I’ve been back in my hometown for just over a week now and the re-acclimatization process continues. Six years away is enough time for things to feel a mixture of completely familiar and completely foreign (if that makes any sense). One of the most obvious things that stands out to me thus far is the different religious climate in southern Alberta compared to the west coast.
Anyone with even a cursory understanding of religious demographics in Canada will hardly be surprised by this. Vancouver and Vancouver Island are among the most secular places in Canada, with religious service attendance hovering somewhere below 10%. Alberta (or the prairies, in general), on the other hand, might be the closest Canada has to a “Bible belt.” I was musing to someone yesterday that this small town I grew up in (pop. around 6000) might have almost as many churches in and around it as the small city we spent the last six years in on Vancouver Island (pop. 86 000). It’s a bit of an exaggeration, to be sure, but the difference really is quite striking.
This was quite evident yesterday as we wandered down to the town parade for the local summer festival. It was a short parade (maybe 30 minutes) consisting mostly of politicians, tractors, a few horses, and one marching band… and the entry in the picture above. It’s probably difficult to make out the words in the photo, so I’ll help you out. It says “Are You Going to Heaven: Two Question Test Reveals Answer.”
I’m not joking.
A truck pulling a trailer down main street during a community parade, with nothing but this bizarre message emblazoned across the front and back. Right between a local corn farmer’s tractor and a vintage antique car. Amazing.
We’re not in
Kansas Vancouver Island anymore.
I watched the spectators on both sides of the street as the truck pulled by, wondering if anyone else was as shocked as I was, but most seemed to be mildly bemused or just plain uninterested. “Oh yeah, he’s in the parade every year,” someone later told me. It didn’t seem to be considered a particularly good or bad thing, just an accepted feature of the local landscape. I tried to imagine the reception this kind of entry would have received in Nanaimo. Or Vancouver. I think it would have been substantially different :).
For the record, I have no idea what the two questions were, nor was I inclined to find out. Something tells me that I wouldn’t fare very well on any “test” that presumed that the matter of someone’s eternal destiny could be deduced from responses to 2 simple questions.
Or maybe I’m being too quick to judge… Come to think of it, someone else once said that one’s eternal destiny boiled down to two responses… I wonder if that’s what the guy in the truck meant?