Click here to read part one of this series.
While the population of Canada is only about a tenth the size of the U.S., three-quarters of us live within 160 kilometers of the U.S. border. A similar percentage live in urban areas. As a result, it has been my experience that the church dynamics up here are similar to the dynamics in larger cities down south... at first glance.
Most Christians in Canada attend church with people who agree with them, especially when it comes to one's theology.
One of the benefits of living in a large city is that it's much easier to find other Christians who agree with you on issue X. Do you believe that it isn't biblical for women to be pastors? There are ten churches down the street that feel the same way. Are you a woman who feels called to be a pastor? There are many other churches up the street who will welcome you with open arms. This phenomenon can also be observed by those of us who are GLBT Christians.... as well Christians in many other categories. (Future posts will delve more deeply into these issues).
So far, this probably sounds a lot like many U.S. cities. To a certain extent the cultures of large cities in the U.S. and in the States are very similar in this regard. However...
Canadians tend to be more reserved than Americans. I've spoken to other Americans who live in or are visiting Canada and who have noted a slight coolness up here. It's not an unfriendly culture, the social and personal boundaries up here just tend to be a little higher and a little tighter than they are down south. People are a little less likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and most of the time groups of Canadians are a little less noisy and boisterous in public than would be a similar group of Americans.
Canadians tend to be a little less willing to seek out conflict than their American counterparts. As I mentioned in the last post, apologies abound up here. If someone who has lived in Canada for more than a few months were to accidently step on your toe while you're both walking down they street, they'll apologize. But if you were the one to accidentally step on their toes, they'll apologize anyway. My husband once (jokingly) said that this is because "we're awfully sorry for placing our feet where your feet were trying to go." :P
One of the downsides of these cultural trends is that (IMO) it encourages Christian Canadians to seek out relationships with people who already agree with them a little more often than it happens with Christians in the States. Churches up here seem slightly less likely to "live the tension" of conflicting beliefs among their members than do similarly-sized churches in the States.
On the positive side, Canadians don't fight about issues like women in ministry or the acceptance of same-sex couples in a Church as often. Christians who disagree with one or both of these tend to pick churches that agree with them rather than getting nasty about it. This may be due more to living in a large, rather liberal city than it is a Canadian thing, but one just doesn't hear of Churches up here bashing people who are gay or moms who work full-time while raising kids. There seems to be a quiet sense of tolerance up here that I don't see as often down south.Upcoming posts in this series will discuss topics like the role of women in various Canadian churches, GLBT faith experiences, evangelism, and the challenges (and advantages!) of living in a religiously diverse society. Let me know of any other topics that interest you. I'll do my best to cover them. :)
Labels: Church, Culture, International Experiences