I first had a sense that my dad had deviated from his theological training when I listened to him answer the following question, “Because God’s omnipotence is absolute, couldn’t God conquer or reverse time, that is couldn’t you pray in the present for Hitler to be erased in the past, and couldn’t an almighty God make it so?”
The question was posed by one of a group of visiting American bible college students, who had come to Chile one summer to learn first-hand about missionary life. I was only 12, and even still I could sense something amiss when my dad replied that yes, of course, you could pray to change events that had already happened. If you wanted to pray Hitler out of existence, God would listen, and act accordingly, if he had a mind to do so. Never doubt the almighty.
To be fair, the training my dad received at Canadian Bible College/ Canadian Theological Seminary (now Ambrose University) was not comprehensive. Five years of study, of a two thousand-year old religion, is all my dad ever had. They made him preach a few sermons one summer at the Kelowna Alliance Church to make sure he was up to snuff and that was that. They liked my dad because he was gung-ho fire and brimstone, not because of his nuanced approach to the New Testament. For the rest of his natural life, my dad was certified and empowered to represent himself as the unchallenged and unchallengeable interpreter of the scriptures.
When my dad died he left behind a collection of 20 or 30 bibles. All the English translations, lots in Spanish, so many annotated guides. He’d underlined, bookmarked and written reams of colourful marginalia in each of them. He also left behind his collection of pistols: they weren’t for show; they were to repel the home invasion my Dad felt certain would come any day now. As a backup, he’d also armed himself with switchblades. He’d ordered several blades, each with the sharpest Japanese steel he could afford. He said he would kill the punk who tried to rob his home.
“The Antichrist can be born from piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth, as the heretic is born from the saint and the possessed from the seer. Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.”
Umberto Eco wrote that in The Name of The Rose. The line comes from the mouth of William of Baskerville played by John Turturro in the 2019 mini-series, and by Sean Connery in the 1986 film. William is a philosopher who has lost his faith in philosophy. The line applies to my dad, obviously. This is a man who, towards the end had become a prophet of doom. The last theological position I ever heard my dad espouse was that a mandatory death penalty for drug dealers was biblical and desired by God. No doubt, my dad went Palin-rogue at the end, just making shit up as it occurred to him pretty much just freelance-creating his own religion. But it’s not just crazy Christians, Eco was warning us of.
It’s equally applicable to much of the Arts and Humanities Post-Secondary sector in Canada. In the name of the good that powerful people “just know” to be good professors twist the theories they teach to suit their own self-interest all the time. They’re not bad people. They’re just people. And, like most people, the power they’ve earned feels good, feels right, feels natural, feels like you’ve kind of turned into a small 'g' god yourself, and, as long as the bad you do is in name of the good, it can’t be bad because you’re good, you know what I mean? The people who say they want to help you the most, almost invariably respect you the least.