My trip to Canada, what I said there, and I got home anyway

I spent this past week speaking in British Columbia, but first some general observations on Canadian culture.

  • I’m not used to courteous driving, and I aged 2 years watching my drivers slow down in anticipation of green lights possibly turning yellow, letting other drivers weave in, or just generally not being violently aggressive. They’d never make it on the east coast. I don’t even want to think what would happen to them in Asia.
  • But how about that maple syrup !!
  • I want the US government to give me $1 and $2 coins, too.
  • I boarded the airport shuttle at 4:05 am. At 4:10 a family of three got on and gave me about the cheeriest, most melodic, “good morning” I’ve heard since I saw Aunt Bea put a plate of waffles in front of Opie and Andy. Overall, these people are just plain nice, and it almost rubbed off on me.

Anyhoo, I spent the first two days in Victoria, which is on an island, even further away from the US than normal Canada. I spoke first at the University of Victoria on “Academic Freedom and Religious Faith.” I’ve given this same general talk a few times now, and heads nod so often I’m almost afraid they’re going to fall off. I recount my own professional experiences from a historical and sociological perspective, trying to explain the dynamic behind why guarding tradition is held at such a high premium in some Christian circles, which often leads to a lot of heat. (Short answer: fear of losing group identity and the life-narrative such identity provides.)

My host in Victoria was Dr. Rob Fitterer, lead pastor of The Place Community at Lambrick Park Baptist Church, where people gather weekly to hear talks and discus challenging topics. I spoke Tuesday evening there on my book The Evolution of Adam. The place was packed, the crowd hugely supportive, and the discussion could have gone on all night.

I speak often in church settings like this one, where honest discussions about controversial topics are seen as a means of growth, not something to be kept at arm’s length to protect the susceptible masses, as I sometimes hear.

The next day, I took the ferry to Vancouver and then drove on to Langley, where I spoke that evening at Trinity Western University on “Reflections on the Bible, Evolution, and the Journey of Faith.”

Great energy among the students and faculty. I walked through my own approach to interpreting the Bible, the task of theology, and the genuine mystery involved in speaking on topics like God, the human drama, and our life of faith.

The Q&A that evening, along with an open lunch with students the next day, topped off with a faculty only discussion afterwards, were great. Clearly not only science and faith but a whole host of others issues are very much on the minds of students and faculty alike, and their questions reflect my own and those of other Christian colleges I have visited.

As I see it, it comes down to this: what does it mean for followers of Christ to engage the world we live in with intellectual integrity, and what exactly is the task of a Christian college/university in preparing students to do that, given that such institutions are walking a (financial) tightrope of serving both a heritage and an ever-changing world? My advice was, “Don’t ask me. I tried doing that once and it didn’t work out too well.”

Many thanks to my great hosts, drivers, and dinner partners at TWU: Jens Zimmermann, Tony Cummins, Craig Broyles, and Dennis Venema.

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  • Sounds like you had a great time–thanks for sharing!

  • Ryan S.

    Just a heads up Peter. We are all that polite. All the time. While that may be a slight exaggeration… I saw someone accidentally cut someone off in a Starbucks yesterday and they must have each apologized five times to each other six times. The one who was cut off insisted the other lady go first. Welcome to Canada.

  • James

    We are polite on the surface but opinionated underneath. We even think you are polite, maybe pushy. We too are influenced by traditions–those that made us a nation and stream across the border from the south. We are open to the east and growing multiculturalism on all sides. We are governed by tolerance and secularism which is not all bad–good for personal rights and (academic) freedoms. Move to Canada?

  • leo o’bannon

    I know this isn’t the right topic, Pete, but I need to vent. Just heard Dr. Tommy Mitchell give a “lecture” at my church. Talk about being spoon fed! Yikes. I felt like a baby again being forced fed pureed brussel sprouts… I couldn’t gag that stuff up any faster! One of my favorite lines: “The WORLD says that rock is millions of years old, but God says it’s 6,000 years old…who you gonna believe?” All you need is some sort of accent and some smarm and you can be a “lecturer” for AiG. They had their cashiers on hand after the “lecture” so that we could help fund another pointless museum. When the coin in the coffer rings, a fundamentalist springs, I guess. I’d leave that church, but I think all the churches in Michigan buy into AiG’s mud puddle deep apologetics. Lord, beer me strength.

  • Bex

    @leo: All churches or all churches of a particular denomination? Sounds like it’s time for you to move on.

  • Susan_G1

    I am not Canadian (I’m the only person in my family who is an American; a simple twist of geography and childbirth.) So I am proud of Canadians. Road rage is practically unknown up there (I guess you know that now.) They are really nice. Did you know that when the government shutdown prevented the Blue Angels from flying, the Royal Canadian Air Force sent down their Snowbirds??? Brotherly love!

    I’m glad you had a good experience there. Thank you for spreading your lessons learned the hard way to the rest of the world and Canada.

  • Victoria is actually south of the U.S. border /49th parallel and about 10km (6 miles) from the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Glad theology is your strong suit, rather than geography. 🙂

  • Jordan Williams

    Peter, do you have this speaking engagement (or one on similar topics) recorded and available?


  • Leo OBannon

    @Bex I suppose you’re right, but it won’t be easy since my wife has ties there. The church seems to think they’re going to reach college students with AiG pamphlets, but they seem to be doing Christianity more harm than good by doing so.

  • Geoff Thomas

    You would like Australia as well!!

  • We’re all polite… except in Toronto. Don’t go to Toronto. Definitely don’t try to drive in Toronto.

  • The US has had $1 coins, for quite a while.

    But Americans resist them.

    Perhaps we can draw an analogy to the resistance to modern Biology and Evolution by the same public?

  • Dennis Venema

    Having a good laugh as I read this – great to have you up here, Pete.

    • Dennis Venema

      … and hey – that light *was* about to turn… 🙂