The Uprising Against the Tyranny of Champagne in Canada
Before there were Canadian truckers, there were Canadian pastors.
In case the previous sentence sounds strange to you, here’s what’s been going on in Canada lately. Truckers from across the country flocked to Ottawa a week or two ago. They did it to peacefully protest the loss of freedoms. Under the guise of COVID politics, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has changed the very nature of citizenship in Canada. Vaccination mandates, the forced closure of all kinds of establishments and vaccination passports have meant that Canadians have suffered enormously as their freedoms have been reduced. In the name of fighting a (real) virus, a once great nation has fallen to its knees.
But he didn’t stop there. The truckers fought back. They showed that the light of the West – the freedom of the individual – has not been extinguished. Putting their livelihoods on the line, truckers acted as men must do in the face of a massive civilizational threat: boldly. They didn’t burn down Ottawa or anywhere else. They caused neither violence nor chaos. Unlike the riots of summer 2020 – riots fomented by Black Lives Matter, Antifa and mainstream media coverage, winter 2022 was marked by peaceful protests. Truckers have given the world an example of how to defend freedom and defy tyranny – a tyranny of a typically Trudedian kind. Call it the “tyranny of champagne,” because although Canada’s most prominent political leader projects a cosmopolitan air, if you look beneath the half-smile and flowing hair, you see an emerging totalitarian.
The truckers defied the “tyranny of champagne”. However, they were not the first to do so in Canada. Beginning in the summer of 2020, Ontario Pastor Jacob Reaume saw he could not fail to gather his people for congregational worship. The Trinity Bible Chapel flock in Waterloo needed the Word and the gospel. Sermonettes on Zoom and SMS to each other would not be enough. Reaume’s conscience told him that gathering remotely on Zoom was no substitute for the gathered church (Hebrews 10:25). Reaume instinctively knew what John MacArthur proclaimed: “There is no Zoom Church.”
It’s not a bad thing for the sick to be able to broadcast sermons, of course. Additionally, Christians have real disagreements in charity over policies regarding lockdowns and government decrees. There are gray areas and difficult questions that pastors have faced over the past two years, and we have sympathy for their efforts to try to hold churches together in divided times. But with that noted, Reaume and his peers saw something vital: Caesar does not rule church worship. Christ does. To meet weekly, even on difficult and stormy days, even when Caesar says not to, is to give him his due (Matthew 22:21).
So, soon after the lockdown began in spring 2020, Reaume – like many pastors – gathered the flock and “opened the church”. In doing so, he drew the wrath of the Canadian authorities. Over time, in late 2020 and 2021, they fined his church millions of dollars. Yet Reaume and his elders refused to stop meeting. They didn’t do it to antagonize the government; they did it to glorify God and love people in need. God has ordained that his people should come together, so to love God means to come together to worship, which also happens to be the primary way Christians love their neighbor (see Matthew 22:34-39). Yet today we are tempted by our fallen world to break the first commandment (and not gather together for worship) in order to keep the second commandment (and therefore love our neighbor).
These pastors knew that Christians needed congregational worship and bodily life, however desperately. Likewise, unbelievers need the gospel. This becomes particularly clear in a global lockdown where seemingly all the comforts and pleasures of normal life have run out. A woman who had no interest in church before the lockdown visited the Bible Trinity Chapel during it. Her name is Jennifer. According to her own testimony, she was shooting cocaine, engaging in promiscuity, and living without hope. She was lost. But her son asked her to come to a rally at Trinity, and she did. She heard biblical truth and experienced biblical love. The Spirit of God moved and Jennifer was born again. She was baptized not long ago in Trinity and said these words in her baptismal testimony:
More recently, I was smoking and injecting seven grams of cocaine a day, and my son asked me to come to a prayer meeting at Trinity. In my small group, I asked that the prayer stop… I know for a fact that I would be dead right now if God had not used this church in my life.
The ministry of Trinity, Pastor Reaume and the elders of this church has borne much fruit even in difficult days. The same trend – light progressing through darkness – was also occurring in Western Canada. In Edmonton, at a church called GraceLife, Pastor James Coates and his elders had come to similar conclusions. Coates saw that his people needed the hope of the gospel and determined with his elders and the support of the church that GraceLife Edmonton would not close in 2020 and 2021. To do this, James Coates and his church have been targeted. The civil authorities put a fence around the church building. Coates refused to stop preaching the Word to his people (and hundreds of others who came), and for that, was thrown in jail in February 2021.
The same thing happened to Tim Stephens, a pastor in Calgary, Alberta. In May and June 2021, Stephens went to jail for rounding up his flock. The video of Stephens taken by authorities from his family is heartbreaking. Her children are crying and Stephens has been taken away. Alongside Stephens, other loyal men also spoke out and took their stand in Canada. Men like Mike Hovland, Steve Richardson, Aaron Rock, Joseph Boot, Samuel Sey and Steve Bainbridge have come forward as those who will not bend their knees to the tyranny of champagne. Still others, like Artur Pawlowski – a Protestant of a different religious affiliation than the aforementioned men – have also paid a heavy price for standing up for religious freedom.
Yet here is something remarkable: the American church has remained largely silent about the plight of the Canadian church. Rarely has so much communication power been so untapped. Very few pastors, theologians and religious leaders have supported the persecuted and suffering Canadian Church. In America, with huge organizations dedicated to the cause of religious freedom and freedom in general, few have stood up for the faithful leaders and congregations of Canada. In fact, over the past two years, when Americans (and some Canadians) have spoken out about the suffering of Canadian pastors, they have done so to oppose them, nitpick their arguments, and generally discourage their bravery.
There is much more to say about all of this. However, what should not be missed is this: courage has an effect in Canada, a tremendous effect. It’s always like that. Courage is how the movements move forward; freedom is what comes from the gospel of Christ, freedom of all kinds. God has done something unprecedented in Canada in recent days, and a nation falling under the shadow of tyranny has awakened. The truckers are showing it to us, as is the massive opposition across the country to Trudeau’s champagne tyranny.
Really, at this hour, Trudeau is alone. It is not supported by a wave of popular opinion. He who has done so much to mask and muzzle the Canadian people is well and truly unmasked. In his common grace, God has allowed the world to see – in Canada and around the world – the totalitarian nature of modern leftism. It is not “live and let live” as an ideology; it is “do as I say or suffer”.
So here is the story on the ground. Canada has not fallen, not yet. Amid much hard work and real suffering, the real Canada is rising. May he stand up long. We are not asking for violence or destruction but for a return to freedom, human flourishing and justice. If it’s brave truckers who have recently blazed the trail here, know this: before there were Canadian truckers, there were Canadian pastors. Man may oppose them, but God is behind them. What is the emblem of the Christian faith, after all? The light came in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5).
And, we can rightly say, it will never be.