LIGERTWOOD: Why Harper’s religion matters
As I was driving in Kamloops on election day last May, I couldn’t help but notice the parking lots of the two or three fundamentalist churches I passed were full of vehicles.
I thought that was bit strange for a Monday afternoon — what were all these people doing in church on a Monday?
The end of the world wasn’t being called for again, was it?
I soon realized the faithful were not attending religious services, but were busy helping to get out the vote for Conservative candidate Cathy McLeod.
That’s not a problem in and of itself but, after a little more research into the Conservative party and its ties to the evangelical Christian right in this country, I realized there was more to it than first met my eye.
There is a faction in the Conservative party made up of what can only be described as a militant fringe.
They call themselves Christian nationalists and their group has gained significant influence within Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s party out of all proportion to its actual numerical heft.
Not only is it helping to reshape our foreign policy in accord with its religious dogma, but it is also advancing a whole range of socially conservative policies regarded as essential to its main goal: Making Canada a distinctly Christian nation.
On the surface, the group’s rhetoric seems almost heartwarming and patriotic, but the vision of Canada it is promoting is non-pluralistic, retrograde and exclusionary.
These Christian nationalists and the Conservative party into which they have injected themselves seem to be determined to keep the connection secret.
That’s not so surprising when the driving force of the movement’s adherents is examined.
They believe the so-called end times supposedly foretold in the Bible is at hand.
They believe Canada must assume a unique, scripturally ordained role in these final days.
This is why we have seen Canadian foreign policy embracing the most hawkish and expansionist forces in Israel at the expense of a meaningful, Middle East peace process.
These Christian fundamentalists are convinced their cherished end times will only materialize after the Jewish homeland is restored to its old testament might so that the battle of Armageddon can take place and the rapture can occur.
A real commitment to peace in this troubled region is impossible when such people try to impose their arcane religious worldview on to real world politics.
Here in Canada, much to the delight of powerful oil and resource corporations, these religious extremists believe man was given dominion over the natural environment.
Pipelines through sensitive ecosystems, unabated tar-sands extraction and open-pit mines within city boundaries are all much easier to promote if there’s a biblical green light.
And, of course, the complete and utter denial of climate change while muzzling any scientists who disagree — which happens to be 95 per cent of them.
Closing weather stations that monitor these changes has also been undertaken.
Science in general is not welcome in Ottawa these days.
After all, we have a minister of science and technology who thinks Earth is less than 10,000 years old — and denies evolution.
Harper has always been careful to keep his religious convictions out of the public eye while, in the background, assuring these Christian fanatics he is with them and currying their support in a range of initiatives.
His withdrawal of significant funding from the national Status of Women committee was an obvious gesture to the anti-feminist members of this group.
His creation of a new Office of Religious Freedom appears to be nothing more than religious proselytizing around the globe.
Many of his public-service appointments also reflect his pandering to Christian fundamentalism.
Did you ever wonder what happened to Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform party and committed Christian fundamentalist?
He is now the director of the Centre for Building Democracy, paid for by you and dedicated to ensuring a greater role for Christians in government.
Douglas Cryer, the former director of public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship, was appointed to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.
When Harper named the first panel on reproductive technology and, much to the consternation of many in the medical community, there was not a single expert on fertility or stem-cell research — instead, half the panel was avowed anti-choice advocates.
If you would like to research the issue further, I recommend The Armageddon Factor by investigative journalist Marci McDonald. It’s an interesting and cautionary read.
Bill Ligertwood is director of the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought, a Canadian Centre
for Inquiry affiliate.