By Bob Hepburn, Toronto Star, April 13, 2011
Despite recent reports of its demise, the religious right remains a potent political force in Canada and is working hard to elect Stephen Harper and Conservative candidates across the country, including in Ontario.
Unlike past campaigns, though, evangelical right-wing backers of the Conservatives are shunning the national spotlight.
Instead, they are working at the grassroots level to elect candidates who share their views on hot-button issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, euthanasia and pornography.
It’s a deliberate, low-profile approach that’s in stark contrast to past elections. In previous campaigns, leaders of the religious right campaigned openly and stridently for Harper, with the hope of seeing a Tory majority that would promote their religious and social agenda. Today, they are working quietly at the local level on Harper’s behalf.
They are doing so by endorsing “family-friendly candidates” and issuing “election kits” that explain how to organize all-candidate meetings, provide “fact sheets” on issues, suggest questions to ask candidates and advise churches on just how far they can go toward endorsing a candidate without endangering their special tax status.
He may try to keep them at arm's length from being overtly campaigning on his behalf, but Harper no doubt is counting on both evangelical protestants and hard core Roman Catholics, both of which groups unite against specific issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, euthanasia and pornography.
The religious right is one of the most dangerous and virulent strains of political life in all western countries. And yet, most mainline Christians do not push back except throught the most moderate and most gentle words, approaches and actions.
In his autobiography, A Journey My Political Life, Tony Blair urges a strong push-back against radical Islam, by those outside the Islamic faith, in order to ennoble those within the faith to gain strength and courage in their necessary and legitimate negation of the violence of the jihadists.
While most of the Christian "right" are not physically violent, they certainly are convicted of black and white positions on many wedge issues, and are relentless in their pursuit of their goals in the political arena.
I was raised in an evangelical protestant church and rejected both its bigotry from the pulpit and its social attitudes in my teens. However, throughout my life, I have been confronted by wave upon wave of these vengeful, hate-mongers who see anyone with liberal tendencies as worthy of the hell they invoke in their social, political and gossip innuendo against liberals.
It is time for the mainline Christian churches to publicly reject this form of hatred, bigotry and self-righteous and sanctimonious political activism, both as a perversion of the Christian faith and as a demonstration of the fears and neuroses of its proponents, similarly to the religious zealotry of the Islamic jihadists.
We do not, and we certainly do not need a country, any country, dominated by the religious right, even if those dominating come from more than one fundamentalist sect. Their tyrannical and heretical rejection of those who do not agree with their faith positions is demonstration enough of their danger.
Harper's closet encouragement and even tacit approval of both their positions and their strategies is another valid reason to reject both a Conservative majority and even a Harper-led minority after the May 2nd vote.
Interesting how the Liberals have seized upon the Family Pak for the marketing title of their platform positions, as a direct confrontation of the different and far more virulent definition of family values on the right, and one far more worthy of thoughtful and compassionate consideration by voters.