Tag Archives: Canada

Canada: The “Meh” Factor

Wikipedia defines the word “meh” as “an interjection, often an expression of apathy, indifference or boredom.” It is commonly used to express an extreme lack of enthusiasm or positive emotion. This can be a reaction to something you experience. For example, if someone asks, “What did you think of the latest Harry Potter film?” replying “meh” would mean something like, “I didn’t hate it enough to walk out, but that’s about the best I can say.” “Meh” can also be your response to a proposed course of action. If someone asks, “How about pizza for dinner tonight?” and you answer “meh,” it means, “I won’t bash your head in with a crowbar for suggesting it, but I am in no way on board with this plan.”

As I read up on Canadian history, two things strike me. First: pirates. Specifically, Newfoundland pirates like Peter Easton (who captured the Sheriff that England sent to arrest him) and the Kirke brothers (who captured Quebec). The first Governor of Newfoundland was a pirate (David Kirke). That’s just awesome. And the awesomeness continues among the Saskatchewan pirates.

The second thing that stands out is the number of times that Canadian history has been shaped by the power of “meh.” On many occasions, Canadians have been asked (or commanded) to take certain actions (sometimes by other countries, and sometimes by other Canadians), and they have responded with “meh.” Not really responding with outright rebellion or gunfire or massive protests, just an extreme lack of enthusiasm. And that “meh” has created the Canada we now know.

This is a partial listing of some of the prominent history-shaping Canadian “meh”s:

** In February of 1763, France signed away its North American holdings (except for St. Pierre and Miquelon and some of Louisiana). A few months later, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 established the “Province of Quebec” with James Murray as Governor. The Proclamation was a very good deal for “Canadians,” but a very bad deal for “Canadiens,” and Murray also faced considerable pressure from English Protestant merchants to put the boot down on those Frenchies, lest they start getting ideas.
Murray’s reply: “Meh.”

** In 1775, the Americans were taking a very “non-meh” approach to gaining independence from Britain. During the build-up to the Revolution, the American colonists invited Canada to send delegates to the Continental Congress, and sent the following:

“By His Excellency, George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies of North America. To the inhabitants of Canada: Friends and Brethren, the unnatural Contest between the English Colonies and Great-Britain has now risen to such a height that Arms alone must decide it… Come then, my Brethren, unite with us in an indissoluble Union, let us run together to the same Goal.”

The Canadian reply: “Meh.”

** As American and British troops fought it out, and American forces pushed toward Quebec City, Quebec Governor Guy Carleton believed that the French Canadians (grateful that the Quebec Act of 1774 permitted them to be kinda sorta half French in their laws and practices) would rise up and happily defend their British overlords from the rampaging Americans.
The Quebec reply: “Meh.”

** During the War of 1812, General Hull marched into Upper Canada, expecting Canadians to happily throw off the yoke of British rule and join the Union (which makes sense, since Americans are composed of 50% Cool, 45% Awesome, and 5% Chuck Norris Jokes, so who WOULDN’T want to be American?).
The Canadian reply: “Meh.”

** Last on our list: when it came to relations with the British Empire, Wilfrid Laurier was the “Meh” Heard Round the World. Joseph Chamberlain proposed a Council of the Empire in 1897, so that military and economic power could be consolidated. Laurier said “meh.” And he kept saying “meh.” Military unification? “Meh.” An imperial common market? “Meh.” Boer War? “Meh.” His critics started calling him “Sir Won’tfrid.”

There we have it. The Canadian “meh” is a powerful thing, not to be taken lightly.

What do you think? Does “meh” still resonate in the Canadian heart? Is this the hidden answer to why Canada did not join the US and Britain and Australia in the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Is this the hidden answer to why the 1995 Quebec referendum was defeated? Is this the hidden answer to why so many of my students get to the end of the semester and STILL haven’t picked a paper topic?

Written by Dr. Charles Hackney. Associate Professor of Psychology at Briercrest College and Seminary.

(This Flashback Friday article was originally posted August 2, 2010.)

 

Canadian Christianity — C&MA Ordain First Female Pastor

On Sunday, the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada ordained their first female pastor, Eunice Smith. Last year, the denomination voted to change the bylaws regarding ordination to allow for women to be ordained. From the news release:

Eunice has served the C&MA for more than sixty years. She has served in the Canadian Midwest District, the Caribbean Sun Region and the Canadian Pacific District. Eunice was ordained in Richmond Alliance Church, in Richmond, B.C., the church that she currently serves and calls home.

