We had just finished looking at a breathtaking view of Montreal when he asked the question. Do you want to take a walk to the cross? My Canadian friend and CLC colleague was referring to a huge cross that sits atop Mont Royal and is an iconic image in the city. I asked him how long it would take and he said about 15 minutes. How could I say no? Our small group began walking up the path together. As we made our way up the road in front of us, I could not help but find this journey a bit ironic. In a city known for so many things like hockey, maple syrup and the French language, I did not expect to find a giant cross overlooking it all. While I was certainly aware of the long history of the Catholic faith in Quebec, I had not expected to see this symbol of the Christian faith standing in such a prominent location. Secularism seems to be the dominant religion these days and the cross is a stark reminder of another world view. Like many things about our faith, I wondered how many people view it as a relic of the past and how many still held on to it as relevant for today.
I was in Montreal for the release of one of our new books in the French language and was excited for our author and for the local CLC team. This day was the culmination of a lot of hard work and much dreaming in the previous months. While Quebec may still have a large population of self-identified Catholics, many are nominal and see the church as a cultural heritage as much as a religious faith. Just like in France, evangelicals have struggled to get a foothold in this part of the world and protestant churches tend to be small. Our ministry has worked to equip the local church with Christian books and Bibles for over 60 years and has been a vital resource for pastors and leaders in the community.
A few years ago on a trip to Montreal, I discovered that French Christian books are priced much higher than the same books in English. After asking questions about why this was, I began to experience significant “holy discontent” with the status quo. For far too long, good Christian books had been priced so high because of the way that books found their way from France or Switzerland, where they had been published, to Quebec. The distribution system was set up to make it nearly impossible to have lower prices. Something had to be done.
Our team in France agreed to take a risk on translating and publishing one of our recent English best sellers and gave the team in Montreal the rights to get the book printed locally. This helped avoid all the shipping, distribution and taxation costs that affected the pricing of all their other books. In addition, our local team could produce as many or as few as they needed by utilizing print on demand technology through their local printer.
As the group gathered that night to hear Matt Mitchell discuss his book, Resisting Gossip, you could sense the joy in the room. Something was beginning to change. Christian books could be produced more affordably and price did not have to be a barrier to access. As Matt talked about gossip, he pointed out five different types of gossips that he called “the gallery of gossips”. He reminded us that each type of gossip – the spy, the grumbler, the backstabber, the chameleon, the busybody had a gospel antidote. At the end of the talk when Matt took time for questions, one person commented on how good it was to know that the gospel was helpful in every area of life including our problems with gossip. While this is only the second book that CLC Canada has produced, I hope it will be the start of new era in Christian book production and publishing in the Quebec. I am praying that this breakthrough will make it just as easy for a seeker to find and purchase a Christian book in the future as it was for me to find my way up the path to the foot of the cross. Maybe this small step will pave the way for a day when many Québécois will see the cross as more than just symbol from the distant past and embrace the God who died on it in their place.