Guy Nicholson: Lorna, can you translate that for those of us raising children outside theistic traditions?
Lorna Dueck: To teach a child they are loved unconditionally. This occurs when parenting is healthy, yet the time soon comes when the child goes out into a world that loves and judges them based on merit, on “What have you done for me lately?” When people have a loving family to retreat to, they can get by. Or they get by based on their family’s values. What the introduction of God into a child’s life does is to give them a narrative for their identity that goes beyond their parents.
Guy Nicholson: We’re almost out of time.
Canadian singer Justin Bieber was booed at the Grey Cup, yet Canadians stood as a nation to applaud Christine Sinclair, captain of our Olympic soccer team. Is there one thing in this world worth universally celebrating?
Howard Voss-Altman: Yes. That here in Canada, religious freedom and pluralism are truly celebrated, as evidenced by this type of panel. Despite the fact that we have different faith traditions, we can engage in a genuine exchange of religious ideas about some of the most vexing issues in our society. Such mutual respect is worth universal celebration. I wish we could export it to other parts of the world.
Lorna Dueck: Christmas captures this answer of what is most universally worth celebrating: It’s hope, love, peace and joy. As panelists, we are sharing this month with many readers who don’t want anything to do with our religious beliefs, but the irony is that the fruit of those beliefs is always at play across the boundaries. For me, the gift of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas embodies God’s intention for humanity. Christians have stretched this celebration from Advent on Dec. 1 to Epiphany on Jan. 6, in part because it takes a long time to adjust to what we should be celebrating: God continually coming into our lives. With or without religious words, this gives us cause for a celebration of hope, love, peace and joy.
Peter Stockland: I think we should celebrate moments. This past year, I’ve lived through the death of both my wife’s parents, whom I loved for 30 years and who gave me the gift of my wife. I was at my father-in-law’s bedside when he lived his last moment, drew his last breath, in November. At that moment, I was praying the beautiful line from the Hail Mary: “Holy Mary/Mother of God/pray for us sinners/now and at the hour of our death.” It made me reflect on how even the hour of our death comes down to a moment. Moments are truly where we live.
For the Christian liturgical year, the very moment of Yeshua ben Yosef’s birth opens us to the moments of Jesus Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. The Gospels themselves are a series of seemingly fragmentary moments, with leaps and jumps in narrative time, all moving inexorably to death and to overcoming death but, equally, celebrating each moment they encompass. I taught my kids that achievement is an aggregate, not a single event, and you should celebrate each small step. To me, moments of life are the same. At Christmas, especially, we should celebrate the moments we have together because the truth is we know not the day nor the hour when we will lose those we love for all time.
Sheema Khan: I didn’t watch the Grey Cup, so I can’t comment on the reaction of the fans. But I did watch that memorable Olympic soccer game in August – I put it right there with Game 8 of the Canada-Russia 1972 series. I think we collectively appreciate and celebrate the human spirit, as it strives against challenges and emerges triumphant, with humility. Terry Fox was an example of a person who embodies all of these qualities. And, yes, so does Christine Sinclair, in a different way. There are many more examples.
As a nation, I believe we have one collective historical hurdle that we must face head on in order to be a nation at peace with itself. And that has to do with our shameful historical treatment of the aboriginal population. While we can celebrate individual successes (and all they embody), I think we have the potential to reach such a success at a collective level, when we come face to face with our ugly past, and rectify it, in respectful partnership with our aboriginal neighbours. This implies learning about aboriginal traditions, listening to their experiences, sharing their pain and embracing communities as equals. Our national celebrations are tempered when a significant portion is hurting.
Guy Nicholson: Thanks to everyone for sharing your time and thoughts. Enjoy the holidays.