Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: French-Canadians

Bean counters – part 2

André was a big man, six feet tall and weighing over 300 pounds. He had had a painful childhood, much of it spent in an orphanage, but in the orphanage he learned how to cook. This was the one marketable skill that he carried into adult life and he discovered that there were mining camps and radar stations in Canada’s north that would pay very well for that skill.

When the first oil sands plant was being built near Fort McMurray, Alberta, André was the head chef, in charge of a large crew of cooks preparing meals for the 5,000 workmen. He told of how they had to learn to crack an egg with each hand to prepare breakfast for that huge crew.

Not all camps were that busy and André developed a taste for alcoholic beverages to make it through the isolation. One place was so isolated that booze was simply unobtainable, so when André ordered cooking supplies he would order vanilla by the case. The company accountant in Vancouver discovered repeated orders for cases of vanilla and questioned why they were needed. An investigation was made and André was fired and given transportation out to Vancouver.

He had enough money left for one good drunk, but the future looked bleak. Staggering down the streets of Vancouver, he saw a neon sign saying “Jesus Saves.” It was above a Pentecostal mission and there appeared to be living quarters above the mission. André made it up the steps and knocked on the door.

The young pastor opened the door to find a big, rough-looking and very drunk French Canadian standing there. He thought of his young family, did he dare invite this man to come in? André said “I need help,” and he was welcomed in. That pastor introduced André to Jesus, the one who was able to help.

André never took another drink. When he returned to working in the north he spent his non-working hours copying out the Bible. He had very neat handwriting and he wrote out the complete Bible at least twice, once in French and once in English. I think he may have written it out twice in French, but he isn’t around to ask anymore.

It was entirely unforeseen and unintended, but that bean counter who got André fired was indirectly the cause of his conversion.

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Unreached peoples

Unreached peoples! How can it be that there are still people groups in our modern world who have never heard about the Saviour, who do not have even a portion of the Bible in their language? Mission and Bible translation and distribution agencies tell us with considerable urgency that many such groups still remain on planet Earth.

I do not wish to detract anything from the urgency of that concern. Nor do I wish to distract us from the worthy goal of reaching all those groups with the gospel. But while we are doing that, I wish that we could all take a look at the people around us, right here in our own land. One hundred years ago, most everyone in Canada would have had some grasp of the tenets of Christianity. The majority of homes would have had a Bible somewhere in the house, often in plain view, though perhaps seldom read.

None of that is true anymore. One has only to read newspaper reports of controversies about Christian activities to realize that we are living in a different era. The incomprehension of the reporters about what motivates Christians is strikingly evident to Christians; judging by the responses, or the lack of response, to these articles most readers are no better informed than the reporters.

I am going to suggest that most segments of Canadian society have become unreached people groups. I recently quoted a statistic that said 50% of Canadians have never read anything in the Bible. I would be surprised if even 25% of Canadian homes contained a Bible today. So I will lump all Canadians into four unreached people groups.

First are the aboriginal peoples: Indians, Métis and Inuit. At one time, many of these peoples would have professed some form of Christianity, but now the great majority have openly returned to their native spirituality or shamanism. Some try to mix Christianity and shamanism, but Christianity plus something else is no longer Christianity. There are some bright lights here and there, but the overall picture is of great darkness.

The second group is the recent immigrants. Those who come from first world countries tend to be mostly agnostics or atheists. From third world countries we have many people of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern religions. Here is our opportunity to reach out to these people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are a few reports of successful missions to these people, but in reality very little is being done. Among the recent immigrants from Africa there are many Christians. They could add some vitality to the Canadian religious scene, but often they establish congregations of their own.

The third group would be the French-Canadians, who at one time were solidly Roman Catholic. Unfortunately, during the time when the Roman Catholic Church controlled the schools and so many other facets of French-Canadian society, they did their best to keep people from reading the Bible. Now that most French-Canadians have abandoned the church; there is no lingering reservoir of Bible knowledge. There are many evangelical congregations established among the French-Canadian people, but their impact still touches a very small minority of the people.

The last group would be the Anglo-Canadians – English-speaking Canadians of various ethnic backgrounds. (It should be noted that Québec is also a melting pot – many French-Canadians are not of French ethnic heritage.) Anglo-Canadians were resolutely Christian at one time, at least in name. But society has changed, and many of the once dominant denominations tried to change with the times, watering down the gospel in the process. People have abandoned those denominations in droves. Anglo-Canadians still represent the largest concentration of evangelical Christians in Canada, both in percentage and actual numbers. But their influence on the mores and values of our society has greatly diminished. The great majority of young people today know nothing about the Bible or about the real meaning of Christian faith.

My hope is that when we talk about unreached people groups we wouldn’t only think of people in countries somewhere across the sea. There is a great need in those countries. There is also a great need right here on our doorstep where we might be able to have an impact on the lives of people without major organization or expenditure. If all true Christians would be alert to the little opportunities to speak a word for Jesus, the results might amaze us.

Thomas Jefferson’s Miscalculation

When the War of 1812 began, the US government assumed that the Canadian colonies to the north would quickly grasp the opportunity to throw off British colonial rule and become part of the USA.  Thomas Jefferson declared that Canada could be acquired simply by marching North.

It probably seemed a logical assumption.  The colonies of Upper Canada (upstream along the St.  Lawrence) and Lower Canada (downstream) were chafing at the British administration and the USA had 16 times as many people as the two colonies combined.

But there were factors that the USA did not reckon with.  The largest ethnic groups in the USA have always been people of English and German descent.  In Canada, the two main ethnic groups are the Scots and the French.  The Scots and the English are not kissing cousins.  The Scots have never graciously accepted English domination and this extended to the idea of domination by people of English descent from the USA.

In addition, a large chunk of the population of Upper Canada (now Ontario) consisted of United Empire Loyalists, people who had left (or been driven out of) the USA during the Revolutionary War because they did not agree with the idea of forcibly overthrowing the established government.  These people were not enthused with the idea of once again coming under US authority.

The population of Lower Canada (now Québec) was largely French-speaking.  They were not thrilled about being ruled by the British, but they did not see that being ruled by the Americans would be an improvement.  At the battle of Chateauguay in October of 1813, 4,000 US invaders were put to flight by a French-Canadian battalion of 460 men, led by Lt. Col. Charles de Salaberry.

The Indian people of Canada were aware of the violence suffered by Indians in US territory and joined the battle to repulse the American invaders.  They were joined by Tecumseh and a contingent of Shawnee warriors from the USA.  Three times in his boyhood, US forces had destroyed the villages where Tecumseh lived, then in 1811 his community of Prophet’s Town, Indiana was burned to the ground.

A “Company of Coloured Men” fought in the battle of Queenston Heights.  It is not hard to imagine that they had no desire to become part of the USA where they stood a good chance of being returned to slavery.

For these and many other reasons, the US invasion of Canada was a failure.  Many Canadians consider the War of 1812 to be the birth of Canada as a nation.  There were short-lived rebellions against colonial authority in both Upper and Lower Canada in 1837.  This led to the granting of responsible government and the union of the two Canada’s in 1841.  In 1867, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were united with Canada, followed by rapid western expansion and finally the addition of Newfoundland in 1949.

As a nonresistant Christian of Anabaptist-Mennonite persuasion, I am not seeking to glorify war.  I find it worthy of note that wars often have consequences that are very different from the intentions of the party that instigated the war.

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