9.24.2006

scary

File this under the "Harper is acting moderately to gather support, then after he wins a majority, he will show his true ultra-conservative colours" school of thought.

As you know from my past posts, although I dislike Harper's Conservatives, I'm not overly concerned about their effect on Canada at this stage of the game. However, I emphatically recognize the need for them not to get a majority government. I'm very clear on that.

Thus when I saw the cover of the current issue of The Walrus, I flinched. It shouts: "Jesus in the House: Is the religious right taking over Stephen Harper's government?" The cover story, by Marci McDonald, is titled Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada's religious right.

I haven't read the article yet. I've been avoiding it, as the prospect of said rising clout is so sickening. But I can't dismiss the question. When the religious right in the US started consolidating its power through the courts and state legislatures in the early 1980s, under Ronald Reagan's approving gaze, most Americans paid no attention. And look what happened.

I'll try to read the story soon and report back. You can do the same.

And just so we're clear, the problem isn't religion, or religious people. It's religion in government. The only way for all of us to be free to practice our respective religions or practice no religion, as we wish, is through a strict separation of religion and government. In other words, do what you please, just stay out of my business. The vast majority of Canadians recognize this, and want a secular state. Is there a stealth campaign going on to undermine that?

39 comments:

impudent strumpet said...

The Globe and Mail's take on the same issue. I actually haven't read it yet either for the same reasons :/ but I should get to it before the Monday paper comes.

James said...

There was an interesting article recently by a fundamentalist Christian who'd been keen on the US's "faith-based" initiatives. He had a bit of a wake-up call recently when he went to Hawaii and discovered, to his horror, that a local college oppened their football games with prayers -- Buddhist prayers.

All of sudden he saw the light about the important of maintaining a secular govenment, because the state-run college was imposing pagan rituals on him.

L-girl said...

Imp-Strump, thanks for the link. I'm going to read that too, if I can stand it.

James, oh man, that would be a cure, wouldn't it? Enforced Jewish ceremonies, Roman Catholic ceremonies, Buddhist chanting... On second thought, in the US it would probably start riots and cross-burning. Maybe I should re-think...

James said...

James, oh man, that would be a cure, wouldn't it? Enforced Jewish ceremonies, Roman Catholic ceremonies, Buddhist chanting... On second thought, in the US it would probably start riots and cross-burning. Maybe I should re-think...

They're all very smug and secure when they're in the majority... But in Hawaii, of course, things are different.

Members of a majority rarely appreciate the meaning of the term, "tyrrany of the majority". The single most important contribution the US's founding made to human government was the realization that pure majority rule can be disasterous, and that protections for those not in the majoirty are necessary.

The "you lost, get over it" attitude that the current bunch exhibit is one of the most "unamerican" things I can think of.

BTW, I found the article -- actually a letter to WorldNetDaily. I had mis-remembered some details, so read the original to get things right.

Here's the most important bit:

I was not at all initially surprised when a voice came over the PA and asked everyone to rise for the invocation. I had been through this same ritual at many other high-school events and thought nothing of it, so to our feet my wife and I stood, bowed our heads, and prepared to partake of the prayer. But to our extreme dismay, the clergyman who took the microphone and began to pray was not a Protestant minister or a Catholic priest, but a Buddhist priest who proceeded to offer up prayers and intonations to god-head figures that our tradition held to be pagan.

We were frozen in shock and incredulity! What to do? To continue to stand and observe this prayer would represent a betrayal of our own faith and imply the honoring of a pagan deity that was anathema to our beliefs. To sit would be an act of extreme rudeness and disrespect in the eyes of our Japanese hosts and neighbors, who value above all other things deference and respect in their social interactions.


(Emphasis mine)

impudent strumpet said...

Thank you for that link, James! A source that explains these concepts in terms that evangelicals can understand is always helpful.

I found it interesting that the author actually went so far as to say he found the other religious practices offensive. For most of us - well, I can't speak for everyone because we're all coming from different places, but in my little corner of the recovering-catholic community - we don't find other religions offensive, we just don't want to have to publically show loyalty to something we don't believe in. It makes us feel like great dirty hypocrites.

Unfortunately, there seem to be a vocal group of people who would rather have us all loudly being great dirty hypocrites rather than quietly living honest lives. I've even encountered people who are not actively religious, but continued to put on the show of being religious for the sake of not rocking the boat, and THEN when they had kids tried to raise their kids in the same not-really-religious-but-go-through-the-motions values, and get mad at the kids when they choose to live honestly.

David Cho said...

Theo-cons. I like that.

