Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Stephen Harper and the Religious Right Has it so Wrong on Equal Marriage

For all of the panic over the equal marriage issue, has the Canadian identity suffered because Bill C-38 was passed? There have always been same-sex relationships. Growing up, I remember hearing of 'old bachelors who had lived together for years', or 'old maids'. Sometimes I'd detect a tone in an adults voice when they discussed it, suggesting something else was afoot, but there was never any real moral concern, at least not with any adults I came in contact with.

However, we've now progressed to a stage where we can bring it out in the open, debate it, then move on. It is not the government's job to marginalize any Canadian citizens. This is not about the destruction of the family, it's just a new definition of what constitutes a family.

"What conservatives see as the destruction of the family, liberals view as its mutation into new forms. Nowadays, there are many types of good parents and many types of good families: nuclear, extended, single-parent, same-sex. The fact that there are many types of families does not mean that there are no longer any fixed standards about what a good family is.

"The test of goodness is loose but evident. It's a community where each member receives and displays a lifelong moral concern for the well-being of everyone else. The key is ... an enduring moral commitment. A child needs to feel that her development matters intensely to another person, and that this person will stay the course with her to ensure that she develops as best she can. What a liberal insists upon is the idea that it is possible to reconcile a commitment to absolute standards of care and responsibility in family life, with a faith that these standards can be met by a wide variety of persons and a wide variety of family forms.

"So-called family values, as propagated in the rhetoric of popular North American entertainment, pulpit sermonizing, and political homily, are a downright tyranny. They make people feel inadequate, ashamed or guilty about their inability to conform to what is in fact a recent, post-war suburban norm of family domesticity.

"We need family values all right, but they must be pluralistic. We need to understand that the essential moral needs of a child can be met by family arrangements that run the gamut from arranged marriages right through to same-sex parenting. Nature and natural instincts are poor guides in this matter." (The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, Michael Ignatieff, Anansi, ISBN: 978-0-88784-762-2, pg. 102-103)

I remember watching a talk show several years, and there was a psychologist on discussing something she called 'The Brady Bunch Syndrome.' It sounded odd but her explanation made perfect sense.

For years we based what a normal family was on television shows. But as she explained, not all family problems can be solved in 22 minutes, and often the lessons learned were far too simplistic for 'real' family situations.

Divorce was never shown; so single parents were always widowed. Mothers never worked outside of the home, and fathers were always the authority figure. But perhaps more importantly, families were always white and middle class. Even on the Andy Griffith show, which was set in the southern United States, not one single black face was ever shown. In fact, it would have been against the law for them to do so.

But all of this put undo pressure on families to conform to a set of unrealistic guidelines.

Ironically, if we go back to the Brady Bunch, for instance, the reality for the actors playing those roles: Robert Reed who played the father, Mike Brady; was in real life gay and tragically died of Aids. Florence Henderson, who played the mother, Carol Brady; was having an off screen affair with Barry Williams, the young man who played her step-son Greg. Welcome to real life.

In the Hagee video above he states that he remembers a simpler time when closets were a place you 'hung clothes and not something strange people came out of'. What a horrible thing to say, but sadly is indicative of the thinking of most members of our current government.

Stephen Harper hinted of his views when he was interviewed on Drew Marshall's Christian radio program. When discussing his father's switch from the United Church to the Presbyterians, he pointedly noted that Marshall’s evangelical audience would get his drift. What he was referring to was the 1988 decision by the United Church General Council to approve the ordination of homosexuals. And of course we know his views on equal marriage from this video.

In a continuation of the article that appeared in the Walrus magazine; Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons; Marcie McDonald, discusses Charles McVety's influence over the debate. Mr. McVety now has his own office on Parliament Hill. It just happens to have Jason Kenney's name on it.

McVety is also a partner of John Hagee above, in the pro-military Christians United for Israel, and Hagee is a member of the Council for National Policy.

"In his corner suite on the fourth floor of Canada Christian College, the ebullient Charles McVety is hanging up from a long-distance call to a Conservative MP. “A lot of our friends are in government now,” he confides, “so that makes a lot of things easier.” So cozy is McVety with Harper’s team, in fact, that last June he arranged an honorary degree for Stockwell Day from Russia’s St. Petersburg State University.

From his suburban Toronto office festooned with frothy fake-flower bouquets, pictures of fighter jets, and a scale model of the Avro Arrow, McVety wears so many hats it’s not always clear from which pulpit he’s speaking. On the wall behind his desk, framed front pages of the National Post testify to his staunch opposition to Bill C-38 under headlines such as “Faiths Unite Against Same Sex.” Sometimes he’s cited as the president of this college where twelve hundred students—three hundred of them full-time—pursue Bible-based studies in a former pension-fund building from which McVety broadcasts his weekly TV shows. Other times, he’s the voice of the Defend Marriage Coalition, thirteen religious and activist organizations—including real Women of Canada and Campaign Life—on whose behalf he stormed the country last year aboard the red and white Defend Marriage bus with his wife and their seven-year-old daughter. On one of his many websites, McVety recounts that adventure under the title, “Daddy, Why Are They Spitting At Us?”

Now, the bus sits in the college’s parking lot, ready for the next campaign. McVety has vowed to wrest Conservative nominations from candidates reluctant to vote out same-sex marriage legislation. One sure target: maverick Conservative Garth Turner, who compared McVety’s nomination threat to the modus operandi of the Taliban.

Occasionally, McVety pops up in the media as president of the Canada Family Action Coalition (cfac), whose mission is “to see Judeo-Christian moral principles restored in Canada.” Co-founded ten years ago by Brian Rushfeldt, a Calgary pastor who’d acquired his theology degree from Canada Christian College by correspondence, cfac has become a ten-thousand-member grassroots lobby known for publishing election guides that track MPs’ votes on social issues, as well as for Rushfeldt’s periodic appearances on Jerry Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour.

But last year McVety decided it was time to create a new Ottawa-based think tank with more of an academic gloss: the Institute for Canadian Values (icv). Why the need for so many outfits? “On the left, there are hundreds of organizations,” he says, “and on the right there is a great void.”

Funded by a $250,000 gift from a retired trucking magnate named Sidney Harkema, the new institute was prompted in part by McVety’s impatience with the Evangelical Fellowship, which published a guide for clergy on just how far they could go fighting Bill C-38 without incurring Revenue Canada’s wrath. McVety scoffs at that scrupulousness. “There’s nothing in the regulations that says we’re second-class citizens not allowed to have a voice,” he says.


All of these front groups are claiming tax exemptions as being religious organizations. Once they get involved in politics they should lose those exemptions, especially when they are clearly propping up Stephen Harper and his Reform-Conservatives.

Ironically, the Institute for Canadian Values gave up their fight against same-sex marriage, recognizing that it was not the dire threat they had claimed. No doubt with a Harper majority, it will be overturned simply to appease all of these nuts he owes so much to. Sigh.

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