Monday, September 27, 2010

Stephen Harper, Deceit, and the Exploitation of Religion

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

I was combing through Tom Flanagan's book Waiting for the Wave, which was written in 1995 when the Reform Party was first entering the political arena; and came across an interesting passage.
[Preston] Manning does have an increasing tendency to surround himself with evangelical Christians, not for policy reasons but because a common approach to religion encourages rapport and loyalty. Strikingly, all five officers in the first Reform caucus (nominated personally by Manning) were Evangelical Christians. Yet non-evangelicals such as Cliff Fryers, Gordon Shaw, Stephen Harper, and Rick Anderson have also played key roles as organizers and advisers. (1)
"Non-evangelicals such as ... Stephen Harper"?

It has been suggested by many, including Lloyd MacKey who wrote a book on the topic: The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper, that Harper's route to salvation was a cerebral journal. However, he had to actually call the Conservative leader's pastor to verify that he was a member. I know several Evangelicals and they do not hide their beliefs, but allow them to direct their lives.

Douglas Todd once wrote in the Vancouver Sun:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is damned if he does talk about his evangelical beliefs and damned if he doesn't. If he continues to avoid answering questions about his religious convictions, political observers say he appears secretive, like he's hiding something. But, at the same time, most Canadians do not share the moral convictions of his evangelical denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. (2)
However, I don't think that Stephen Harper shares "the moral convictions of his evangelical denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church." I think the whole thing was a scam and part of creating his public persona. He would never gain the financial support of the Religious Right if he was not seen as "one of them".

He would have assuredly lost to Stockwell Day, who wears his Evangelism on his sleeve.

In fact during the leadership race, Stephen Harper went public with Stockwell Day's exploitation of religion:
Stockwell Day yesterday continued to seek support from evangelical Christians with a barely publicized campaign stop at Canada's largest Bible college, even as one of his opponents warned the Canadian Alliance leadership race risks being "perverted" by a single-interest group. Mr. Day held a campaign rally at Briercrest Bible College in Caronport, Sask., an event that attracted hundreds and was not included in the public itinerary posted on the candidate's Web site. He campaigned earlier in the day at the evangelical Victory Church in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Mr. Day lashed out at rivals Stephen Harper and Grant Hill for accusing him of aiming his campaign primarily at devout Christians and opponents of abortion ... Last week, organizers for Mr. Harper went public with concerns that Mr. Day is appealing to a narrow base of religious groups -- including orthodox Jews, Pentecostals and anti-abortion Catholics -- in a bid to regain the leadership post he was forced to relinquish late last year. (3)
But then after winning the leadership, Stephen Harper realized just how beneficial hooking your wagon to the Religious Right could be.
The only route, he [Harper] argued, was to focus not on the tired wish list of economic conservatives or “neo-cons,” as they’d become known, but on what he called “theo-cons”—those social conservatives who care passionately about hot-button issues that turn on family, crime, and defence. Even foreign policy had become a theo-con issue, he pointed out, driven by moral and religious convictions. “The truth of the matter is that the real agenda and the defining issues have shifted from economic issues to social values,” he said, “so conservatives must do the same.” (4)
Preston Manning was often accused of bringing religious fanaticism to politics. However, I never really thought of Manning as a fanatic, certainly not in the same vein as Stockwell Day or Jason Kenney. His political views were based on both "the will of the people and the voice of God". (5)

But because he was evangelical, his thought process was based a large part on his personal beliefs. However, Stephen Harper has never really held any personal faith, and I don't think that he was ever himself an evangelical.

In 1995 Tom Flanagan, his close advisor, knew that. Harper was 35 at the time, and yet when he was on the the Drew Marshall program in 2005, he told the host that he had "found Jesus" when he was in his 20's.

In his 20's he was dating Cynthia Williams. In fact they were engaged. But when Harper's Biographer, William Johnson asked her about her former fiance's religious beliefs, she became embarrassed and simply said that they never went to church or anything. (6)

The pastor at the Christian Missionary Alliance told Marci MacDonald that he rarely attends, and he has never met Harper's wife. They were married in a civil ceremony.

Harper's VP when he was with the National Citizens Coalition, also confirmed that his colleague never mentioned his faith. He only called himself a "born again Christian" when it became politically expedient. Leo Strauss would be impressed. Me, not so much.

By pretending to be Evangelical, he misses the basics of Evangelism. Deceit is not a virtue. And by tapping into the worst of fundamentalism, he has painted them all with a fanatical brush, furthering the divide.

I think he always believed he could shed the fanatics once in power, but now he finds that they may be all he has left. Centrists have abandoned him and Progressive Conservatives have realized that this is not a party of fiscal conservatives.

I've asked original Reform supporters if they find the excesses of the G-20 and G-8, or the abuse of tax dollars with the bogus Canada Action Plan, principled. I can't imagine any of them condoning this kind of corruption.

But I'd like to also remind his religious supporters, of something they probably already know in their gut. Stephen Harper is not, nor has he ever been, an Evangelical.

Like almost everything else he claimed to be, this was just another part of Strauss's Big Lie.

It's time for him to make an exit.


1. Waiting for the Wave: The Reform Party and Preston manning, By Tom Flanagan, Stoddart Publishing, 1995, ISBN: 0-7737-2862-7, Pg. 9

2. Why Stephen Harper keeps his evangelical faith very private, By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, September 10, 2008

3. Day slips into Bible college for Rally, By S. Alberts, National Post, February 13, 2002

4. Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada’s religious right, By Marci McDonald, The Walrus, October 2006, Pg. 2

5. Flanagan, 1995, Pg. 3

6. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3


  1. I have friends who are Evangelical Christians, but I belong to the United Church of Canada, which is as small-L liberal as churches get, so I don't mock other people's beliefs. Nor do I wish to take advantage of them for any reason.
    Out of curiosity, I just Googled "religious freedom" and found the Fundamental Freedoms section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I don't have room in a comment to quote sections of the Charter, but from what I can see, Stephen Harper is taking the beliefs of his supporters, bending them to suit his own purposes, and trying to force them upon the rest of the country, IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS.
    Let's get him out of power before he succeeds in overturning the Charter completely.
    "Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    (d) freedom of association."

  2. Anyone who exploits religious beliefs is about as low as you can get. Leo Strauss be damned!