Author Marci McDonald explores rise of Christian nationalism in Canada in The Armageddon Factor

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      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.”

      This is why the dispensationalists are sometimes called Christian Zionists. McDonald sees the Harper government’s unwavering support for Israel as a manifestation of the dispensationalists’ influence on his government.

      “It’s this particularly militant wing that wants to restore Canada as a Christian nation,” McDonald said. “And they believe that it’s God’s will that is in biblical prophecy that Canada be restored as a Christian nation so that it can fulfill a role in the end times.”

      Linking the country’s destiny to Armageddon is known as Christian reconstructionism, which was pioneered by California-based theologian Rousas Rushdoony, who argued for a Christian-based government.

      “He is quite extreme,” McDonald said. “He advocates stoning for homosexuals and adulterers, and so on. That was in the Old Testament, and he thinks that’s just fine.”

      McDonald writes that Christian reconstructionists believe Canada has broken its covenant with God by permitting same-sex marriages and by having no abortion law.

      She cited Tim Bloedow, chief legislative assistant to Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, as one of the leaders of this movement in Canada. McDonald reports that Bloedow has written that environmentalism “represents the hatred of man and, by extension, of the God Whose image man bears”.

      In his first term as prime minister, Harper appointed Vellacott to the House of Commons committee on environment and sustainable development.

      Marci McDonald discusses how the Conservative government recruits interns from Trinity Western University.

      McDonald’s book devotes considerable attention to Trinity Western University, which she calls a “well-respected” private Christian postsecondary institution. The Fraser Valley school has created a satellite campus in Ottawa called the Laurentian Leadership Centre, which offers nonpaying internships to students who want to work in government offices or for members of Parliament.

      “They are training a new generation of Christians to bring their faith in a reasonable and informed way into government, into politics, and into the public service,” McDonald said. “Already, some of them have found jobs in Stephen Harper’s offices and other MPs’ offices.”

      She emphasized that not all conservative Christian MPs in Harper’s government should be characterized as Christian reconstructionists. And she noted that the Canadian religious right differs from the U.S. version because there is a significantly higher percentage of Catholics in this country.

      “So there are a lot of conservative Catholics in [the Conservative federal] caucus, like Jason Kenney, like Rob Nicholson,” McDonald said.

      She pointed out that in recent years, a charismatic former Simon Fraser University student named Faytene Kryskow has become a significant member of the Christian right in Canada.

      McDonald said that Kryskow has been invited to VIP receptions with the prime minister after budget and throne speeches. Kryskow has also read letters of support from the prime minister at rallies in the nation’s capital during her rise to becoming the public face of the anti-abortion movement.

      “Here’s this dynamo who seems to have sprung up fully formed from B.C., but actually she is backed by some powerful American revivalists who are seen as quite militant and quite radical,” McDonald said. “And she has gotten incredible access.”

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      Nathan Rousu

      May 20, 2010 at 4:15pm

      Ezra Levant has written an article for the National Post's 'Full Comment' online page. The article details a number of very serious errors in McDonald's book. The 'fact checking' is downright embarrassing. McDonald's errors make it clear that she's poor on reporting facts and very quick to put forth an agenda.

      end game vs continuity

      May 20, 2010 at 7:06pm

      There are obvious planning differences between expecting the world to end and assuming that it will continue.

      What would you do if you "knew" you were going to die tomorrow? I'll bet there are equal parts noble (tell your mom you love her) to degenerate (have sex with everything and O.D. on cocaine). How does this differ from planning to live to be 80?


      May 20, 2010 at 8:28pm

      So let me get this straight? Christians aren"t allowed to have a viewpoint and attempt to influence government just like every other group in canadian society? Gee, what happened to the "inclusiveness" we hold so dear? While I might not agree with their views, I will fight for their right to express them. Just because we consider ourselves "liberal", doesn't mean that our viewpoint is always right. In fact, we "liberals" might consider that we are just like the christians. I can't recall how many times an "enlightened liberal" has told me how to live. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and way of life (right gays?), and our viewpoint is no better or worse than others. Let he is without sin cast the first stone.


      May 20, 2010 at 10:43pm

      To add to what Buzzy has said, "liberal tolerance" has become an oxymoron.


      May 20, 2010 at 11:21pm

      What ever happened to separation of church and state. We allow every person the right to practice the religion of their choise, the difference between you and them is, they will if given the chance, force you to live under their belief system whether you like it or not. There is no room for dissention in a true believers world, they do not play by the same rules as non-religeous people, or even non-fanatical religeous people. Just look around you, you see this same fundamentalist fanatical behaviour played out all around the world and I for one, want no part of it. What part of that do you not get?


      May 21, 2010 at 3:42am

      Buzzy, there is a distinct difference from having an influence on society in the manner of other interest groups and attempting to make the country into a specifically Christian nation in order to fulfill a "prophecy" involving the end of all life on this planet. Whatever nonsense point you were trying to make about how "our" viewpoint isn't always right, but Christianity teaches exactly that (any Christian, even a normal one, will tell you that there is no way to salvation but through Christ). Members of other faiths, such as Jews, will be left to suffer the most horrible fate imaginable, which is why the rabbi in the article suggested that taking their money isn't in the best interest of the Jews. In a fundamentalist Christian vision of a nation, other viewpoints are not tolerated in an effort to align reality with their ridiculously misinformed ideas about the future. People who attempt to make policy decisions based on fantasy stories should actually have less influence than other segments of society as they could cause significant damage in the name of pleasing their version of God.


      May 21, 2010 at 7:18am

      "Christians aren"t allowed to have a viewpoint and attempt to influence government just like every other group in canadian society?"

      Of course they are. But not from within government. And BTW, the inference of this quote is that Harper IS a Christian. So what kind of Christian can he be, when Christ himself was said to adhere to this way of life:
      -- They derive their name from a teacher who walked penniless and expounded a massage of peace, hope, and equality and giving to the poor. He spoke against the establish order and paid the ultimate price. He never asked to be worshiped.You might even say that his message was contrary to any right-wing ideology. You might even say that it was fundamentally democratic and socialistic. He instructed his followers to go out and carry only the clothes on their backs give everything else to the needy. Probably the closest that comes to this message is a Mother Theresa or a Gandhi. --

      "Christian Right-Wing" is an oxymoron, plain and simple.

      Pastor David

      May 21, 2010 at 1:08pm

      It is completely absurd to insist that Christians can have a viewpoint, just as long as it's not from WITHIN the government. This outlandish (indeed, fanatical!) viewpoint fails to connect just who (in our society) IS the government. In democracy, the people are the government. Hence, if the people are sufficiently Christian, the attitudes expressed at the governmental level, will parallel the nation's electorate. Likewise, the precise same principles hold if the people are Marxist, Nazi, environmentalist, capitalist, materialist, corrupt, insane, or anything else, for that matter. Who we are is what we get. That's democracy. It just so happens that there are quite a number of Christians in this country, so it shouldn't be a surprise when a few decide to run for office. And, I assure you, they have every right to reflect their world-view from INSIDE any government. Any suggestion otherwise is not only undemocratic, it is bigoted and tyrannical.