Friday, July 02, 2010

A Marci McDonald round-up part 2: electric boogaloo

[Originally posted at Bene Diction Blogs On, May 19, 2010]

At this rate, more words might soon be used to report and comment on Marci McDonald's new book on Canada's Christian Right, The Armageddon Factor, than are used in the book itself.

Here are some things that I think may be of interest.

Indirect coverage continues in the press. Frances Russell of the Winnipeg Free Press quotes a pollster to the effect that Harper may be tossing pro-lifers in the religious right a bone merely to solidify his base. Chantal Hebert, the noted Toronto Star political reporter, notices the book, and the big pro-kife rally in Ottawa earlier this week, and decides that this means that social conservatives are determined that the abortion issue may be re-opened, whether Stephen Harper wants the issue to be raised or not.

Staying in Toronto, Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein is back with a follow-up column on their item from earlier this week, which asks if those who fear political christians had a problem with those clerics who used a "social gospel" to advance a political end.

And speaking of following up, it makes sense that National Post columnist Davd Frum, who assailed The Armageddon Factor in the newspaper a few days ago would ask one of the editors of his US website to quote Ezra Levant as saying the book is "laughable."

Not all the new attention towards the book is from the right. A progressive blogger invites their readers to compare Tommy Douglas, and similar Christians of the past, to Christians from the other side. Which, they ask, is more Christ-like?

McDonald's book, happily, is bringing foward some ostensibly non-partisan thinking on the issue of how powerful the religious should be in politics. Margaret Somerville, the Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law argues for letting all points of vire be weighed in this op-ed. Should that link not work, she appears to have written similarly in the Ottawa Citizen in an op-ed that has now been picked up by the Montreal Gazette.

John Carpay, whom I first met when he was prearing to run against Svend Robinson for the Reform Party in 1993, is now the executive director of the Canadian Constitution Federation. In one of his regular Calgary Herald columns, he asks, not unreasonably, that if the religious right is as powerful in Ottawa as McDonald argues, why can't it get what it wants?

Last but not least, I would suggest that Gerry Nichols, formerly of the very conservative National Citizens Coalition, makes a valid point in a National Post blog item.

He writes:

....I worked with Harper for five years (1997-2002) at the National Citizens Coalition. During all the time I knew him, he never displayed an ounce of zealotry. He never even talked about religion. He did, however, talk a lot about the intersection of religion and politics. And his views in those days would probably shock Marci McDonald.

Harper did not have much affinity for social conservatives. He viewed them as "culturally isolated" and a dwindling political force in Canada. That's why he also believed a conservative political party would be successful only if it talked less about social and moral issues, and more about economic and fiscal issues. In other words, he was a libertarian.....

....Harper's strategy has been pretty simple. To keep social conservatives happy, he likes to make symbolic moves. These pleases religious types, but doesn't set off alarm bells in the rest of the country."

Of course, one could say that Harper is often criticized from the right for not being conservative enough. But I would suggest to McDonald that the question of how much the "religious right" will be able to get now and in the future might be a crucial test of how correct her thesis winds up being.

I know that people on the right will cite "well...when push comes to shove..." and I am looking forward to reading what sort of answer McDonald has to that.