In the hours after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, last October, and then got shot himself when he ran into the Centre Block of the Houses of Parliament, the BC Dragoons, based 4,000 km away here in Kelowna, were instructed not to go out in public wearing their uniforms.
Apparently there was a fear that angry young men across the country might have planned co-ordinated attacks on members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
So our soldiers, instead of wearing their uniforms proudly, were told to be anonymous. Invisible.
Like most Christians.
Christians sometimes wear a cross. Or a fish. But usually not ostentatiously. Few of us go around brandishing our faith like a sword. We prefer to blend seamlessly into our culture.
There are exceptions, of course. One instance sticks in my mind.
I was driving a rather battered British sports car I owned at the time—a Triumph, an unfortunate name for an exceptionally fallible make—through downtown Toronto. Because red sports cars tend to attract tickets the way bare skin attracts mosquitos, I stuck strictly to the speed limits. A black Mustang roared past. A young woman leaned way out the passenger window, gave me the finger, and screamed at me to “Get that heap off the road!”
At least, I think that’s what she said. It was hard to concentrate on her words, when a large and very visible cross hanging from her neck bounced from side to side in her ample cleavage.
On the whole, I would have preferred not to know she was flagrantly Christian. I didn’t want to be associated with her.
Or with some of the more vocal proponents of American Christianity.
Marcus Borg, a guru of the “emerging church” movement, was quoted in Publishers’ Weekly on divisions in the church: “The most visible division is between the Christian political right and the Christian left. For the right, morality tends to be about what I call ‘loin issues’—sexual morality—and polls have also shown that the more frequently people attend church, the more likely they are to be pro-war, pro-life, or to support gun rights. For me it’s embarrassing that the most visible face of American Christianity is reprehensible. I’ve often said that the greatest obstacle to Christian evangelism is Christian evangelism itself.”
Other religions tend to make themselves more visible than Christians. Sikh men wear turbans. Muslim women cover their heads with scarves or hijabs. Hindu women may have a bindi mark in the centre of their foreheads. Some Jews wear a yarmulke.
When they meet each other, they have some idea of what to expect.
I don’t even know if there’s a suitable symbol for people like me, somewhere out on the exploratory edge of Christianity. A question mark, perhaps?
I find my kind of God in the relationships that link all living things, both human and other-than-human. But I don’t know how to express the concept of an invisible network, an infinity of possibilities, in any visual symbol. Perhaps Celtic knots, where the lines weave together without a beginning or an ending, might work.
Any other suggestions?