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The Armageddon Factor

Canadian journalist warns of the rise of the country’s religious right

By Kenneth Bagnell

The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada 
By Marci McDonald 
(Random House Canada) $32 

“The complexity of life,” a philosophy professor of my youth said often, “means nothing is simple. Nothing.” Every journalist who writes a book on religion should have this maxim nearby, printed in large letters. 

Author Marci Mc-Donald has respected credentials: she’s a former Washington correspondent for Maclean’s and the winner of numerous awards. Her recent book warns of the rise of Canada’s so-called religious right and portrays evangelical fundamentalists striving to turn conservative Christianity into Canada’s official belief. “Over the last three decades, as the stars of the U.S. prophetic circuit ventured north of the forty-ninth parallel, evangelicals here began to promote the notion that this country, too, had its own glorious, biblically ordained destiny,” she writes. Canada would thereby adopt anti-gay, anti-feminist and other highly conservative social policies. 

Her problem is oversimplifying the makeup of Christian conservatism. Not all evangelicals share the views of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Canada’s Charles McVety, whose television program was recently cancelled after he ran afoul of broadcast standards regulators. 

Preston Manning is certainly not part of this group, given his favourable view, expressed in his memoir, of anthropologist Ashley Montagu’s wise dictum: “The only measure of what you believe is what you do.” To red-hot fundamentalists, this is outright heresy. 

But as with many journalists, McDonald sees all evangelical conservatives as having the same belief system, and if they attain power, Canadians face the possibility of a theocratic state in which an idea like dispensationalism might actually be enshrined in public policy. That’s the notion — cobbled from biblical verses taken wildly out of context — that there’s to be an apocalypse in which the saved go to heaven in the rapture. 

Even if the tide she fears is dangerously rising, it will be offset by stronger tides: secularism and a growing Islamic community. As for the first, the Quebec government is taking ever-firmer stands against religious symbolism in public spaces, and other provinces are sure to follow. And, as is well known, Islam is rapidly expanding in Canada due to immigration and birth rates. Both facts will serve as counterweights to the influence of a political religiosity many of us, not just Marci McDonald, don’t want to see too close to Canada’s seat of power.

Rev. Kenneth Bagnell is a volunteer associate minister at Eglinton St. George’s United in Toronto.

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