Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
These words come from a popular 19th Century Celtic song. The song cautions against trust and risk ending with the couplet: “And I have no wife to bother me life, no lover to prove untrue, the whole day long I laugh with the song and paddle me own canoe.” Such wisdom is contradicted by phrases like, “there is strength in numbers.” Winnipeg has a relatively small population of people with African descent. And while a few African gangs were kept apart from each other, the correctional system generally placed people with such backgrounds together. Presumably this was to protect such people from racial violence if they were isolated but it also placed people who had been in Canada for several generations with recent immigrants who had only been in Canada for a few years who they had very little in common with other than pigmentation. I remember one such person explaining that he was asked immediately upon entering his range, “Who are you down with?” to which he replied, “Myself, I am down with myself” to indicate he had no intention of identifying with any of the gangs. “Down with myself” is a contemporary equivalent of declaring that you paddle your own canoe.
An interesting way to read scripture is to take the perspective of the different characters in a given story. For instance, in the call of the apostles you can put yourself in the place of the parents of the fishers. As reported by Matthew, we see very quick decisions made by Peter and Andrew, followed by James and John. Presumably, fishing was a family business and the parents watched a stranger come and steal their labour. Their children were their only security for the future of their family business. What did they imagine as their boys walked away with a stranger after one line of conversation? This is an absurd scenario when pictured in your mind’s eye. What kind of parents would embrace such a moment? Jesus seemed very intent not to “paddle his own canoe” and chose instead to compel twelve companions to join his journey.