I’m a follower of Jesus. I believe in the kingdom of God: this place where nothing is missing and no one is missing; this utopian world where everything is right. And I believe that Jesus is the most concrete example of how to get there, or of what it looks like when the kingdom of god breaks through and exists. Just sometimes we get to live in his alternate reality where things are beautifully whole. And I live in the will to pursue it. So I look at Jesus as a way of becoming an agent of this kingdom of God.
Both of my parents are first generation Christian. They grew up as atheists; children of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 60s. Perhaps the fastest mass exodus from a faith in history was Quebec’s turn from the Catholic church. But they both had an encounter with the Holy Spirit when they were 18. So I grew up in this countercultural house.
So my journey into faith was partly just: “I trust my parents; that they’re not crazy” – that they wouldn’t be living this countercultural life if it didn’t feel true to them. Because of that I believed in god but I never felt any personal relationship with God. So I had a weird relationship with religion: I believed that this concept that my parents talked about was good and true. And then as I was growing up we travelled all over the world, and wherever we went we found a local church. So I saw a lot of different expressions of Christianity – different denominations, different cultures – and despite the diversity, I always felt a unifying spirit. Whether I was in the Cameroonian Pentecostal Church or the Catholic Church in France or the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the people felt similarly countercultural. That stuck with me and I always wanted to figure out how to be that subversive.
Then at university I met this woman who wanted us to study the gospel of Luke together. She was one of the most compelling people I’ve ever met. And she also grew up abroad so we had this cultural connection. She said, “it’s awesome: we copy and paste the text onto a word document, remove all the verses and subheadings so that it can’t tell us what to think and then we highlight and mark it and just figure out what this story means and how it connects to our lives.” I’d never before heard the point about applying it to our lives. You know? The idea that you read it and then you do something about it. So: “what will I do this week to put it into practice?” Jesus touched lepers; touched marginalised people; touched the untouchables; had dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors. So I was like “how am I going to put this into practice in my life?” [laughing]
So I was like “well I guess I’ll have to go and look for outcasts from society to spend time with!” [laughing]. So I’ve learnt to forget middle class success and to start hanging out with the poor and marginalised.
That was the point I found out the stories were true. Did [the Bible] happen for real? I don’t super-care about that. It’s more like: is it transformative to put aside your comfort and spend time with people that make you feel uncomfortable? And the answer for me is: “oh yeah, it is!” So the stories are true in that they bring about a better way of living.
I’ve always been inspired by Dorothy Day and the ideas of voluntary poverty (as you can see from this place); and living one’s faith as spending time with the outcast. A struggle for me as a Christian is the strong emphasis on missionary work. As someone who has lived in a former French colony, I feel really uncomfortable with anything that is bound up with the history of colonialism. I co-lead a youth group here and there is a strong emphasis on growing the community; turning people into disciples. But this is the Downtown Eastside. It is hugely poverty stricken. As a result, it’s also over-programmed by services for the young. Almost every adult in these young people’s lives is there as a professional with a purpose. I want to be one of those few people that is there just be with them; hang out with them.
People are often surprised that I’m Christian. Non-Christians say: “oh but you’re so chill” [laughing] or “but you go out for drinks with friends”. People expect a kind of conservative social attitude. And then Christians are confused because they say, “good for you; you’re serving the poor” but I say, “no, these are my friends; I enjoy hanging out with them. Like all friends they’re inspiring and full of wisdom.” They’re my family. I could have had a ‘real’ job when I graduated. But then I’d have less time to spend with my Downtown Eastside family.