testament translated by Doctor Martin Luther” on the right—a reference to Luther’s famous translation of the Scripture into German, a work often considered the first German classic (much as the King James Version is considered a classic in English).

Demand for the toy far outstripped supply, and so Playmobil has announced they will be making more figurines of the little Luther. The next batch should be ready by the end of April. Sadly, however, it doesn’t appear that the toy will be made available to purchase by English speakers anytime soon.

It seems the little toy was made in a partnership with Nuremberg’s Tourism Center, and so the toys have been directed for sale in that area of the world. As it currently stands, you can pre-order the Playmobil Luther from Nuremberg’s Tourism Office for a scant €2.39 each (plus tax and shipping). Regrettably, they only ship to addresses in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

When the figure first hit headlines, I tweeted Playmobil about getting one. They seem to confirm that he’s only available in the above three countries.

Maybe that will change in the future, given how widely popular the toy has been (the rapid sell-out has garnered news coverage from many English publications, including The Guardian, The Telegraph, Slate, and Newsweek). There’s certainly interest in North America for the toy. I know more than one organization (churches, for example) who might actually be interested in a bulk purchase.

In the meantime, however, you could always ask a friend in Germany to order one for you. Apart from that, you might be stuck trying to get one on Ebay where (last I looked) it seemed to be going for ten times the original cost (plus shipping).

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Religious-Freedom-FT

Last week brought good news for those concerned about religious freedoms in Canada. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia found in favour of Trinity Western University (TWU), in a case that pitted the Christian institution against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. In his judgment, Justice Jamie Campbell is clear that the law society’s attempts to block graduates of TWU amounts to religious discrimination.

“People have the right to attend a private religious university that imposes a religiously based code of conduct. That is the case even if the effect of that code is to exclude others or offend others who will not or cannot comply with the code of conduct. Learning in an environment with people who promise to comply with the code is a religious practice and an expression of religious faith. There is nothing illegal or even rogue about that. That is a messy and uncomfortable fact of life in a pluralistic society. Requiring a person to give up that right in order to get his or her professional education is an infringement of religious freedom.”

My article on the story went live at First Things this past Thursday. Read it here: “A Victory for Religious Freedom in Canada: Christian University Wins Case Against Provincial Law Society.” Since writing that, Christianity Today has published a story of their own, in which they kindly reference my piece. And I’m thankful to The Gospel Coalition for linking to my post in the “#Right Now” section of their Current Events page.

I’m glad to see the story getting wider attention outside of Canada. After all, TWU may have won its case against the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, but it still faces court battles with the law societies of Ontario and British Columbia. Prayers are needed now as much as ever.

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It’s become almost commonplace to note that Canada is not the nation it once was. We have quickly become a post-Christian society—a nation which counts Christian faith as part of its history but not its future. Last year, Statistics Canada announced that the number of Canadians identifying as Christian has dropped dramatically: from 77% in 2001 to 67% in 2011. And a new study confirms that fewer and fewer Canadians—even self-professed Christians—recognize the Bible as God’s Word. The fact is, most Canadian Christians never read the Bible at all.

So begins my most recent column for The Canadian Lutheran. It considers the increasingly secular culture in which Canadian Christians find themselves, and notes a rising intolerance towards Christians in our country. To be sure, this intolerance is not persecution in the strict sense of the term, I note; we do not face martyrdom the way some people—Mariam Ibrahim of Sudan, for example—do for professing faith in Christ. “Nevertheless,” I argue, Christians in Canada are also learning, if only a little, what it means to suffer for Christ.

That our nation is becoming increasingly secular is obvious; but how Christians should respond is less so. As the article goes on, I explore what it means to stand firm in the faith in our changing context (and how, when you think about it, there’s never really been a ‘golden age’ to be a Christian anyway).

Read it all in “Standing on Guard.”

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canada-flag-webA little while back, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams made headlines for his comments on the persecution (or lack thereof) of Christians in the West. “Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable,” he said. “I am always very uneasy when people sometimes in this country [the United Kingdom] or the United States talk about persecution of Christians or rather believers. I think we are made to feel uncomfortable at times. We’re made to feel as if we’re idiots—perish the thought! But that kind of level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of; I mean for goodness sake, grow up.”

It’s perhaps best the Most Rev. Williams restricted his comments to the United Kingdom and the United States, because the threat of religious persecution in Canada just got a whole lot more real. The Province of Quebec is planning to pass a law which would ban public sector employees from wearing religious symbols, including such things as turbans, crucifixes, hijabs, and kippas. And it’s not just for government representatives: it would apply to all public institutions, including schools and hospitals. That’s right: teachers, doctors, and nurses, among numerous other workers, would all be forbidden from wearing religious symbols on the job. Don’t like it? Find another job.

Read the rest in my article over at First Things.

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Update (September 15): The Charter has been officially unveiled. I’ve got more on this story at First Things in a post entitled “Quebec’s Charter: When ‘Values’ Means the Denial of Religious Rights.”

Just a note to say that I’m one of the presenters at the upcoming Reach Out Canada conference. This national outreach conference sponsored by Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) and Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) is taking place July 5-7 in Winnipeg. As the title might suggest, it’s intended to get participants thinking about outreach. To that end, it will feature main speakers, workshops, worship events (including a special 25th Anniversary celebration for LCC, which many of our local congregations will also be attending), and joint events with the National Youth Gathering which is also taking place in Winnipeg at the same time.

I was asked to be one of the workshop presenters at Reach Out Canada. Here’s my blurb as it appears on LHM’s website.

m-block-edited-lhm-webPop-Culture Today: What’s God got to do with it?

Speaker: Mathew Block
Communications Manager of Lutheran Church–Canada
Editor of The Canadian Lutheran magazine
Description: Christians in North America are inundated with Hollywood movies, internet videos, best-selling books, and countless new songs. Wherever we go, pop-culture is there. It’s on the radio in our cars. It’s our televisions at home and on our computers. It’s on the smartphones we’re carrying in our pockets. As Christians, we’re called to think critically about the culture we’re immersed in. So what’s God got to do with pop-culture? Come and find out—and in the process find out how pop-culture can be a tool for sharing your faith with others.

For more information on Reach Out Canada and to register, click here. Registrations are due at the beginning of July. Hope to see some of you there!

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Last week Statistics Canada released the new numbers on faith in Canada. See my article at First Things discussing the changes here. The big news? From 2001 to 2011, the percentage of the Canadian population identifying as Christian dropped ten percent—from 77% to 67.3%.

Read more here.

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A few articles of mine went up at “First Thoughts” over the past week. Here are the links in case you’d like to check them out.

– Chesterton on the small screen

Pope Francis and the Lutherans

Silencing religious voices in Canada

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