It sounds a bit odd in English, but in French—Tu fais quoi dans la vie?—is a common question when you meet folks in social settings in Quebec. I’m usually reticent in responding, knowing that religion is not often a topic of polite conversation in Quebec. I say that I’m a college teacher and, when prodded to explain what exactly it is that I teach, the fact that I teach religion tends to open the door to that very topic. Most of the time, the conversation moves on to other things and I breathe a sigh of relief. Then as the potentially awkward social encounter ends, I’m reminded of I Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (NRSV). These encounters cause me to wonder about the practical ways we live our faith in the world.
As Christians in Quebec we might be content to live our faith openly on Sunday morning in the safety of our church buildings. But Monday morning comes and, for most of us, we move into the secular world of our working lives. There are indeed religious spaces and secular spaces. However, since our God is an incarnational God that means that the whole of creation, even secular spaces, are sacred. So rather than thinking that we have to move between two worlds: religious and secular, what if we considered what it means and what it looks like to relate to the sacredness of the world?
Bishop Bruce Myers (Quebec) preached at the installation of Montreal Dio’s new principal, Jesse Zink, saying that the church needs APEs: apostles, prophets, evangelists. The church needs people who are followers of Christ, who speak and act in the world as Christ would, who tell and show the love of Christ to the world.
Each one of us must determine when and whether to speak openly about our faith to people who may be hostile to it. For me, I’m assured of my hope in Christ and it is this assurance that enables me to imperfectly perform that hope in the world. James M. Gustafson describes what this performative aspect of Christian hope looks like in his book Christ and the Moral Life: “Freedom to give oneself in love for the neighbour, to seek the other’s good rather than one’s own, to identify with the oppressed and the anxious, to participate in causes that seek justice and peace in spite of their ambiguities, to make judgements that are particular and relative to complex and confused situations—this freedom is part of the Christian’s readiness; it is a persisting tendency in the Christian moral life.”
I pray that as we ready ourselves with an account for the hope that is in us that God will grant us the courage we require to be less hesitant not only to tell others about our faith but to show that faith in action—in love. Tu fais quoi dans la vie?
Jason B. Crawford is a member of the Board of Governors of Montreal Dio. He teaches at Champlain College, Saint-Lambert, Quebec, and at the Montreal School of Theology. He is an active member of Church of the Epiphany (Anglican) in Verdun.