Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Slavery, Same-Sex Relationships and the Bible: Can Lessons from the Past Help Today?

“The Bible is not in favor of homosexuality—it just isn’t." 

Across North America, churches and denominations are splitting over homosexuality—many opposed to accepting LGBTQ people, others wanting to let them in.

For Christians on the no side, it’s a simple matter: The Bible plainly says homosexuality is wrong.

In that, they aren't wrong. The Bible contains verses that explicitly condemn it.

As author Phyllis Tickle, herself a supporter of same-sex relationships, once noted: “The Bible is not in favor of homosexuality—it just isn’t. The approval is not there.”

This leaves Christians who want a more open and inclusive approach to LGBTQ people in a quandary.

If the Bible—the sacred text of the Christian faith—speaks against it, what can they do?

One popular approach is to try to reinterpret those verses, or put them in a historical context.

For example, advocates of greater inclusion say that neither Greek nor Hebrew had a word for the modern concept of homosexuality.

They argue that what the Bible’s writers meant by homosexuality isn’t clear, or that they weren't really taking commitment same-sex unions into consideration.

They point out that the verses in Leviticus that call homosexuality an "abomination" also forbid eating shellfish, getting a tattoo, wearing clothes made of mixed materials and killing people who commit adultery—all things we have decided to ignore.

Or they note that the idea of “biblical marriage” is undercut by stories of people in the Bible who had multiple wives, or concubines.

When it comes to the Apostle Paul, they explain that the same-sex relationships he spoke against were really about an abuse of power—adult men victimizing boys.

Finally, they note that Jesus said nothing about the issue.

All good arguments, but in the end their opponents aren't swayed. 

They simply open their Bibles and read what, for them, is plainly written in its pages about the topic.

Case closed.

But the case isn't closed. More and more people are calling on churches to be more accepting of LBGTQ people. The issue won't go away.

What to do?

For me, one answer is to look back to see ahead.

In this case, it is back to a time when Christians were also faced with a seemingly intractable problemand the Bible was caught up in the struggle.

That issue and time? Slavery in the U.S. before that country's Civil War.

*      *      *

Today it’s obvious to everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, that slavery is wrong and against God’s will.

Back then, however, many Christians in the south felt very strongly otherwise—and they had many passages from the Bible on their side.

These included Ephesians 6:5 (“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling”), Titus 2:9 (Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect”) and I Corinthians 7:20-21 (Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it”).

As Mark Noll puts it in his book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Christians who “defended the legitimacy of slavery in the Bible had the easiest task.”

All a Christian back then had to do, he writes, was turn to verses that supported slavery and then “decide for yourself what these passages mean. Don’t wait for a bishop or a king or a president or a meddling Yankee to tell you what the passage means, but decide for yourself.”

And what did those defenders of slavery decide?

Based on their literal reading of these texts, they believed the Bible permitted slavery. Any other reading was wrong, and failed to take seriously the authority of the scriptures.

As Presbyterian minister and pro-slavery advocate Henry Van Dyke put it: 

“When the abolitionist tells me that slaveholding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”

Says Noll: “Those who saw in Scripture a sanction for slavery were both more insistent on pointing to the passages that seemed so transparently to support their position and more confident in decrying the wanton disregard for divine revelation that seemed so willfully to dismiss biblical truths.”

*      *      *            

For Christians who opposed slavery, this was a significant challenge.

If the book that formed the basis of their entire life as Christians promoted the very thing they so adamantly opposed, what were they to do?

They could have taken a historical, contextual or re-interpretative approach, showing why those verses didn't mean what their opponents said they did.

But they didn't. Instead, they appealed to the larger story from scripture of God's activity in the world and among humans, showing how slavery contradicted God’s desire that everyone be able to live in dignity and freedom. 

According to Noll, they appealed to the “broad sweep of Scripture,” arguing that while slavery was supported by the letter of the Bible, it violated its spirit.

Or, as abolitionist Gerrit Smith succinctly put it: “The religion taught by Jesus is not a letter, but a life.”

An example of this argument occurred in 1845 during a public debate between Presbyterian pastors Nathaniel Rice, who supported slavery, and Jonathan Blanchard, who opposed it.

