Let’s look at them. To be a Canadian is to be tolerant. According to surveys, that is the primary value in our country today. Perhaps it is our tolerance that gives us a reputation as a gray nation. However, Canadian tolerance is nuanced. While we certainly are not as flamboyant as our neighbours to the south are, we do have some strong passions like love for our national sport – hockey.
To be Canadian is also to laugh; although our humour is often focused on our own foibles, in the form of satire as expressed in The Royal Canadian Air Farce or This Hour has Twenty-Two Minutes. We can also enjoy a good belly laugh watching the practical jokes played on unsuspecting victims on Just for Laughs.
We are alert to our world. Commuting to work or school we tune in the crisp, clear articulate voices reading The National News or The World at Six. Their steady, measured CBC tones calm our spirits as they announce the latest tragedies and disasters.
To be Canadian is to bask in the reflected glory of our musical icons like Ann Murray or Céline Dion. It is to enjoy the weekend catching up with Stuart McLean and the latest activities of the quintessential Canadian family – Dave and Morley, Sam and Stephanie on The Vinyl Café. It is to pick up a morning coffee from the drive through window at Tim Horton’s and finish it at your desk before starting work, while ploughing through one of our national dailies – The Globe and Mail or The National Post, or both.
To be Canadian is to head for the beach in summer and the ski slopes in winter, determined not to be held back by the vicissitudes of an extreme climate. It is to rise in the arena and feel one’s heart flutter at the familiar bilingual anthem as the red maple leaf is spotlighted. It is to be proud of our home and native land.
What then does it mean to be an author? For me, an author is one who loves words and ideas and who constantly juggles the two, at the same time trying to corral them into a form that will clearly communicate the order that they have in our minds.
To be an author is to dare to express one’s convictions; knowing readers and critics may well interpret the piece using a different lens and apply it to a totally different context. It is to risk baring one’s deepest thoughts and holding your breath, for weeks before hearing that the editor finds them not suitable for the purposes of their publication at this time.
To be an author is to read and research and interview and think about your subject or your characters until they become your whole world. They are present when you eat and when you sleep, whenever you are not occupied with something else, they are there, and sometimes they even intrude when you are otherwise occupied. Then when you have thought about them until your head is aching and you don’t want to think any more, out of the blue comes another new twist and you begin again at square one.
As authors, we go to our computers and we respond to the news that we hear of what is happening in our country and around the world. We make our voices heard. We hone our skills simply commenting on the world as it is interpreted to us through our news media. To be an author is to be a voice.
What does it mean to be a Christian? Since there are probably as many answers to that as there are Christians, I look to my dictionary for help. The first definition I read is that a Christian is a person who has received Christian baptism. While that may be true, I think most Christians would associate that with being a church member, rather than a Christian. It also omits the considerable number of Canadians who today classify themselves as Christians but according to an Ipsos-Reid survey are not associated with a church. The definition further enlarges to include those who are adherents of Christ’s teachings so that covers non-churched Canadian Christians.
A second definition of Christians is persons exhibiting Christian qualities. I like this one better, but instead of Christian qualities, I would zero in on Christ’s qualities. We know that qualities exhibited by Christians are not always those we see in Christ. Only Christ perfectly reflects Christian qualities. We always fall short.
Adherence to Christian faith, includes the understanding that Christ, through His Spirit inhabits those who belong to Him. He empowers Christians to reflect the nature of Christ. We know the image of Christ in us will always be imperfect, because possessing the Spirit of Christ, does not obliterate our own unique personality. We were each fashioned with our own unique personality, by nature and nurture. The presence of the Spirit of Christ in our lives, with our consent can enhance our personality, making it conform more closely to the nature of Christ who is the embodiment of the love of God for all humanity.
Further descriptions of what a Christian is would take us deeper into theological discussions and that is not my reason for writing. For our purposes, I think it suffices to say that a Christian is a follower of Christ, who is empowered by the Spirit of Christ to reveal something of the profoundly loving nature of Christ is all aspects of life.
That brings us finally to what it is to be Canadian Authors who are Christian. For me, it is to fully embrace our Canadian culture, in the sense of being attuned to all aspects of what it means to be Canadian. At the same time, it is as authors to seek to express our voice about that culture and all that it entails, reflecting long and hard and digging and researching those aspects of the culture that seem to elude us. As Christians, we will do this in the manner of Jesus, that is with profound love and respect for all and in a way that will invite others to be open to new possibilities and opportunities. To me, that is what it means to be a Canadian author who is Christian. What do you think?