When I was in my 30's and 40's in Vancouver, I very oddly began looking forward to Canadian Jean Vanier's weekly TV program, which was a half-hour talk, usually with him sitting in a chair in his home in the L'Arche community he created in Paris (which is now worldwide, with a community here in London).
The weird thing for me then about watching Vanier was that I wasn't religious at all, and yet I was listening carefully to a man speaking from a very Christian, very Catholic, background. In fact his talks sounded quite a bit like a gentle preacher proselytizing. But this was definitely a different kind of preacher. He was a man who had practiced what he was preaching. Actually, he had not only created the L'Arche community, but he lived in it, along with people with serious mental problems, WHILE he was living the life of a preacher, so to speak. This to me was something very new.
A lot of what he said was what he had learned about life and living from that situation. And he didn't just combine it with his Christian ideas, and with the philosophy he was imbued with from his earlier days as a philosophy professor. He was telling us new things, views he had realized himself about what it is to be a real human. I was fascinated. This is a preacher who actually KNOWS life, hasn't just read it from the Bible and memorized what his church teaches.
The way I saw it was that he was living with all the people whom the rest of the world wants to ignore in it's obsession with perfection, specialness, progress, and celebrity. I've always known those obsessions were fantasies, unreal, and dangerous to their believers, and to the societies they lived in and promoted. (Yet strangely they provide most of the energy our free-enterprise system runs on, and what it would do without them I can't imagine.) Vanier, one of the brightest people I've ever been exposed to, seemed like he might have discovered an opposite path to those shallow obsessions. I felt he just may have discovered how we can cure ourselves and our communities and the world.
So I watched and rewatched his talks, many of which looked at God and Jesus in deeper ways than I had ever imagined possible, such that I could actually see the faint possibility of myself becoming a believer. But, alas, I would have had to have been much more of a blank slate than I was. I have my own very strong ideas of truth and reality, and to become a Christian I would have to throw all those out first. For people like me, it's not just a matter of deciding to believe.
Nevertheless, I'm still drawn to Vanier's vision. There is so much depth and solid reality in it, in its view of us human beings. It's exactly the opposite from what we are generally exposed to.