This is a true story from my cross-country train trip in Canada last March. I’ve taken this cross-country trip on Canada’s VIA Rail several times. I like sitting in the observation car and watching the scenery go by. But I don’t have to do that all day. I can do other things, like sit and read. This year I spent time in the forward activity car working on jigsaw puzzles. First, I did a 300-piece puzzle of cows in a meadow by myself. After that, I teamed up with a middle-aged American couple from Seattle, WA to complete a 1,000-piece puzzle of Canada’s Marine Lake. It was tough, but we did it in less than 48-hours. When we finished it, we worked together on the same 300-piece puzzle that I had already done by myself once. Truly puzzling behavior.
The forward activity car is used by passengers in Coach/Economy class. Coach passengers have access to an observation deck, tables for playing games, a canteen to buy their meals, etc. Sone train souvenirs are on display there and are for sale. There is a DVD machine for watching movies in the evening. And there is even a small library of books brought aboard by previous passengers and then left behind (presumably finished) when they departed. The Coach passengers do not have access to any other part of the train. As a First Class passenger I enjoy the run of the train, but Coach is limited to the forward section.
As I was working on my puzzles I noticed one of the books left on a table. It was a Bible. It was a soft brown, imitation chocolate/caramel leather NIV Zondervan Bible. As I have an interest in Bibles I picked it up - it looked like it was neglected and discarded, like a passenger either deliberately left it there, or else forgot it - and had a look inside. Writing on the inside looked feminine and young, so I imagined a teenage girl or younger. Since Bibles are one of the things I collect I seriously thought of stealing it, but instead I let it rest where I found it. The owner might be a board and might return.
Then, as I was working on the 1,000-piece puzzle with the American couple from Seattle I overheard the conversation of a group of three or four train employees at a table at the opposite end of the car. Three Anglo men and one Francophone woman. Like any employees on a break they were talking relatively freely, sometimes saying things I might keep closer to my chest.
They were sitting at the same table as the Bible, and it bothered me because I kept wondering “When will they leave so I can steal that book?” I kept working on my jigsaw puzzle and kept listening. Eventually, the woman from Quebec picked up the Bible and spoke about it. I was shocked, Shocked!!, that she did not recognize it. She did not know what it was! She mentioned to the men, “It looks like a priest’s book.”
French Canadian French and English both sound like an unoiled Tommy gun, completely unlike classic Parisian French which sounds like a gentle stream softly trickling through a dense, quiet grove of deciduous trees.
Whatever one’s position is regarding religion, Christianity, the Bible, et. al., I felt embarrassment that knowledge, or even simple awareness of religion, Christianity, the Bible, God, et al. is now so diminished that there is anyone in society who at least does not recognize the Bible. The woman came from predominantly Catholic Quebec, and she was a native Francophone Quebecer. I could tell from her awful accent. (To my ear French Canadian French and English both sound like an unoiled Tommy gun, completely unlike classic Parisian French which sounds like a gentle stream softly trickling through a dense, quiet grove of deciduous trees.) I know that Quebec experienced the Quiet Revolution in the early 1960s, when Conservative Maurice Duplessis lost in provincial elections to Liberal Jean Lesage, and a quick process began that saw the Catholic Church lose is controlling dominance over all facets of Quebec life as the province shifted towards secularism in politics, education, welfare policy, and everything else. So when this Quebec woman didn’t even recognize what the Bible I thought the Quiet Revolution had been too successful, responsible for a generation of people too stupid even to recognize stuff.
In order for religion to be legitimate it must satisfy three things:
1) it must be voluntary;
2) it must be private
3) it must occupy one’s free time.
But in addition to that - again, regardless of one’s position on religion, Christianity, the Bible, God, etc. - I have a very broad definition of what I consider “public knowledge.” So not to even recognize the Bible is an abomination. Not from a religious perspective, just from the perspective of an intelligent human being in society. God does not want obedient automatons. God wants his children to be sincere, compassionate, loyal, to pursue lifelong education in order to search for answers, to be intelligent, independent and critically thinking. Intelligent most of all.