Since I've immigrated to Canada, many of my friends have asked me to compare life here to my life in the US. This is approaches the old "apple/oranges" saying as now I'm living in a metropolitan area and in the US I was living in a very rural area. Having said this,
I have noticed some differences, some trival and some more substantial.
The most immediate contrast of course would be the use of metric measurement. Waist sizes are still in inches and at the store they still have some items in ounces. Those examples aside, most things here in Canada follow the metric system (which is in keeping with the entire world, the exceptions being Liberia, Myanmar, Thailand and USA.).
Another difference would be attitudes towards sexual minorities. Since moving here we have dealt with many governmental and non-governmental agencies. They have all treated us just like any other couple in their system. Contrast this with our experience last month, when my partner was applying for a US tourist visa. He was advised not to claim me as a "family member" or disclose his orientation to US government officials. Apparently this would label him (and me despite being a US citizen) "undesirable" and cause further problems traveling there in the future. After waiting outside in the cold for 1/2 hour, inside for 2 hours and having to retake his photo which wasn't current enough, he was denied a tourist visa because he could not produce enough ties to Canada. This was all in an attempt for him to be able to meet my parents and see the great country where I grew up!
The final example came to me while I was hanging out with my good friend watching the documentary Jesus Camp. I highly recommend this film to everyone. On one level, one can watch it to learn about a segment of the population that is widely misunderstood (US evangelicals). On another level, it shows what life was like (for me anyway) in the Midwest (flat landscape, religion as a lifestyle, strip malls). In my never-to-be-humble opinion, this was a very balanced account that I could relate to as a Christian. Interestingly enough, the only person in the project who thought they were unfairly portrayed was Rev. Ted Haggard, someone whose credentials have been called into question recently.
Despite what some would have you believe, there are many Christian people in Canada. There are tons of churches, both big and small. The difference appears to be in the denominational make-up. A recent article in the bi-weekly Xtra gave statistics that aptly demonstrate this point.
In 2001, there 2.5% of Canadians were Baptists. In the US, the percentage was 16.9. Back up in Canada,"other Christians" including Apostolic, born-again and self-declared evangelicals were at 2. 6 percent — that's a maximum of 5.1 percent of the Canadian population who could be said to be evangelical. Looking south to the US, the other denominations that could be described as evangelical add up to at least another four percent — more than 20 percent of the American population.
Those stats right there really put things into perspective for me. I had the sense that Canada was more tolerant and liberal but...wow! The rest of Canadians considered themselves Roman Catholic (43.2%), United Church of Christ (9.6%) or Anglican (6.9%). In the US there were fewer Roman Catholics (24.3%). (I looked for more of a US breakdown but couldn't find anything!)
Much of the US evangelical movement that gave the Republican party control of both houses of Congress and the White House (and indirectly influenced the Supreme Court nominations) resides in the South and Midwest regions. This has sometimes been referred to as the "Bible Belt." It is my hope and prayer that God will soften the hearts and minds of these good people, many of whom are not just my friends but also my family. We continue to learn more from research and by telling our stories to those that we love.
I want to close with this quote the character Pe're Henri says at the end of the movie Chocolat. I just keep returning back to it again and again. "Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about his divinity. I'd rather talk about his humanity. I mean, you know, how he lived his life, here on Earth. His *kindness*, his *tolerance*... Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we *embrace*, what we create... and who we include." (source)
That, my friends, is a beautiful idea. What if instead of defining what Body of Christ is by what we don't do and who we exclude, as Christians we send the message out there into the world that the Church is about loving others and serving mankind? It might just be what Christ had in mind all along!