Rice, Noll writes, “methodically tied Blanchard in knots over how to interpret the pro-slavery implications of specific texts.”

All Blanchard could offer, he states, was “the broad principle of common equity and common sense,” the “the general principles of the Bible” and “the whole scope of the Bible.”

Supporters of slavery did not agree.

For them, this approach undermined the authority and legitimacy of the Bible, and called into question the rest of the scriptures.

As Congregationalist preacher Leonard Bacon stated: “The evidence that there were both slaves and masters of slaves in churches founded and directed by the apostles, cannot be got rid of without resorting to methods of interpretation that will get rid of everything.”

For Moses Stuart, an anti-abolitionist and professor at Andover Theological Seminary, those who argued against what the Bible clearly said about slavery must “give up the New Testament authority, or abandon the fiery course which they are pursuing.”

The debate polarized Christians in the U.S. Denominations divided over it. In fact, the modern-day Southern Baptist Convention traces its origin to the split in the Baptist family that happened in those days.

 *      *      *                

Of course, the analogy between slavery and same-sex relationships isn’t perfect.

For one thing, the issue of slavery was not settled in the churches. It was settled by the politicians, generals and soldiers who made it possible for African-Americans to become free.

For another, there were significant economic interests at play; the economy of the southern states depended on the practice, including the personal fortunes of Christian plantation owners.

It can also be argued that Christianity was already moving in the direction of abolishing slavery; Christians in the U.S. south were merely lagging behind in making the change.

Despite these differences, it seems to me there is a lesson that can be learned from that long-ago conflict—a lesson that can help Christians involved in this struggle today.

And what is that lesson?

It's about choosing the ground the battle will be fought on.

What do I mean by that?

During the Civil War, generals on both sides spent a lot of time choosing where to fight their battles.

They avidly scouted the terrain, constantly looking for what they called "good ground"ground that favoured their forces.

This was typically high ground, which allowed them to see their enemy, and which forced opposing armies to attack them on ground of their own choosing.

Something similar happened in the battle over slavery in the church.

Instead of fighting for abolition on ground chosen by pro-slavery Christians—combating select verses from the Bible, battles they were apt to lose—those who wanted to rid the U.S. of that scourge chose a different ground for the fight.

The ground they chose was the wider, larger arc of the whole of scripture, and what it said about God's bigger plan for the freedom of all humankind.

Of course, it wasn't foolproof. They were accused of not taking the Bible seriously, and of undermining its authority. Divisions in churches resulted.

But by moving the battle to a different location, they got to control more of the narrative about the issue, just like a Civil War army that was lodged on the heights.

People who want to see the church be more accepting of LGBTQ people might want to do the same thing.

Instead of battling verse-by-verse, ask the bigger question: What does the Bible say about God's larger plan for all people? 

If we believe the Bible is the story about God's widening love and mercy, then that is the ground they might want to choose to fight this war on. 

Of course, they won't win every battle; no army does.

But from where I sit, I think they have a better chance of winning the war.

Photo at top: Slave auction in Virginia, 1861.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Passing the Peace and Passing the Germs: Can You Catch a Cold at Communion?

One hundred years ago, the Spanish Flu struck North America.

One theory has it that the outbreak started with soldiers in Kansas. Another suggests it began in China and was spread to North America by Chinese labourers who were ill with the disease, and who traveled across Canada to join the Chinese Labour Corps in Europe.

However it began, the outbreak killed between 50 million to 100 million people around the world, including between 30,000 to 50,000 in Canada.

Panic was widespread; nobody knew how to battle or prevent it except to try to limit exposure to those who were sick. 

In Winnipeg, schools, theatres, churches and other public gatherings were shut down for more than five weeks in an effort to control the spread of the disease.

Thoughts about that long ago pandemic came to mind during our current flu season. 

Unlike a century ago, we know how to limit the spread of the virus: stay home if sick, cover when you cough, and wash your hands often.  

That, and get a flu shot!

Despite taking all these precautions, sometimes I wonder if churches might not be ground zero for the flu, what with all the shaking of hands in the foyer, the ushers passing out bulletins and the passing of the peace—which is also usually accompanied by shaking hands.