L-girl said...

David, I thought you would. :)

Check out the article. It begins with the Christian Zionist connection.

West End Bound said...

My first published letter to the editor in the Vancouver Sun was in reference to the softwood lumber dispute between the US and Canada that was going on at the time. That portion was published, but my reference to warning Canadian citizens about the "infiltration" of religious conservatives into government was edited out of the piece. To me that prospect was and is the scariest potentially negative situation facing modern day Canada. Read Michelle Greenberg's "Thy Kingdom Come" to get a good history of the religious right in the US - It is a sobering experience.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

For what it's worth, the always-sensible Paul Wells from Macleans (possibly the only good thing about that magazine these days) apparently debunks that Walrus article in this week's issue. I haven't read it yet, but plan to.

L-girl said...

I/P, thanks for the tip! I will look into that.

I'm reading the Walrus article right now. There's something to be concerned about, for sure, but there also seems to be a bit of hocus-pocus about it. I'd be interested in another take.

Read Michelle Greenberg's "Thy Kingdom Come"

Michelle Goldberg, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.

Sorry to be nitpicky, WEB, just in case anyone was looking for it I wanted to get her name and the title in.

West End Bound said...

Not a problem, L-girl!

I was just coming back to correct the inaccuracy - Thanks!

Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg

L-girl said...

Here's the book's website.

West End Bound said...

I hope Paul Wells of Macleans is correct in debunking the Walrus article . . . After spending the majority of my adult life in the Southeastern US, however, I have seen first hand how these people infiltrate local politics. They start a "stealth campaign" supporting local school board members, county judges, county commissioners, etc., and then progress up the line. Voila: We get George Bush and government policies and institutions take on a definite religious slant and administration. Watch these people - their agenda is not good for a democratic nation. Witness the worldview of the US today.

L-girl said...

Watch these people - their agenda is not good for a democratic nation.

Oh boy, that's for sure.

I think it was easier for the RR to gain power in the US than it would be in Canada, because the US was already more overtly religious and Christian. Even the US of pre-Reagan years was more religious than the Canada I live in now.

Which is not to say "it could never happen here" - words none of us should ever utter.

I want to read the Macleans story just to see what, if anything, the Walrus writer exaggerated. Walrus will probably respond to that (they always do!), so we'll have some good perspective.

redsock said...

WorldNetDaily aka WingNutDaily

Do not rely on them for anything resembling news.

There is usually Macleans where I work. I'll see if it is here and xerox.

Theo-con

Isn't that a good thing?

L-girl said...

Ha! As you know, some Sox fans feel Theo has conned us.

(Not me. I am smart.)

There is usually Macleans where I work. I'll see if it is here and xerox.

That would be great.

I'm just finishing up the Walrus article now. David Cho, you will pleased to know Christian Zionism gets full play here. (David has been warning me about this very real danger, which is largely unknown to many liberal Americans, for some time.) The writer mentions the book "On The Road To Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend" by Rev. Timothy Weber, who opposes the movement.

Part of my skepticism about the Walrus story is that the writer's characterizations of the US are not very accurate. That makes me question her judgement in general. However, she's obviously done a lot of research into the Canadian side.

redsock said...

I got it.

He writes that the article:

"should be welcomed as an ambitious attempt by an experienced reporter to test a hypothesis about what makes the big guy tick. McDonald believes the Prime Minister is in the pocket of religious extremists.

"She fails quite spectacularly to prove it: her article ends up reading like a brilliant satire of anti-conservative conspiracy theory".

L-girl said...

her article ends up reading like a brilliant satire of anti-conservative conspiracy theory

I can't say he's wrong in that. But just because something is a conspiracy theory doesn't mean it's not true.

I trust you'll bring that home. I'll swap articles with you.

redsock said...

It's only one page -- his regular column.

L-girl said...

I just finished reading the Globe & Mail article that Impudent Strumpet linked to above.

One thing I found noteworthy was Canadian evangelicals comparing Canada's legalization of same-sex marriage with Roe v Wade in the US - the issue that rallies social conservatives, gives them one issue to rally around.

That doesn't mean Canada is about to go down the same road the US did, but it's something to think about, in terms of the opposition to progress.

James said...

I found it interesting that the author actually went so far as to say he found the other religious practices offensive.

I was unsurprised. That's a basic tennent of fundamentalism -- the First Commandment, no less! Thou Shalt Have No Gods Before Me

The very concept of other religions is anathema to fundamentalists of any stripe. They really believe that there is a significant qualitative difference between their belief in their favourite sky daddy and anyone else's belief in their magic pixies. Their belief is True History, everyone else's is Fairy Tales.