Rev. Jon Coutts, lead pastor of Richmond Alliance Church, deemed Eunice’s ordination “a celebration of God’s faithfulness to and through her over the years, as well as a meaningful, formal affirmation of her gifts and calling for ministry in the church.”

Eunice’s son, Rev. Dr. Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University College, declared that Eunice’s ordination affirms the seeds planted through her teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Eshet Chayil! A woman of valour!

 

Summer Is…

photo(3)

…the smell of bug spray and sunscreen and sweat.

…a father spending hours pushing his little girls on the swing set.

…floppy hats with big brims.

…half the town gathering out on the field two nights a week to watch the kids play soccer.

…BBQ chicken on paper plates.

…tractors in the farmer’s field from dawn until dusk.

…squealing children running through the spray park.

…little green army men getting run over by the lawnmower.

…catching ladybugs in an empty peanut butter jar.

…sunday afternoon picnics.

…roasting marshmallows and hotdogs over an outdoor fire pit.

…a never-ending battle against the weeds in the tomato patch.

…prairie sunsets that fill the never-ending horizon.

 

The “Unsuccessful” Church

By all modern measures, the little church would be considered a failure. It never grew past 50 in attendance. Its demographic was always heavy on the seniors, with only a handful of people under the age of 25. For twenty years the church gathered in a rented facility, a youth centre, and all of the church’s belongings, from the pulpit, to the collapsible communion table, to the hymnals and coffee supplies, fit snugly into a tiny closet. (People used to joke that the little church would be ahead of the game if Christians became a persecuted minority in Canada because it could be packed up in less than fifteen minutes) In the last decade, the church began to die, literally. Every year at least one member went to be with Jesus. With the majority of the members being retired and on fixed incomes, the church operated on a lean budget. As the congregation shrank, the pastor offered to drop down to part-time status to help on expenses. More than one person asked the pastor why he kept ministering there; it wasn’t like he was making a ton of money as a full-time pastor, and now as a part-time pastor he was making bread-crumbs. His response, every time, was so long as people kept showing up, he would continue to pastor. This was a pastor that took joy in ministering to seniors, and in the ever-increasing race for “families and young people” more and more churches were neglecting their elders. This pastor wouldn’t do that to them. Seniors needed pastoral care just as much as young families.

The church was eventually dissolved. 20 years of ministry and it died. It was merged with another tiny congregation.

“Unsuccessful.” Or was it?

It was the church that I was discipled in. While I was saved through a large Pentecostal youth ministry, it was this tiny, dying church that took me under its wing and helped me grow in the faith. The pastor’s wife picked me up from home every Sunday morning, and drove me to church. I learned about being a Christian, and a woman, and a servant during those car rides. I didn’t say much, but I just listened as the pastor’s wife ministered to me through the stories of her life experiences. I learned about serving by helping to set up the rows of chairs every morning, by placing a hymnal and bible on each chair, by helping to put everything away at the end of the service. I learned about suffering and struggle as I prayed with members who were suffering from cancer, dementia, or the loss of a spouse. I learned about joy as I shared in the celebrations of 50th wedding anniversaries, birth announcements of grandbabies and great-grandbabies. It was in this church that I was baptized. It was in this church that I got to cut my teeth on leading worship and preaching. It was by this pastor that I was married, and that my first child was dedicated to Jesus.

The church may be gone, and church growth experts would say that it was an “unsuccessful” church, but they would be wrong. It’s not about numbers.

It’s about proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrected.

It’s about faithfulness.

It’s about service.

It’s about obedience.

It’s about caring for one another and discipling each other.

It’s about changing lives.

And that’s what this church did. It changed the lives of seniors who would have otherwise been forgotten by larger churches. And it changed my life. I learned about the long road of the life of faith, a life that is marked not by successive mountaintop experiences, but by the slow and steady walk of decades of faithful discipleship.

 

A Seminary Student’s Christmas Wish List

Growing up, my mom said that we could put anything we wanted on our Christmas lists. It didn’t mean we would get everything (or anything) on our lists, because our lists were “wish” lists and  not “get” lists. In the spirit of that wish list, I offer today my Seminary Student Christmas Wish List.

