I grew up Pentecostal, and I was indoctrinated from an early age. Because of my upbringing with my parents though I was taught to not just do whatever someone told me to do, ask a lot of questions and always be learning. As many of you would know, this doesn’t go well in most Pentecostal circles. Questions are usually considered revolting against authority and doubt is considered the opposite of faith. Around seventeen is when I started hitting a lot of roadblocks and asking a lot of questions that were shoved under the carpet. So eventually when it came to picking schools, the suggestion of going to the province’s Pentecostal school didn’t really appeal to me. I didn’t think I would get any further going to a Pentecostal school than I would at a Pentecostal church.
So this is why I chose Tyndale. Tyndale was an inter-denominational school with lots of different denominations represented. I never really had much experience with other denominations before so it was a good experience for me to be surrounded by them. My only experience before was random theological debates with my Christian reformed friends, and they always seemed smarter than me. It didn’t take me very long to realize that I had a lot to learn from all these different streams of Christianity. All the teachers came from different backgrounds, and all the students were all in such different places in their lives that it made for a great mix-mash of faiths to thrown my own into. I learned about how the denominations started and what was different between them. I started to realize they weren’t all that different and the differences that were there were quite minimal. It made me appreciate the differences around me and have a respect for other denominations; something that never existed in my superior Pentecostalism.
After two years of Tyndale, I slowly started to get the same feeling that I had going into it. I felt like teachers and students at Tyndale didn’t give very much credit to those of others faiths. My philosophy teacher mocked the relativists and their flawed theories, my English teacher stuck pretty closely to Christian texts, my Christian worship leader stuck to Christian forms of worship and I just found myself starting to get a very narrow minded view of my faith and the world around me. I felt quite cramped in the Tyndale bubble and I just had to get out. Especially because in a lot of ways I sympathized with the very relativists and people from other faiths that us at Tyndale were convinced were wrong.
So this brought me to York; a university that prided itself in tolerance, testing the boundaries of knowledge and diversity. You would see York advertisements around like the one below with taglines saying to “Research every angle, question every angle study every angle.”
I took classes like Gnosticism, Sex and Violence in the Hebrew Bible, Science and Religion and Sociology and Religion. I started learning things about my own faith that I never knew existed. I started learning from the Jewish guys sitting at the front of the class with the Hebrew Bible’s open, in its original language. I found out how similar my faith was to my Muslim friends. I found out about the atrocities in the history of my faith. The revelations were almost daily. It prepared me to be able to be able to speak about Genesis in light of the Enuma Elish and not feel like I was abandoning my faith but bring new meaning to it. It helped me see people from other faiths as having something valuable to offer the world, instead of thinking that only Christians had the right answers.
My Pentecostal bubble was broke, my Christian bubble was broke and now I find myself in Sarnia. Sarnia is a major blue collar town and the types that you would find around York don’t really pop up very often in Sarnia. My experiences have brought me to a point where I have learned to value and respect so much more than I have before. Yet sometimes I find myself now thinking I’m in yet another bubble. We could call it the academic bubble, though I don’t find myself very academic, or I could call it the Western White Middle-Upper class bubble. The same way like I used to look at other denominations, and the same way I used to look at people from other faiths, I now find myself looking at people from a different social class. I’m wondering if they have anything valuable to offer to my city or even to a conversation. I know they do, but I find it consistently difficult to see it or accept it. I find pride in myself looking down on them from my pedestal because I have had the blessing of education, money and success in what I do.
I’m hoping this bubble gets broken soon. I find myself getting frustrated that I have such a prejudice view towards those that can’t look me in the eye for a conversation, or those that are mentally slower or those that are on welfare and sit at home all day. I find it hard to see them like Jesus sees them. It’s deeply embedded in who I am to think that I am somehow better or more beneficial to the world because of my gifts. I wish I could look at my neighbours sometimes and see them as humans and not just people that I am here to help. I wish I could go out for coffee with someone because I cared about them and honestly wanted to get to know them as a friend instead of it being out of guilt or intention of trying to help the marginalized or to grow my church. I know God is working on me and I pray daily that God will let me see the world as he sees it.