That's why you can find these people claiming that, say, campus rules that forbid them to spread hatred towards gays are discrimination against them, but any criticism of their actions is hate speech.

It's the same mentality that's lead all these extremist imams to demand an apology from the Pope for his recent comments, but offer no appologies for their own "Death to Unbelievers" rhetoric, or lets Fred Phelps complain that not being allowed to harass grieving parents is an infringement on his faith.

It's what allows people to protest with signs saying Behead those who call Islam a violent religion! without a trace of irony.


Which is why it is so important that they don't get into power.

Lisa said...

L-girl,

I read (well, actually skimmed)the Walrus article when it first came out, and found that most of it focussed heavily on the details of vocal religious right groups that are active in Canada, and what THEY think of their potential influence on Canadian society, but very little about how this would or could actually happen. The article seemed to be more about the author looking for an angle on which to hang a sensationalistic story, than an actual realistic assessment of the dangers posed by these, ahem, freaks.

I am not terribly concerned about the extreme religious Christian right gaining any serious political foothold in Canada. Not in the way that we've seen in the US, at any rate. I just don't think that the demographics are there in the Canadian populace to support the RR's goals. There just aren't enough of them in Canada to make the RR viable as a powerful lobby group, or a voting block to whom Harper can pander in order to successfully get re-elected.

As well funded as Focus on the Family Canada etc. is, if in fact the entire fabric of Canadian politics and society can be so quickly undone by such small fraction of the populace (which the article implies) than we clearly have problem with the political process, not with the Canadian public or even the RR.

I might be proven utterly wrong, though. I certainly hope not.

I think that we're better off looking at John Howard's ability to stay in power in Australia for so long, and the mess that he's made in his ten(?) years as PM, as a model of how Harper could gain a majority and screw the country up, than looking to the American strategies.

Here's a link to an article (a bit dated now) comparing Howard's strategies with Harper's. It's an out and out socialist site, but that's okay :)
http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/view/1744

These paragraphs stood out:

"Mr. Howard's electoral success can be put down to his capacity to capture the support of working-class and lower-middle-class families who used to vote for the ALP; he did this by lining their pockets with tax cuts and middle-class welfare payments, such as cash bonuses for new mothers. And he appealed to their moral conservatism and desire to slow down the pace of social change. In 1996, Mr. Howard's campaign slogan was "For all of us." Mr. Howard said the ALP was more interested in what he called "elite" issues such as aboriginal reconciliation, Australian republicanism and the arts.

Mr. Howard's phrase for those who have switched their support from the ALP to his Liberal Party is "mainstream Australians." These voters, who primarily live in the western suburbs of Sydney and southeast Queensland, don't like gay marriage. They fear social change; Muslim and Asian migrants moving into their neighbourhoods scares them. They believe aboriginal Australians get too much welfare. They like tough-on-crime policies. And they focus on their economic bottom line - they like tax cuts and low interest rates."

Unfortunately, I think that this describes a whole lotta Canadians that I know pretty well. "Moral conservatives", not necessarily Christian conservatives, who like their tax cuts apparently more than they like functioning schools.

Actually, I'm more freaked out by the news that Stockwell Day, Gordon O'Connor, John Manley and others holed up with Donald Rumsfeld in Banff to discuss further economic and "security" integration with the US.

BTW, I'm emailing all my American (well, mostly Canadian ex-pats in the US) friends about the World Can't Wait rallies! Most of them already know about it, but it can't hurt to encourage them to attend!

L-girl said...

Hi Lisa :)

I am not terribly concerned about the extreme religious Christian right gaining any serious political foothold in Canada. Not in the way that we've seen in the US, at any rate.

Of course I hope you're right!! But it's worth remembering "the way we've seen in the US" didn't start out that way either. They started out mostly under the radar.

People who warned against them - like me, for example, as part of the pro-choice movement - were completely ignored or laughed off.

So as much as I want to say "aw no, Canada won't go in for that...", that might be wishful thinking.

BTW, I'm emailing all my American (well, mostly Canadian ex-pats in the US) friends about the World Can't Wait rallies!

Yay!! So glad to hear that.

L-girl said...

The very concept of other religions is anathema to fundamentalists of any stripe.

My first thought was that Canada's sizeable Muslim population would guard against the rise of the RR. But social conservatives of all faiths can band together for convenience and political clout, and argue about the details later.

Scott M. said...

