Take a Hike: Faith in our people

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Spirituality is central to the way I live my life. I read my horoscope every day, never leave the house without a crucifix, celebrate Ramadan and Hanukkah – both, just in case – and have Hindu and Shinto shrines on my property. I reek of incense constantly, like a wall of scented smog preceding and following me everywhere.

I’ve got all the bases covered.

I was concerned when Ray Coulson joined me for a walking discussion of religion that he might not share my somber focus on the transcendent. Not that the curator of the armoury’s regimental museum would be an atheist – god forbid – but that he might not spend every waking moment, like I do, meditating on the realm beyond this one.

I was right to be concerned. Coulson described his religious beliefs as a quiet but important part of his identity.

“My beliefs in all the holy things is a loud, obnoxious, vital part of who I am,” I said.

Clearly, I was operating on a higher metaphysical plane than my companion.

Coulson is a member of the United Church. My mother was a United Church minister and my sister is also a preacher in the United Church. I’m pretty sure that means I’m good with St. Peter no matter what I do. 

“I’m not a fan of the United Church,” I said. “Too tolerant. I like hellfire and brimstone, smiting and gnashing. Did I mention brimstone? That stuff’s awesome.”

The curator expressed his faith in a life beyond this one and in a being overseeing the universe.

“His name is Declan,” I said. “And he has a goatee, not a long white beard. I saw him in a vision.”

The retired insurance adjuster and militia member thought it was unlikely God’s name was Declan. I asked him to prove it, but he couldn’t, and I know what I saw. Point Eric.

Coulson expressed an ecumenical view of the planet’s different faiths. He said people of different religions who worship their god and live good, moral lives, are all worshipping the same being.

He still believes in judgment, though.

“Paula Abdul or Simon Cowell?” I asked.

“Pardon?” he said.

“A judgment that’s inconsistent, a little off-the-wall, but fundamentally good-natured, or a judgment that’s harsh but real, pulling no punches but reliable?”

Coulson shook his head. I should have given him the Nicki Minaj option.

The church is in trouble, in Coulson’s view. Too many gray hairs, not enough young families. He’s noticed that a church on Robert Angus seems to draw a bigger crowd. He thinks it’s all about engagement: the congregation wants to interact and participate.

I thought he was finally making some good points, but then he brought up the example of a boy playing guitar as part of a church service.

“Madness!” I declared. “Where does it stop, Ray, where does it stop? Tambourines? Exposed ankles? The rock and the roll?”

Sacrilege. Some people have no sense of the sacred.

 

Disclaimer: Take a Hike is a mix of fact and fiction. Eric’s guest may or may not have said what appears in this column. It’s probably best you assume s/he didn’t.

Organizations: United Church

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