Canadian vs. American Values: They’re different, eh!

Cultural values are changing

But how are they changing and how do we respond?

A July 9, 2016 Abacus study of 1500 Canadians 18 and up mirrored a recent American Gallup poll. When asked the same questions there were significant differences between the two countries! Here are some of the highlights.

  • Canadians are 22 points more likely to say it is moral to have a baby out of wedlock, (84%-62%). And 26 points more likely to say abortion is morally acceptable (69%-43%).
  • Canadians are 21 points more likely to say gay or lesbian relations are moral (81% vs 60%), 19 points more likely to say that sex between unmarried people is moral (86% vs 67%) and 14 points more likely to say divorce is moral (86%-72%).
  • Canadians are 15 points more likely to think pornography in morally acceptable than Americans (49% in Canada, 34% in the US).
  • Canadians are 6 points more likely to say that married men and women having an affair is moral (16%-10%)


A Different Compass

The authors of the study comment that the two countries have their moral compass set differently. When morality is left to a consensus it is clear that different countries will lean toward different options. Hopefully Bible believing Christians hold entirely different compass. As society has less and less regard for Jesus’ teaching and the Ten Commandments of course they will come to other conclusions.

Christian parents, pastors, and teachers need to realize that students will be greatly influenced by the moral standards of their country. Studies show that if students attend church every week they are more likely to hold to the standards of their parents but not completely and not for every student.


Help Students Adopt a Higher Morality

According to the media we are developing a more advanced morality. They believe that we are moving out of the dark ages of Victorian morality into a more evolved, tolerant, educated society. Sadly they don’t measure the societal damage caused by more abortions, sex before marriage, higher divorce rates and sexual confusion among young people.

Helping students adopt Biblical values that seem so archaic to their peers is going to require a network of believers supporting each child into their late adolescence.

Disciples: A Product of Scripture not the Culture

Canadian or American morals stray far from the biblical standard. Left to their own opinions students will conform to the “pattern” of their country. As culture evolves toward no objective standards at all Christians will need to be able to explain God’s reasoning for his standards to their children modeling Biblical values in the home, at Church and in the community.

Here are a few quick ideas for communicating these values.

  • Help students to evaluate movies and media by Biblical standards
  • Help students speak about what they feel is right and wrong
  • Explain moral choices that you make
  • Expose students to moral dilemmas and have students discuss them
  • Help students evaluate conseques of moral choices on the individual and on society. Who gets hurt?

Not an Alarmist But Very Concerned

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am very concerned about moral drift in our society during my life time. The increase rate of drift in the past two decades disturbs me greatly. I take hope in knowing that my parents were also greatly concerned and yet there are always young people who do cling to what is good.

Also I know that Christianity was born into a perverse society and was able to thrive despite temptation and persecution. The light seems to shine brighter when it is surrounded by darkness.

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email


  1. Ron, I really appreciate what you are saying about morality. However, this study is too small and extremely flawed. If you surveyed 1500 people in Montreal and then 1500 people in Saskatchewan, you will have completely different results (French vs English; and, city vs country). Also, if you compare studies in the United States—one group in Utah (Mormon territory) and one group in San Francisco—you will get completely different results. What I believe is that we have not spent enough time with our youth helping them to reason morally. Kohlberg’s study, years ago, stated unequivocally that “the only way we can get better at reasoning morally is to do more of it.” What our faith does is help us with a moral compass. Now what we need to do is share that line of reasoning with others—especially the youth. That raises the next issue in that we don’t do a very good job of being open with youth to allow them to express themselves and therefore don’t get many opportunities to develop their thinking. I firmly believe that we need mentoring programs inside and outside churches where we can create opportunities for discussion. “Youth need a voice.” Read: “What Would It Take For Youth To Come To Church?” Wayne Townsend

    • Amanda Whitesays:

      Mentoring programs are a great idea.

      While a small sample might not represent the populous, it’s good we are discussing morality.

      Our faith (religion) may give a moral compass – but the postmodern society would say that so do other faiths.

      What we have as Chrostians is THE compass maker, the only true north in Jesus Christ and that relationship with him will never steer us wrong! Praise God!!

  2. Amanda Whitesays:


    Interesting!! I wonder why this difference?

    I had an American grandfather and I respect the influence his integrity and values had on our family, and on me personally.

    However, apart from Christ none can be saved and it seems also important to note that ‘Morality’ is not the gospel.

    We are known by our fruit, but not made by it.

    While we must understand the influence of culture on students, and help them to understand that influence, they must also know that we do not battle against flesh and blood and that they can resist the devil and he will flee from them by Christ’s authority and power as they submit to Him.

    For Christians “moral relativity” is somewhat dangerous ground:
    Part of what is happening in our culture is mass rejection and reaction to the moral demands of “modern” (era) Christianity. The yoke of being a good person is an impossible burden when you are dead in sin.

    We have power to be salt and light in a post modern “anything goes”, “nothing is true” culture – we do not have the right to expect the dead to walk in our footsteps or emulate holiness in the culture at large. What would generate mass holiness is a mass encounter with our King and mass revival. This may be won without a word by the holiness God may work in our lives as we give it all to Him and our lives confront -and confound the culture and offer life giving hope!!!

    If I think I am more holy or acceptable to God than someone who has had an abortion – It is quite likely I am lost. ascending to God’s holiness through morality isn’t possible: we are dead in sin, not sick in it. It’s not like I have the common cold if I lie, and you have Cancer if you murder.

    Trying to be a “better person” or even a moral person for that end is just an attempt to ascend to holiness on our own power: it is sin (woe to you Pharisees, and see also Isaiah 14:12-15) True repentance is impossible apart from God’s power, from his conviction and teaching from his word and the illumination of that word by His Holy Spirit.

    Repentance is fruit. We don’t kick at a pile of dead timber and ask it to bear fruit.
    Similarly, expecting the lost to adhere to moral standards is asking the dead to walk. If they get up and start walking because it is ‘moral’, they’re just zombies – there is no true life there!

    Christ alone can restore flesh and life to dry bones. My prayer is that among our culture, young Christians will be salt and light as they live radically for Jesus, connected and grafted into the vine and that the vinedresser would have them bear fruit worthy of His death.

    For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

    • Well said Amanda. Trying to make our culture more moral is not the answer. The answer is being the light of the world and yes, having the fruit of a live consumed by Christ!

  3. Karinasays:

    It is so interesting to see the difference, and be reminded of the important role we play when teaching and showing our students morality. The last thing I want them to believe is that Christianity is some arbitrary set of rules and guidelines that make them offensive to their peers. Helping them develop a reliance on the Holy Spirit living in them and the all-true Word of God for their moral compass, rather than a vague recollection of a rule they heard at church or from their parents. That’s the real challenge, and in my heart, the goal of youth ministry. That is probably why it breaks my heart so much when I see young adults stray from what I thought I had taught them well. Then I have to remember to trust God with their lives – He has the whole world in His hands. As corrupt as it may get in these last days.

  4. John W. Neufeldsays:

    Just a reminder – When I was studying these matters more fully in the 90’s the US had about 24% who claimed they were evangelical Christians whereas Canada had less than 6%. That is a major part of why our morals have deteriorated more than theirs

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