It's a bit of scare mongering by the Walrus folks really. Looking at the math, it's very unlikely to happen in Canada:

Quebec culture is vehemently disestablishment oriented and you would likely get all 76 seats supporting that view.

Ontario counts for 107 seats in the house. Of those seats, 32 are rural and could (generally speaking) want a more regressive approach. So that leaves us with 75 seats.

Just those two alone account for 150 seats of the 308. Add in the vast majority of BC's 37 seats (lets say 32), and you've already got a majority, long before you even count the many left-leaning seats in Saskatchewan (home of one-payer Health Care), Manitoba and the Atlantic Provinces.

And you can be assured that no "packing and cracking" of seats happen here... Elections Canada is quite impartial and won't gerrymander any ridings.

Speaking of which... what's with the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruling that gerrymandering is OK as long as it's done for political gain? That one just made me shake my head in disbelief -- I thought that would be specifically disallowed!

FormerOwl said...

I want to underscore how careful Elections Canada is regarding the boundaries of election ridings. They get changed only after consultation with local people, etc., and they follow natural boundaries like rivers and railway lines.

Elections are run efficiently and relatively honestly here.

Now to see if this gets posted ... (frustrated Owl)

FormerOwl said...

A little background on Harper - he was employed by the National Citizens Coalition, an economically conservative pressure group, which had no interest in religion that I ever saw. They used to get angry at MPs getting high pensions, they denounced compulsory unionization, and that kind of thing.

There is much of interest you can find via Google - look for "National Citizens Coalition" separately, and then combine that term with "Stephen Harper." There are too many good links, and I don't want to pick just one.

Now to test - will this post appear??

L-girl said...

It's a bit of scare mongering by the Walrus folks really. Looking at the math, it's very unlikely to happen in Canada:

I don't doubt you. I thought of similar things myself (although with less precise numbers).

But the point of the story is that the influence would be behind-the-scenes, unknown to most voters, so they wouldn't know that they were voting for a theo-con agenda. And they would only find out *after* the Conservatives are elected with a majority.

I'm not saying this is so - just interpreting what the story says.

L-girl said...

Elections are run efficiently and relatively honestly here.

You could say that's the central reason we're here - or the central reason we're not there, anyway.

This story isn't about fair elections, though. There's no implication of dirty play or gerrymadering.

Lone Primate said...

I'm not overly concerned about the religious right in Canada. They exist, and they do have organization, but I don't get the sense they have the relative numbers or persuation that they have in the United States. Certainly they're found in all Western democracies, but nowhere with the sort of influence they have in the US ...except possibly Northern Ireland. I would say, given our culture and proximity, that Canada is more at risk than most countries, but I don't imagine they'll become significantly influencial. They might have, once... but Canada's become too differentiated since the 1970s, and openly so, for them to rule the roost.

A note to those who'd see us adopt a PR system in Parliament (I run hot and cold on the idea myself)... the system today fairly guarantees that theo-con parties in Canada are unelectable, which limits their attractiveness and forces theo-cons to try to draw conservative parties more in their direction. A PR system just about gurantees these folks a few seats, and suddenly they'll have something to build on.

Just food for thought.

L-girl said...

These voters, who primarily live in the western suburbs of Sydney and southeast Queensland, don't like gay marriage. They fear social change; Muslim and Asian migrants moving into their neighbourhoods scares them. They believe aboriginal Australians get too much welfare. They like tough-on-crime policies. And they focus on their economic bottom line - they like tax cuts and low interest rates.

Re Australia, I wanted to note that Canada and Australia are light years apart in terms of immigration policy and multiculturalism. Australia, up until very recently, was all white and British-based with the Aboriginal underclass. It had almost no immigration that was not white and British - or Thai and other Asian "guest workers" brought into to do menial labour with no rights in the country. That's loosened up somewhat, but multiculturalism isn't even talked about and there's no middle class and professional immigration, from what I understand, the way there is in Canada.

L-girl said...

A note to those who'd see us adopt a PR system in Parliament (I run hot and cold on the idea myself)... the system today fairly guarantees that theo-con parties in Canada are unelectable, which limits their attractiveness and forces theo-cons to try to draw conservative parties more in their direction. A PR system just about gurantees these folks a few seats, and suddenly they'll have something to build on.

It is food for thought, for sure. But then, if one believes, as I do, that Pro-Rep is more democratic, we have to be willing to have that system no matter what the outcome. We can't only want Pro-Rep if it benefits our own views.

I see it as similar to free-speech issues in that regard. It's something to uphold on prinicple, not to control according to our politics.