Then there’s communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper or The Eucharist, depending on your tradition.

The practice varies. In some churches, the celebrant breaks off a piece of bread and puts it directly into the hands or mouth of each participant.

This is followed by drinking wine from a common cup. After each sip, the celebrant wipes the cup and turns it a bit before offering it to the next participant. 

At other churches, worshipers don’t drink directly from the cup. Instead, they dip their bread into it, a practice known as intinction.

I don’t know about you, but this all seems ripe not just for passing on a blessing, but also passing on germs—lots of them.

But what do I know? I’m not an expert in epidemiology. So I decided to ask one. I contacted Dr. Allan Ronald, Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba and Senior Advisor for the International Centre for Infectious Diseases.

According to Ronald, “infection from shared vehicles like a common communion cup are difficult or impossible to prove.”

Influenza, he says, tends to be most commonly spread by respiratory means—inhalation—not sharing a communion cup, along with coming into contact with surfaces that have the virus on them, and then touching mouth, nose or eyes.

To back up his comments, he cites a 1988 study from Great Britain titled “The hazard of infection from the shared communion cup.”

The study found that “the occasional transmission of micro-organisms is unaffected by the alcoholic content of the wine, the constituent material of the cup or the practice of partially rotating it.”

It was, however “appreciably reduced when a cloth is used to wipe the lip of the cup between communicants.”

It went on to say that “no episode of disease attributable to the shared communion cup has ever been reported” and that there is no evidence to suggest the “practice of sharing a common communion cup should be abandoned because it might spread infection.”

Although the study is 30 years old, Ronald says he has heard of nothing since to contradict it.

Then again, he doesn’t have to worry; the church he attends uses tiny individual cups for communion, like the ones I grew up using in church.

It turns out the invention of those cups can also be traced back to worries about disease. In this case, it goes back to the late nineteenth century in the U.S.

During that time of rapid urbanization, when millions of people were flocking to cities and sanitation and sanitary practices were less well developed, fears arose about what kind of germs might be lingering in the common cup during communion.

Today, it’s not fear of disease that keeps the little cups in use at some evangelical or Protestant churches; it’s more likely just tradition or convenience.

In the end, it appears we don’t need to worry about getting the influenza from communion. 

We may still want to be wary when passing the peace, though.

From the March 17, 2018 Winnipeg Free Press. Photo at top from the Daily Beast.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Presbyterians in Canada Issue Letter of Repentance to LGBTQ* Community

“We are sorry, and we repent.”

That’s the message sent last month by the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) to “all those harmed by homophobia and hypocrisy by and within the church.”

The letter was written by PCC moderator Peter Bush, who is also Minister at Westwood Presbyterian Church here in Winnipeg.

In it the denomination apologizes and repents for how its churches failed “to be safe and welcoming places” for people “who do not identify as heterosexual,” and for being judgmental and excluding others “based on restrictive gender definitions.”

It also says sorry for “our failure to protect” LGBTQ* people who have been “attacked and brutalized,” for failing “to hold people accountable for abuse and hatred” for not speaking up when such attacks occurred.

It also apologizes for putting “more emphasis on a person’s sexual identity than on their identity in Christ.”

The letter concludes by noting that the denomination is committed to “go in a new way and to be a welcoming church,” and to create a “safe place” where “experiences of LGBTQ* people will be told and heard.”

I called Bush. I asked him how the letter has been received.

“The reaction has been generally positive,” he said, noting that it went through a number of drafts over period of seven months and was read by “respected leaders” and others before being released.

“Some think it goes too far, while others think it doesn’t go far enough,” he added.

I noted that the PCC was called on to repent in this way 18 years ago, in 1994, when a report on human sexuality was delivered to the denomination.  What took so long?

Bush admitted it took “an embarrassingly long time” for the letter to be issued. But he didn’t think there was anything nefarious in the delay.

“It was part of a larger debate about human sexuality” in the denomination, he said.

The debate, he noted, is about whether clergy can perform same-sex weddings, or if LBGTQ* people can be ordained.

“I don’t think it was intentional, it just got lost for a while,” he said.

I asked: What does he hope the letter will accomplish?

