The week before Christmas I was sacked from my job as columnist for the Niagara Anglican, the monthly newspaper of the Diocese of Niagara. I had written only two columns. But the Bishop didn't like my take on the Christmas story.
I wrote that we needed to see ourselves as part of that story. Otherwise the traditional telling of the Nativity requires a stretch of the imagination that beggars our belief rather than bolsters it. A virgin birth? A moving star? Really? I didn't think, in the modern age, I was being radical. But I was told that the Bishop received complaints from Bible-believing Anglicans, so that was that. (The column was posted, slightly edited, as my blog on December 23, so you can go back and judge for yourself.)
I was hurt of course, and then I was angry. But a day later I had forgotten all about it as I sat down to write in my daily journal. I was more surprised at how quickly I got over it than I was about being fired in the first place. It was as if I saw it coming all along. The only real surprise was that it was Niagara, formerly one of the most progressive Anglican dioceses in the country, but now just one more frightened mariner clinging to the mast of a sinking ship.
The last fulsome statistics on religious practice in Canada, from 2013, had weekly worship attendance down to 13% among Canadians. That's all religions. Among mainstream Christians it was even worse--10%. And that was six years ago. I doubt things have turned around since then.
I am sad that I got the sack. It means that, despite my God-given curiosity and my rather lively faith, I am no longer recognizably Christian. I no longer belong, certainly not as one of the church's spokespersons. I think too much. I entertain alternative interpretations of Scripture. I seek signs of God's presence in the world beyond the church ... and find them in abundance. This casts me out.
I'd be even sadder if I thought I was alone in my exile. But I'm not. I'm joined by 90% percent of Canadians who no longer attend weekly worship. There are elements of that worship I miss terribly, especially the people. But as for the fearful narrow-minded censorship, my new brothers and sisters and I don't miss it at all.