What I Want For Christmas:

  • Heat in S115.
  • For the contract with Coca-Cola to be dropped in favour of a contract with Pepsi.
  • Electrical plugs installed at the Bean for people’s laptops.
  • A big endowment for the Seminary that would cut tuition rates in half.
  • An indoor play space at the Crossroads for the little kids to play on when it’s forty below (translation: for six months of the year)
  • For the student lounge to be turned into a bar.
  • More single men (note: this isn’t my wish; its Lori’s wish and I wish it for Lori).
  • For the Bean to regularly stock potato chips as a snack option.
  • A new course offering: Theology and Science Fiction
  • For a pizza joint to be opened in town.
  • A dedicated prayer room.
  • For the entire town of Caronport to be moved closer to Regina.

 

The Identity of Leviathan and the Meaning of the Book of Job — By Dr. Eric Ortlund

One of my favourite things about seminary is being able to hear about what the professors are currently researching. At Briercrest, there are monthly/bi-monthly colloquia, where faculty present their latest paper, research, or test out material for presenting at academic conferences. On Friday, Dr. Eric Ortlund, professor of Old Testament presented on “The Identity of Leviathan and the Meaning of the Book of Job.” The tech people recorded the colloquium and it’s now available for those who weren’t able to attend. (Let’s hope they video all the colloquia this year!)

To Thesis or Not to Thesis, That is the Question

In the M.A. program that I am taking, students have a choice: they can either do a thesis (9 credit hours) at the end of their program, or they can do an independent reading project and take two extra elective classes. Now of course there are academic requirements that need to be met to qualify for the thesis track (certain GPA, permission of the program coordinator, etc), but assuming the student qualifies, why would they choose the thesis or non-thesis option?

Usually, the thesis track is chosen if the student wishes to continue on for doctoral or post-graduate studies. Usually, the thesis track is chosen if the student has been tailoring his courses and coursework to fit a specific theme that lays the groundwork for, and builds towards, doing a 100 page thesis on the topic.

There is of course a very pragmatic question that students may consider: which one is more work? True, the thesis is 100-120 pages and a year of study and writing, but sometimes that actually ends up being less work than 6,000 pages of reading for the reading project and two electives, especially if the electives are “new” topics for the student. Sometimes course work is actually more time intensive than a sustained thesis project.

An existential question also needs to be considered: Do I love the topic enough to spend a year writing about it? If nothing else, the thesis project is an exercise in perseverance in which the student has to just have the endurance to make it to the end. Sometimes topics are chosen that just won’t hold the interest of the student for that length of time.

I have one class left this semester, and the plan has always been to start my thesis after Christmas. I’m just now starting to question that plan. For the most part, I still know that the thesis is the track I’m headed toward.

I know I have already put a lot of hours into my subject, and have tried to tailor my papers for my other courses to overlap with my thesis topic.

I know that the sustained writing project of the thesis will be an excellent exercise that will help to improve my writing, both academic and creative. If I can’t write a 100 page thesis, what makes me think I can write and complete a novel?

I know that the thesis track will offer more flexibility in terms of spreading out my workload. Instead of gearing up for “intensive” week-long modular classes, I can pace my thesis to have roughly the same amount of work each week. This will be particularly helpful as I try to re-discover a healthy school-life balance.

I think the biggest thing I’m struggling with is the existential question. I worry that I’ll finish the thesis and never want to read Barth ever again. On the other hand, that might be a good thing, as it will push me to discover new theologians and new theological traditions.

I’m tired.

I’m in the home stretch, but it’s been a long journey.

I’m tired.

Part of me wants to just find the short-cut to the end.

I’m tired.

It’s a good tired.

It’s the satisfied tired of having worked hard and accomplished much.

And even though I’m tired, I am happy. I love theology. I love studying. And even though this year has been my year of chaos, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I have learned a whole bunch about what I’m actually capable of.

I’ve learned that the project management and time management skills I learned in the secular world have a place and a use in my spiritual and educational life.

I’ve learned that theological reflection and academic study is a valid and important way to praise and worship and glorify Jesus: the Word made Flesh.

