I’m reading the book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. This alarming book traces the interconnectedness of mega-preachers and certain Canadian politicians. It talks about how the religious right are getting organized pouring money into the infostructure to train young people to take on government and beaurocratic positions, including in 2009 more than $26 million in public funds going to private Christian colleges as part of the economic stimulus package. (This wasn’t business as usual. James Turk, executive director of Canadian Association of University Teachers is quoted as saying “The fact that this money is going to private institutions – and fundamental Christian ones at that – is something we haven’t seen in this country before.”)
It talks about religious political activism including 4MYCanada.ca, and the big tour events put on by its director Faytene Kryskow (now Faytene Grasseschi). Here’s a description of the end of her speil at Missionfest:
“Imagine an army of young people five million strong,” she says. “Imagine their passion to arise as a youth force that effectively decided who would get elected to political office – a force so powerful that it literally began to change their nation.” Her audience is warming to her message when it takes a bizzare turn. “This actually happened,” Kryskow says. “They called themselves the Hitler Youth and they changed the face of their nation and the world.” As her listeners sit in stunned silence, she delivers her closing call to arms: “If they could mobilize their cause to become that might with the power of evil backing them,” she tells the crowd, “how much more could we accomplish with the power of God backing us up?”
I wish I could remind her that the Hitler Youth were also convinced they had the power of God backing them, or that the incredible strenght of that organization worked partly by state mechanism including the ability to disband all other youth groups and take children away from parents who refused to allow their children to join the movement, but I know all that is beyond the point. She believes God is more powerful than evil and if evil could do that, they obviously can do more.
I think of this clip from Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” where the staff are practicing for their mock debates and Maggie starts ranting about how insulting it is that people would reduce God to a “party hack who endorses candidates.”
I’m like Maggie. I feel my faith is insulted by the comparison and I know that Christians need to stand up and challenge this.
But I’m also scared. I’m scared that the infostructure is being put in place, and while the left might be enjoying watching the Duffy and Ford scandals, the self-destruction of the right wing spokespeople won’t solve anything if the religious right can become viable power-dealers. Which will have more power – secular left-wing Leadnow.ca or religious rightwing 4MyCanada.ca?
Religious beliefs matter. It matters if a politician believes in dominionism, the idea that God has given humans dominion over all natural things. Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott’s legislative assistant, Timothy Bloedow wrote that: “The environmental movement treats man as a cancer, a virus, and a blight on the Earth. Environmentalism represents the hatred of man and, by extension, of the God whose image man bears.” Is this the kind of guy we want advising politicians? This misrepresents both Christianity and environmentalism, as they can go hand-in-hand embracing the idea that humans are called on to protect God’s creation (created, of course, over billions of years…).
Yet we need to take others views into consideration. We need to make space within the left-wing for respectful religious discussion. We need to acknowledge that environmentalist conversations does become insulting at the point where it suggests people’s children are a blight upon the earth, just another burden. We need to be compassionate for those who are willing to wrestle with how to reconcile their faith with changing social norms. We need to take seriously the concerns some people have with regards to things like euthenasia, so that those who are scared of it do not feel pushed into the Conservative camp.
And we need to organize. We need to be willing to contribute money towards the news sources that give us access to the information we need (such as http://sgnews.ca/), and towards the lobby organizations (such as www.canadians.org) that do the type of work we need done. The right wing are busy training their youth to lobbiest, we need to learn from the other organizers. (http://www.uppingtheanti.org/, http://alltogethernow.nupge.ca/, http://talkingradical.ca/)