“I hope it will help church reflect on the ways we have done wrong, and on the ways in which the church has been shaped by that wrong, and how it needs to be re-shaped,” he said.

And what will that new shape look like?

“I hope it will cause us to ask if we really are a hospitable church,” he says. “We want everyone to know they are welcome through our doors, to be a part of the life of our congregations.”

So far, there isn’t a lot of reaction to the letter on the denomination’s website. But what’s there is overwhelmingly positive; so far, only one person left a negative comment.

I contacted three Presbyterian Ministers. Two of them also felt good about it.

“It’s a good letter, we needed to do it,” said Matthew Brough, Minister at Prairie Presbyterian Church here in Winnipeg.

“It is the right thing to do,” he added, noting that “there are still bigger issues still to be discussed.”

Barbara Pilozow, Minister at Winnipeg’s St. John’s Presbyterian Church, also welcomed the letter.

“It says exactly what we need to say,” she saod, adding that “our treatment of LGBTQ* people has been embarrassing in the least, terrible at most.”

“It’s our responsibility to apologize, and to find God’s will for in all of this for us.”

But another pastor I contacted, who didn’t want to be named, is very disappointed.

For him, the letter shows how the denomination has been “hijacked” by a “liberal agenda that is so divorced from where the core of the church is.”

This issue, he said, “is killing” the denomination.

Bush acknowledged the issue is causing anxiety for some in the denomination—on both sides of the debate.

While he doesn’t think churches will leave because of the letter, what the church decides about the issue of same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ* people could cause “some seismic shifts.”

Pilozow agreed; the church, she said, is not unified on this issue, both among clergy and in congregations.

“This is a hard conversation to have, she said. But, in the end, “it’s God’s church. It will survive no matter what happens.”

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

“The Torah was talking about me

I was driving in an unfamiliar part of the city, trying to find an address, when I missed the stop sign.

Fortunately, the driver who had the right of way at the three-way stop saw me coming. He put on the brakes.

Since it was too late for me to stop, I mouthed the word “sorry!” as I sailed through the intersection.

The near-accident stayed with me for many days. I imagined hitting the other car broadside, probably injuring or even killing the other driver.

Each time I silently thanked God nothing bad happened.

That experience came back to me when I learned of the tragic death of the eight year-old boy who was killed a few weeks ago while crossing a street in St. Vital.

My heart went out immediately to the family, and also to the driver.

From media reports, it appears to have been an accident. At this time of writing, the driver has not been charged, although police say charges could be laid.

And even if there are charges, it’s safe to say he or she never intended to kill a child.

Why do I feel for the driver? He or she has become what’s known as an “accidental killer,” a group none of us wants to belong to.

Not only does the driver now have to live with guilt and remorse, but maybe also the condemnation and opprobrium from society—and possibly without much in the way of help in dealing with the experience.

As author Alice Gregory put it in a riveting article in the New Yorker titled “The Sorrow and the Shame of the Accidental Killer,” there are self-help books written for almost every human failing, challenge or inadequacy.

But there’s nothing for “anyone who has accidentally killed another person. An exhaustive search yielded no research on such people, and nothing in the way of therapeutic protocols, publicly listed support groups, or therapists who specialize in their treatment.”

Dr. Jason Ediger, a Winnipeg psychologist who has worked with people who have accidentally killed or injured others, says it isn’t a major subject in his profession.

“This isn't a specific topic frequently under discussion at present that I'm aware of,” he says.

“The low numbers of people in one place would make researching a therapy designed specifically for these people quite difficult,” he adds.

I asked him: How do these people cope with what they’ve done?

“They may construct narratives where they were less responsible, they may attempt some effort at penance, they may punish themselves, abuse substances to forget, attempt or complete suicide, withdraw from society and isolate themselves,” he says.

Some also “try and find meaning in it somehow,” but “it is unlikely though that they ever get to a place where they don't regret the outcome or their involvement.”

As it turns out, Manitoba Public Insurance does offers financial support so people who cause accidents can get counseling. But the support is not well known.

If the person who caused the accident was injured, a case manager would let them know about the service, says MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley.

