Author Marci McDonald explores rise of Christian nationalism in Canada in The Armageddon Factor
Mainstream-media reporters and columnists are largely unaware of the growing influence of the religious right in Canada, according to the author of a new book on the subject.
In an interview at the Georgia Straight office, veteran journalist Marci McDonald said that she wrote The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada (Random House Canada, $32) to “lay out the geography” of the Christian right in this country.
She noted that in a 2003 speech at the annual Civitas conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlined an electoral strategy to reach out to religious conservatives of many different faiths.
McDonald maintained that for a long time, the leaders of the Canadian Christian right have tried to emulate their U.S. counterparts by gaining influence over public policy.
“This particular strategy is being encouraged by a government that’s wedded to secrecy,” she said.
Her book describes a multifaceted movement with close ties to several Conservative MPs, including Treasury Board president Stockwell Day, who represents the federal riding of Okanagan–Coquihalla.
McDonald reports in her book that Day is one of the “most prominent members” of a conservative Kelowna-based Christian group called Watchmen for the Nations. Vancouver pastor Bob Birch, who died in 2007, spearheaded its creation in response to Vancouver hosting the Gay Games in 1990.
“He was so outraged he took out these newspaper ads,” McDonald said.
She pointed out that Watchmen for the Nations has helped reconcile some members of the French-speaking, English-speaking, Jewish, and aboriginal communities. However, she said that its leader, David Demian, believes the end times are coming soon, and that Canada must become a “truly Christian nation to fulfill its biblical prophesy”.
“That is a very strong belief,” McDonald said. “It’s why I called the book The Armageddon Factor.”
She noted that Birch had ties to numerous right-wing Christian groups, including Miracle Channel cofounder Joan Dewert, National House of Prayer founders Rob and Fran Parker, and religious broadcaster David Mainse.
Watchmen for the Nations is one of a few groups that McDonald describes as “dispensationalist”, “Christian Zionist”, and “Christian reconstructionist”.
In her book, she writes that the father of dispensationalism was a 19th-century Irishman named John Nelson Darby. He interpreted the Bible to mean there would be seven epochs, culminating in the Battle of Armageddon against followers of the Antichrist.
According to him, true Christian believers would be spared by being summoned to heaven before the battle.
The Battle of Armageddon would take place when Israel had returned to the strength it had in biblical times. Therefore, in the eyes of dispensationalists, it is necessary to support the present-day state of Israel against its enemies.
“There are rabbis in Israel who have said, ”˜You should not take evangelical money because they do not have our best long-term interest at heart,’ ” McDonald commented. “I think it is certainly worthy of debate, but you can understand, in fact, the Israeli government can’t afford to alienate the best source of tourism and support, especially in America, where a congressional grant is at stake every year.”