Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: culture


Diversity of culture and opinion is like genetic diversity in a population. Without it, people become stagnant and get all sorts of nasty, cancerous ideas.

Without diversity, a population has very few new and innovative ideas. Generally they just continually repackage old ideas, try to put newish labels on them, and pass them around to each other. This is why those fundamentalist religious groups always seem to be two or three decades behind the rest of the population their in. Because those kinds of places don’t mix well with people who think and act differently than they do. And the more closed-minded the religious group, the further back in time they seem to be. Walk into your local Gospel Hall if you don’t believe me. You’ll feel like you’re in 19th century Scotland. Cool singing, but pretty messed up ideas about gender roles, science and how to live life.

That’s one of the reasons I love where I’m living now. I used to live in Thorncliffe Park, a predominately Islamic area. A place where everyone kinda dressed and acted and thought the same. A place where there was not much in the way of new, ricky ideas. A place where most people did what they did so that everyone else would approve of them.

But when the population is diverse, people feel empowered to try new things. SInce everyone is so obviously unique and living life the way they think it should be lived, there is not much pressure to conform to a pre-established pattern. You’re free to live life according to your own conscience, instead of the conscience of some dead role model or abstract system.

And whose conscience should you be living according to anyway, if not your own?

I’ve lived in Toronto for almost four years. But only now am I beginning to see how wildly awesome this town is.

So here’s to diversity. I hope and pray we get butt-loads more of it and that it spreads to all those neat places where it hasn’t been welcomed before. It may be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but without it we become cultural inbreds. Slow to accept change and ill-equipped to deal with real life.

I Stand Alone, I Stand Alone

I heard the tune as whispered on the wind. It was elusive, though familiar. Like the opening theme to a cartoon you watched as a child. It was there, somewhere, but I couldn’t quite hum it. I had to get closer.

I walked across a green plain in the direction I thought it came from. It grew louder as I went, as did the sense of familiarity. It was a tune from my childhood, familiar as water. Off in the distance I saw something grow out of the plain. A hill, wide and tall, the tip of which I could not clearly see. And the song grew louder still and I thought I could grasp a few of the words.

I quickened my pace and saw that the hill was not truly a hill, but a pile of objects. Books. Books of every shape and kind. Large and ancient hardcovered tomes along with magazines and tracts and paperbacks and novels and comics. I stood at the foot of the hill for a moment and peered toward the summit. The song was definitely coming from the top. And it was louder now, though not much clearer. The familiarity tickled and tormented me. I had to know the song.

And so I started to climb.

I caught sight of many of the titles as I went up. They intrigued me. Many of the books I had read and some I had enjoyed. Others I did not know and still others I had read and rejected. I took note of some titles. “In-crowd mentality” by I.M. Choosen. “Systematic Theology” by Goddat Wright. “Western Comforts” by W.B. Rich.

The song grew louder as the air grew thin and I grew lightheaded. I found I could not think clearly at this altitude. I tried to focus my thoughts by reading other titles. “Doing to Others Before they Do to You.” “Choosing Your Favorite -ism.” “Economic Justifications.” “The Individualistic Life.” “Hollywood Drama.” “Democracy” (I liked that one). “10 Days to Blind Confidence” (I think I had read that one). “How to Dismantle Anything.” There was a chart listing the top ten spiritual professions. I had memorized that at one point, I recalled. “North American Values and Their Enemies.” “Capitalism.” And scores and scores others.

My hands grew cold as I crawled through the clouds. Finally, as I reached the top, I found the source of the familiar tune. There stood a man, his eyes closed and his fists clentched in the posture of a child trying to wish something true. And the song came clearly:

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the Book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God.
I stand alone on the Word of God.
I stand alone on the Word of God.

“Oi, friend!” I called out with a shiver in my voice. “I think you’re standing in the wrong place for this song! For I have seen many books, some I like and others I like less, but I cannot help but think that none of them are the Word of God.”

The man stopped singing only for the time it took to open an eye, shoot a hostile look at me, and continue his chanting.

“I stand alone on the Word of God! I stand alone on the Word of God!”

And suddenly the mount we were on heaved and shook. I clutched tight and watched as a few books toppled down to the ground below. But I remained firm for the moment. The chanting man did not seem to notice. I realized that the foundation he and I were standing on was not stable.

“I say!” I called out. “I fear this is not an ideal place to stand. I’m heading down. Perhaps if we both descend together it will be less risky for the both of us.”

Again he did little but curl his lip at me and continue his chanting. I thought to stay with him, but another tremor from below made me certain that I was in a precarious place. And so I descended, slipping and bruising myself along the way.

I arrived at the bottom, still hearing his words in my head. In that moment they reminded me of similar words spoken by others in ages past. I recalled some chanting about The Temple of the Lord. Whatever happened to those people, I wondered.

I was half a mile off when I heard a horrible crash behind me. I turned and saw that mighty tower of books collapsing upon itself. And I wept.