1976 AACS Niagara Conference
Perspective Report by Bill and Amy Rowe
The annual AACS Niagara Conference was held on July 30 through August 3. Tents sprang up everywhere on the campus of Niagara Christian College, filling the area nearly to capacity with 900 adults and children. Activities got under way Friday night with two movies designed to set the tone of concerns for the conference.
This conference was not for those who wished to sit back and relax. Arnold De Graaff and Tom Malcolm were the main speakers; Peter Steen supplied Biblical insight, and the workshop leaders all strove to make us think about our own lifestyles and values. Each person there was challenged — and it was not always a comforting feeling .
The first movie concerned the Cree Indian people and their lifestyle of nearly complete dependence on the land. No one was advocating a “back to nature” movement, but the feelings of the Indians (“All seasons are good”) contrasted sharply with the second movie of the evening. This movie was concerned with oil in the Arctic and the technology involved in getting it to southern regions. Man conquered the land, “used” it unlike the Indians. North American man cannot view the environment as friendly, but only as an enemy to be vanquished.
Malcolm and De Graaff presented their talks on Saturday, immediately following Steen’s Bible study on Revelation. Both men had obviously worked hard on their talks, and were deeply concerned by what they had discovered. De Graaff’s speech was aimed at exposing the North American way of life. In contrast to lifestyles of other cultures we hold a technicized view of our environment; this “economism” view of growth has affected all areas of life. As an outgrowth of capitalism, corporatism has grown in the 20th Century. Our government, our marketing, our military, our families, all aspects of life have fallen into the powerful grip of international economic politics.
De Graaff also showed how the Church has often whole-heartedly supported the growth of corporatism in the belief that the North American way of life can be termed “Christian”.
In the afternoon, Tom Malcolm outlined the effect of the North American religion of capitalism upon our personal lives. He described how modern corporatism has divided our many-faceted life into production and consumption. The corporatist ic view of worker forces the worker to seek meaning in life elsewhere; there is no joy of task. We are guided by the media and advertising into a false dichotomy of work and recreation, factory and family, weekdays and weekends.
Sunday morning John VanderStelt led an enthusiastic worship service which included choral readings and joyful singing. Sunday afternoon was set aside for the presentation of alternatives to the North American way of life. De Graaff and Malcolm exhorted us to be doers of the Word which we have heard. We must do justice to bring healing in any area in our lives we can; we need to renounce. what is unchristian in our lifestyles. It is in thus doing the Word that alternatives emerge.
The workshops began immediately after in an attempt to flesh out these statements. The workshop leaders offered insight into how we as Christians can begin to make changes. The areas covered were native people, cooking, advertising, urban life, the pipeline issue and labour relations. These were all beginnings, suggestions for us intended to encourage us to develop Christian alternatives in a post-Christian society.
It would be dishonest to say that there was complete agreement with De Graaff and Malcolm’s critique. There was not, but opportunity was given on Sunday night to air differences and discuss problems. The conference ended on Monday afternoon with everyone challenged to reflect on what was said. The conference ended on a good note with many faithful comments, despite disagreement we will continue to work to hasten the Kingdom of God.