But if they weren’t, “they would have to contact” MPI on their own, he says, adding that MPI “relies on brokers” to tell people about various services.

This is not a new issue. In the Old Testament, or what Jews call the Torah, the people of Israel were instructed by God to designate cities of refuge “so that anyone who kills someone inadvertently may flee there.” (Numbers 35:11)

In these cities, accidental murderers were to be protected from the wrath of family members of the deceased. 

While in the city of refuge, the accidental killer could not be harmed. A tribunal would rule if he or she was eligible for ongoing sanctuary.

According to Talmudic commentary, the roads leading to these cities of refuge were to be well marked so those who needed such refuge could find them easily.

In the New Yorker article, Maryann Gray, a secular Jew who accidentally killed a child in a car accident, remembers how she felt when she first learned about the cities of refuge.

“The Torah was talking about me,” she is quoted as saying. “I love that there was a way of recognizing the true devastation that’s been wrought, the harm that’s been done, without condemning the individual.”

I suspect that’s what other accidental killers are looking for—a way live in the world with acceptance, but also with the acknowledgment that something terrible occurred.

A place of refuge, in other words.

From the March 3, 2018 Winnipeg Free Press. Photo from Gerald J. Noonan website.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Update on the Canada Summer Jobs Program: Positives & Negatives, and Lawyers will be Involved

The application form. If the attestation box was not checked,
applicants could not proceed.


That’s the message many church groups have received from the federal government after sending in applications for funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program.

Since the online application form couldn’t be completed without checking agreement with the attestation of support for sexual reproductive and LGBTQ* rights, a number of groups sent in paper applications.

Attached to the form was a letter indicating why they could not agree with the attestation.

According to the Christian Council of Canadian Charities, an umbrella group for church-related non-profits in Canada, groups that sent in paper applications tell them their applications have been returned with note indicating there is “missing information.”

The note states that any “alteration or modification of the attestation” will result in an incomplete application.

The Council is recommended that groups who received these letters re-submit the applications, once again without checking the attestation.

They encouraged them to include another letter requesting accommodation under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act. 

Unless there is a change of heart in Ottawa, I expect these applications will also be returned as incomplete.

But while some groups are testing to see what happens if they file an incomplete application, others aren’t applying at all.

That’s what’s happening in London, Ont., where the local Catholic Diocese didn’t apply for summer jobs funding.

“I believe that we need to take a stand against the position of the government of Canada and say that we will not be bullied into even the appearance of collusion on this issue,” says Bishop Ronald Fabbro.

“We can make a powerful statement by saying ‘no’ to the conditions as set down by the government.”

I don’t know how many other groups made similar decisions. I am aware of one church organization in Winnipeg that decided not to apply.

Now that the deadline for applications has passed, what’s next? One possibility is court action. 

That’s what Lorna Dueck, CEO of Crossroads Christian Communications, told supporters in a letter earlier this month.

In the letter, she asks: “Is our Prime Minister and his government creating a climate of discrimination against Christianity in Canada?”

She notes that in the past ministries she has headed applied for funding from the program.

“Sometimes I got a grant, sometimes I didn't, but I always felt the process was fair,” she says.

But now, she states, “if we don't attest, our applications will be denied . . . we must now deny our own biblical beliefs to access the tax-payer-funded summer jobs program.”

Unless the policy changes, she says, “you can expect to see Canada's Christian leadership take the Canada Summer Jobs controversy to court to fight for our constitutional right of not being discriminated against for our Christian beliefs.”

Indeed, that is what’s happening; the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Legal Fellowship have announced they are “contemplating commencing litigation” against the government over the attestation requirement.

In order for there to be a meaningful challenge, they are a calling on “willing organizations” to lend their names to the  proposed litigation.

Meantime, at least one Parliamentarian has picked up the cause. Conservative MP Harold Albrecht of Kitchener-Conestoga has launched a petition calling on the government “to remove this discriminatory requirement.”

As of this posting, over 5,900 people had signed it.

While this situation has upset many faith-based charities, my own feeling is it will not financially hurt those that are rejected, or that didn’t apply, at least in the short term.

I expect that their supporters, and maybe others, will step up to make up any gap in funding out of need, principle, or in protest against the government’s action—or all three.

