Wrong to judge religious right

Interview reveals true intolerance

Charles Lewis,  National Post 

By now I should be used to this particular view of the world: It’s one in which only bad people, fanatics and crazies disagree with Canadian values, whatever those are. It is a world of "we" versus "them." And we all know who "we" are and we certainly know "them."

It is a world in which certain views are smart and others are for rubes. It is a world in which religion has no place in public life, unless, of course, it is "moderate" religion that is never judgmental, thinks of sin as medieval and whose values are always vague and never challenging to anyone.

It is a world in which anyone who strays outside the narrow realm of proper Canadian debate is an enemy.

Marci McDonald, author of The Armageddon Factor, a book about the rise of the Christian right in Canada, was a guest yesterday morning on The Current, a CBC radio show where people with the above-mentioned world view are frequent guests.

Ms. McDonald believes there is a dangerous rise in the religious right in this country and most good Canadians are sleepwalking into a political nightmare, much like she witnessed in the United States under Ronald Reagan.

She warned of a Canada rife with divisiveness, as we see today in the United States, if we continue down this scary right fork in the road.

Yet, for all her warnings, Ms. McDonald, with the cozy support of host Gillian Findlay, was the only one being divisive. By the end of the discussion, it was clear that anyone who might have concerns about abortion, who still regrets Parliament’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, or who gives 100% support to Israel is a danger to the nation.

Put another way, anyone who disagrees is an enemy — though Ms. McDonald was far too polite to just spit it out that plainly.

"A lot of us in the mainstream media stopped paying attention to them after the same-sex vote," she explained about how most of us hoped the religious conservatives would vanish once same-sex marriage was enshrined in law. "And we really thought they would go away."

She went on to explain that "they" were more determined than ever never to lose this kind of battle again.

Part of the proof of this stealthy conspiracy was the fact that "they are now quoted in the media regularly."

Ms. McDonald recalled arriving back in Canada about six years ago as the debate around same-sex marriage was "gathering force."

Given it was a debate, it is not surprising that some opposed same-sex marriage while others approved of it and some were just concerned and not sure what to think.

But there was something sinister at work, something Ms. McDonald figured out right away.

"Suddenly I was hearing the same rhetoric I was hearing in the States," she explained. "I was also hearing something even more disturbing: this willful denial, this wishful thinking, of commentators and the mainstream media saying it could never happen here."

Ms. Findlay and Ms. McDonald went on to talk about how

Stephen Harper never talks about his religion. Then came the revelation that Mr. Harper left the United Church around the same time others were leaving over the issue of gay ordinations. Mr. Harper then turned to Preston Manning as a mentor. Mr. Manning in turn gave Mr. Harper reading material from C.S. Lewis.

At which point Ms. Findlay might have said, "So what?"

The conversation only degenerated. Ms. McDonald talked about a weird agenda on the part of Mr. Harper to appeal to social conservatives, as if responding to that part of the electorate was a form of political arson.

Want to know something about social conservatives? The Catholic Church and many evangelical Christians are opposed to abortion and gay marriage but spend a lot of time feeding the hungry and housing the homeless and lobbying for social justice. As well, the religious, some of whom are conservative, pay taxes, support schools, vote, volunteer and look after their neighbours.

They also give to charity, run shelters and give comfort to the sick..

In the view of Ms. McDonald, these activities are distractions.

Ms. McDonald has a sweet voice and Ms. Findlay has the self-assurance of a veteran broadcaster. But together, they helped present a deeply paranoid view of the world in which only one side is ever right.

The next time these two go hunting for real intolerance in this country, they should simply look at each other.

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