By the way, I strongly suggest that people who are commenting on this article actually read it. The writer isn't saying the Theo-Cons will have their own party. She's saying they may have undue influence within the current Conservative party, if and when Harper gets a majority government.

L-girl said...

Follow-up. Paul Wells column in Macleans, mentioned above, basically says this: the evangelists McDonald lists in her column are marginal, non-influential hangers-on. Their foothold in govt may be more now than it ever was in past, but it's still not even a toehold.

L-girl said...

More follow-up!

"Theocon" must be a new buzzword. Here, another book uses it in its title.

sharonapple said...

The funny thing about that article from the guy offended by Buddhist prayers... the people may have had Japanese and Chinese ancestry, but he seems to neglect the fact that they're American as well. It bugs that he calls them "Japanese hosts," or "Asiatic collegues" since it makes them sound more foreign than they probably are. He should keep in mind that Asians go back a couple of generation in Hawaii (since 1789), probably as far back as his own acestors to North America.

As for Australia, my mother wanted to immigrate to Australia, but she was barred since she wasn't white.

I do remember talking briefly to an Australian once, and it appears as though they have multiculturalism in Australia as well, and he took some pride in this.

Doing some research, I stumbled on this, a point which is almost contradictory.

Secondly, under multiculturalism, Australia generally has low levels of racial violence and discrimination against migrant groups in Australia, despite the earlierexperience of genocidal acts against the Aboriginalpeople for which we have yet to apologise. And despitethe fact that we still have racism institutionalised inour Constitution -see Section 25 of our Constitution

http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:fpOML6QgEPUJ:www.crc.nsw.gov.au/publications/Multiculturalism_in_Australia.pdf+multiculturalism+australia&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=2

What?

All I know is that society demands constant vigilance. The moment people stop trying to make their communities better, stop demanding social justice, we allow idiots to take over. I know it's unlikely that the religious right will gain power, but I'd rather keep an eye on them. It's just something that will help me sleep better at night.

L-girl said...

Sharonapple, so nice to see you here again!

I had the same reaction about the Hawaiian comment: Hawaiians are Americans, dipshit!

All I know is that society demands constant vigilance. The moment people stop trying to make their communities better, stop demanding social justice, we allow idiots to take over. I know it's unlikely that the religious right will gain power, but I'd rather keep an eye on them. It's just something that will help me sleep better at night.

Well said!! Thank you. You've just summed it up for me.

After Harper was elected, there was a lot of panicked talk him remaking Canada into the Bush-era US. When I questioned how that could happen, I could never get a handle on the answers. There wasn't a lot of there there.

Now here is something that might be a genuine concern, something that could - possibly - move Canada more in that direction. And so: something to watch.

Lone Primate said...

I found it interesting that the author actually went so far as to say he found the other religious practices offensive.

Yeah, that one kind of poked me in the brain too. I admire the train of egalitarian thought that brought the author to (what I think is) the right conclusion, but the nudge that got the cart rolling -- his "offense" at the religious practices of others -- tarnishes the jewel a little.

Worship is worship; heartfelt devotion to a creator and his/her/its/their beneficence should be universally admirable (so long as it doesn't involve cutting out someone's heart and tossing it down the temple stairs). Does this man really believe Jesus is the kind of guy who'd say "stick your casserole up your @ss; I don't like onions"? If people are living good lives and offering devotion to something they imagine is greater than themselves, I think (I hope?) Jesus is just fine with that. If I'm wrong and God's just a massive, anally-retentive jerk, well... frankly, we're probably better off without Him.

L-girl said...

Does this man really believe Jesus is the kind of guy who'd say "stick your casserole up your @ss; I don't like onions"?

Classic Lone Primate! This is why we love ya. :)

If people are living good lives and offering devotion to something they imagine is greater than themselves, I think (I hope?) Jesus is just fine with that.

And everyone should be fine with that, even folks like me who strongly prefer that people keep those devotions in private.

Yes, that was an offensive bit mixed in with the man's ah-ha experience.

Lone Primate said...

And everyone should be fine with that, even folks like me who strongly prefer that people keep those devotions in private.

There's a part of me that misses the Christmas pageants of my childhood. But as an adult, I understand why they have no place in our public schools. Canada is a big country. We have a lot of things in common that no one objects to. We don't need to force conformity in matters where it's inappropriate. As the nation matures, I think this will be less of an issue. The day will come when people will be amazed, and embarrassed, that there was a time in this country when non-Christian children were forced to stand on stage and mouth insincere adorations of the babe in the manger. Talk about making Baby Jesus cry.