They might even come out of it stronger with new donors and higher brand awareness.

Another positive from the issue is how it has highlighted the role faith groups play in serving Canada’s neediest citizens.

To take one example, from here in Winnipeg.

At Winnipeg Harvest, the city’s food bank, about 58 percent of the groups that distribute food it provides are faith-based.

That number would be higher if programs outside of Winnipeg were included, according to Harvest spokesperson Donald Benham.

“We continue to count on those [faith-based] groups and those volunteers to provide a vital link to the people we serve, in the neighbourhoods in which they live,” Benham says.

In the weeks ahead, it’s going to be interesting to see the impact of the new policy. How many fewer groups received funding? Were services cut? And where will things go from here?

No matter what happens, I expect lawyers will be involved.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Religion a Way to Combat Epidemic of Loneliness?

Last month, the British government created a new portfolio called the Minister for Loneliness.

The idea for the new ministry arose out of research that found about nine million Britons—14% of the population—are lonely.

Loneliness cuts across all age groups, but it is particularly hard on the elderly.

More than a third of older people in Great Britain reported being overwhelmed by loneliness. About half of people over 75 live alone, with many saying they can go days or even weeks with no meaningful social interaction.

The situation is similar in Canada, where as many as 1.4 million elderly Canadians say they are lonely.

Overall, between 25% to 30% of Canadians describe themselves as lonely, young and old alike.

Being lonely is hard on mental health, but also on physical health. Researchers say being lonely increases the chance of premature death by 14 percent.

What’s behind the epidemic of loneliness?

Some blame our high rates of mobility—people move a lot today, disrupting long-term relationships. And when children move to faraway cities, parents are left behind and on their own.

Others blame social media. Although it’s never been easier to connect with people, it can also lead to fewer physical encounters with actual human beings.  

And then there’s the general decline in participation in civic life—decreasing involvement in service groups, parent-teacher associations, labour unions, political parties and the like, as outlined in Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Thinking about the epidemic of loneliness, I wonder: Could the decrease in participation in faith groups also be part of the problem?

Many studies show that regular participation in worship services and other religious activities can protect against loneliness.

And being part of a worshipping community is associated with higher levels of social integration and support—things that help people feel less lonely.

As more and more people drop out of religious groups, perhaps loneliness is an unintended consequence.

But the studies about the positive effects of being part of a religious group only evaluate and measure how it feels to have someone to talk to, to be part of a group, or what it means to get a casserole when you’re sick.

There must be more to it than that; what about the spiritual dimension?

That’s the question I posed to Dr. Delmar Epp, associate professor of psychology at Canadian Mennonite University.

From a psychological perspective, he says, people do “have a need to belong.”

People of faith would call that “being created by God with a need to be in relationship with others . . . its fundamental to who we are as human beings,” he says.

But where does God fit in? His answer was to point me to Lee Kirkpatrick’s work on attachment theory as it pertains to religion.

I am not going to pretend I can do a good job of explaining attachment theory in a short column like this.

In short, it is that idea that humans form deep and abiding bonds with their caregivers when they are young. This provides us with a sense we are secure because someone who is strong will keep us safe.

In Kirkpatrick’s view, for believers God becomes an attachment figure—someone to have a relationship with, and to turn to when we feel unsafe or distressed.

“People can view God as their friend and companion, a comforter and protector,” Epp says.

Through prayer, worship and meditation, people can feel close to God and not so alone, he adds.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out so neatly. People who have bad experiences with caregivers when young can struggle to form an attachment to God when older.

And if your own parents were harsh and neglectful, it can be tough to believe in a heavenly parent who cares for you.

Places of worship aren’t perfect, either. They can be lonely experiences for those who don’t feel they can be open and honest with others about their struggles for fear of being judged.

Yet there’s still something about religion that seems to make a big difference in loneliness and overall health.

At a time when millions of people are looking for a wonder drug, therapy, treatment program or workout routine that will lead to better mental and physical health, it seems that one might already exist: Religion.

But I don’t expect it any western government to create a Minister for Religion and Health anytime soon.

From the Feb. 17 Winnipeg Free Press. Image from the Daily Express.