Pray Before Shooting

The producer was a fit looking thirty-five year old. His past contained the dubious accreditations of drug dealer and thief. He bragged on his two gunshot scars and everywhere he went, he carried a powerful telephone system in a sack at his side. The rental van plucked a large man from a North Vancouver street at 5.30 a.m. It crossed Lion’s Gate and proceeded through the streets and avenues of Vancouver proper. A tall slim fellow from a home near U.B.C. came aboard and sat up front with the driver. The next addition lived in a rooming house and the one after that in a house without lights and no one to wave good-bye. Two hotels produced two more men. The van picked up the director about 6.30 a.m. He was second last on the list. The last was the producer who was allowed more sleep because he was the client, the decision maker and the man with the money. Rain had begun in the early light. On the way out towards Simon Fraser, it thundered down and bounced back up from the road to slow the pace. It softened as they grabbed the Trans Canada and headed for Abbotsford. Tires whispered and sung and the big man slept. The producer talked to Salt Lake City, Toronto and two other places. Men spoke quietly one to one. When talk slowed, the director outlined the job (a commercial film for the Mormon Church) for the men. He then turned to the producer and asked him to tell the crew what the Church of the Latter Day Saints stood for. The producer showed his usual pleasure at the request and explained the L.D.S. or Mormon Church was a spiritual community that believed Jesus Christ was the Son of God. For them, Jesus provided the path to eternal life. The community was called Latter Day Saints because they believed the leaders of recent history could add to their body of spiritual understanding. A small pause and one of the men turned to the big fellow in the back corner and asked, “So, John, what’s your religion?” John, dozy and hoping to be funny grunted “T.V.” and rolled his body to the window. The tall fellow in front recognized this exchange might constitute an affront and said quietly, “I am a Jew.” After a pause he continued. “We are strong community supporters, both of our own religious community and of the broader community we live in. We believe the God of Israel gave us our credentials. Our ethical foundation comes to us via Moses and our holidays and festivals are commemorations of events like a second century revolt and a war with the Roman Empire.” This quiet and articulate explanation was absorbed. Then the tidy man from the rooming house said, “I am a Muslim. Our religious community is based on obedience to the teachings in the Koran. We have daily regimens that in Canada are usually messed up by our work requirements. Canadian Muslims tend to be more casual than the Middle Eastern ones. We believe the prophet Mohammed spoke for God and his teachings give us everyday guidance.” Not to be left out one of the crew said, “It’s a long story I won’t tell you, but I am a born again Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian.” A long silence ensued off the ends of the smiles. The vehicle hummed. The sun pushed through. The rich odor of wet cedar filled the van. Closer to Abbotsford one of the crew said, “I am a Roman Catholic. The actions of some of the clergy have not supported the pride I have in my beliefs. Human weakness aside, I believe the Pope in Rome to be a primary spiritual authority. It’s a convenient religion. You can misbehave on almost any level, go to confession and get back in the lineup for heaven.” A stop at Abbotsford for egg McMuffins and then everyone spread out along a set of railway tracks to start their day. When the sun lowered and warmed the mountain backdrop, they agreed they had managed a productive day and piled back into the van. They picked up the opposite side of the Trans Canada and settled in for the return trip. The driver spoke as soon as he reached speed. “Before you all drop off to sleep,” he said, “I want to inform you that I am a First Nations person from up the coast and the spiritual belief of my people is that God is the tree and the bear and me and the highway.”

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Bill Irish is a 40 year veteran of Canada’s Communication Industry.