Canadian Christianity — Bishop Michael Ingham

On Monday night, Luther College at the University of Regina hosted its annual Luther Lecture. This year’s invited guest was Michael Ingham, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Ingham was introduced as one of the 25 most influential Anglicans in the world, and given the issues and events that have happened in the diocese of New Westminster in the last decade, this is not surprising. I have spent the last two years reading and trying to figure out the Anglican Communion, and I have read about Bishop Ingham, as well as reading some of his own writings. Attending the lecture gave me a chance to see the man himself, and I hope that it will help me to better evaluate his influence and his theology without relying on some of the opinions that are coloured by pain and anger. Saying that, Bishop Ingham presented himself as a quiet, smart, and well-composed. And while there are still theologies and actions that I still strongly disagree with, and believe that have caused damage to the Anglican Church in Canada and worldwide, Bishop Ingham is not the devil incarnate, or the “bogeyman.”

To introduce his lecture, he talked about the recent controversy about whether or not the liberal, mainline churches are dying, as discussed in mainstream media articles like Ross Douthat, Margaret Wente and Diana Butler-Bass.

This leads to a need to talk about what “success” looks like or mean in Christian discourse. Is a church successful if it’s growing? Is it successful if it doesn’t? What does success look like in light of the fact that we follow a Saviour who suffered and died?

Ingham’s lecture was on the impact of the shift from modernity to postmodernity on the Christian Church. For the most part, what he said was not really controversial, as he gave a basic overview of both modernity and postmodernity. His argument was that the labels “evangelical” “catholic” and “liberal” are fundamentally modern in orientation and are thus meaningless and obsolete in a post-modern context. These labels have become political labels that represent ideologies rather than theologies, and they belong to an older generation of Christians, and have no place in the new Christianity of the 21st century. Thus, younger Christians are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves. They are post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-conservative, etc.

Ingham then looked at the evolution that has occurred within the three traditions of Christianity: liberalism, evangelicalism, and Catholicism. So for example, out of liberal Christianity has arisen post-liberalism and radical orthodoxy. From evangelicalism has arisen the emerging church movement, and from Catholicism has arisen communities like Taize.

He argued that part of the problem today is that in spending so much time about the decline of the church, we are missing the fact that new and exciting things are happening. Indeed, he emphasized that the church is not dying; but it is changing. And while changed can feel like death because it is painful, Christianity is in the process of evolving.

It was interesting to observe his confidence that he is right in his decisions and actions in his role of Bishop. His lecture demonstrated that he believes that the issue of SSM has been settled in the Anglican church, that he has won, and that it is just a matter of time before the rest of the Anglican church capitulates to his position. This was evidenced in his emphasis that the new generation of Christians doesn’t want to fight about issues or doctrine. The way he set it up, it was clear that the older generation just needs to get on board with the younger generation; that the reason the young generation doesn’t want or need to fight is because it is right on the issues.

If I had had the chance, (or the courage), I would have asked the Bishop one of  two questions:

First, what will this age of redundant and obsolete labels mean for the selection and task of the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Second, his very concluding observation was that we shouldn’t focus on the people who are leaving the church but rather on the people who are coming, made me want to ask him if he is working at all to reconcile with the conservative congregations that left his diocese for the Anglican Network.

This was my first Luther Lecture, and I think I would go again. In the 40 years of the Luther Lecture, Luther College has hosted a diverse company of scholars and thinkers, including Stanley Hauerwas, Hans Kung, Margaret Somerville, James Cone, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Next year, the Luther Lecture will feature Martin Marty.

An Update To The Blog

To my blog readers:

As of today, my blog Cheese-Wearing Theology is now self-hosted. What does this mean? The web address hasn’t changed, but if you subscribed to my blog while it was hosted on WordPress.com you will have to resubscribe. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. I hope that you will re-subscribe and be a part of the cheese-wearing community. If you would like to subscribe via email, please see the link on the right side of the homepage.

It’s been a busy week as I have worked to move everything over, so my blogging has been a bit irregular. That should change this week. There are lots of exciting things to come on the blog, so I hope that you will join me for that.

Again, I just want to thank all of my readers, and I hope that the community that is being built here continues to grow.

And a big shout-out goes to Nick, who helped me get the blog all set up on its new server.

-Amanda