The idea of a "new conservatism" took root after World War II, ignited by the fear of Communism. But it was Irving Kristol, a former Trotskyite, who first promoted the idea of creating a political movement under the banner of Neoconservatism.
A confirmed Straussian, it was Kristol who suggested that they team up with the Religious Right, following Leo Strauss's axiom that religion was necessary to control the masses.
According to Shadia Drury in her book , Leo Strauss and the American Right:
...Kristol shares Strauss's view that a healthy dose of religious enthusiasm is indispensable for transcending the nihilism that is at the root of America's troubles. He is so convinced of the political utility of religion that he is blind to the immoderate nature of groups such as the Moral Majority of Jerry Falwell or the Christian Coalition of Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed. Kristol has encouraged the Republican party to embrace the religious right; and the party has been listening. (1)Stephen Harper has also been listening, telling his followers to forget the tired wish list of the fiscal conservatives, and embrace the ideology of the social conservatives, or what he calls "theocons", as a route to holding on to power. (2)
It's important to understand that the tenets of religion are immaterial. Both Kristol and Strauss were Jewish, and Strauss himself claimed not to understand Christianity, believing it to be rather foolish.
Says Drury: 'Strauss believes that a healthy society is one that is bound together by a single authoritative truth that provides the citizens with shared values and a common way of life'.
He saw an irresolvable conflict between the interests of the individual and the interests of society, and felt that the conflict could only be resolved,
...by lies and deceptions, and that the greatest among these is religion. The reason is that human beings are selfish and self-centered and will not be willing to sacrifice themselves for others in the absence of belief in a god who punishes the wicked and rewards the just. Further, Strauss believes that the existence of such a god cannot be established by reason or philosophy. The gods of "shuddering awe" are necessary to civilize humanity and to turn natural savages into husbands, fathers, and citizens. What is needed is something grand enough to capture the human imagination, something magnificent and majestic, something splendid and sublime, such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.(3)And yet we are witnessing the results of too much religion that has manifested itself in terrorism, both foreign and domestic.
Following Francis Schaeffer's belief in the necessity of a Northern European* (which includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand) revolution to turn this cabal of states into a Christian theocracy, the Neocons have selected that particular religion, while bringing Judaism along for the ride, with both fighting the forces of Islam, in what they call "a clash of civilizations".
Recently, Stephen Harper claimed that 'Islamicism' is the biggest threat to Canada. The religion. And he promises to bring back tough Patriot Act style legislation, no doubt targeting all who practice the faith.
It breaks my heart.
So What's Wrong With a Christian Nation?
Nothing. Many former leaders have been guided by faith. Tommy Douglas was Evangelical and gave us universal healthcare. J.S. Woodsworth was Evangelical and gave us prison reform. Lester Pearson was Evangelical and gave us the peacemakers.
Harry Stevens, a cabinet minister in the government of R.B. Bennett, followed what he referred to as "Christian economics". (4) He fought against corporations who were destroying small business, and headed a Parliamentary Committee and Royal Commission, investigating the practices of chains like Simpsons and Eatons, referring to them as "big shots".
William "Bible Bill" Aberhart, also embraced the war on "big shots", lamenting so much "poverty in the midst of plenty", during the Great Depression.
But today's Christian Right movement is different. It is embraced by "big shots" and defined by corporate greed, war profiteering and righteous indignation. They hate any form of liberalism, socialism and even democracy, which they believe is over rated. Instead, it is being replaced with what they call "authoritarian democracy", where you must not demand, but obey.
The National Citizens Coalition, that Stephen Harper left to run for the leadership of the Alliance Party, not only promote a free market (with no pesky regulations or need to pay taxes), but endorse the notion that government should only be responsible for foreign policy and defense. (5) The religious side of our government, led by men like Ted Byfield, feel that the only thing government should regulate is morality.
I can't imagine living in a country like that, though I suppose we might have to get used to it, if the left can't get their act together.
But What if We Don't Go to Church?
There are many radicals in the movement, who would like nothing better than for "Northern Europe" to become a church-going nation (?), led by the United States. Jeffrey A. Eisenach, formerly with the now defunct, Progress and Freedom Foundation, takes it even further, as they must reclaim the world for Christianity.
Should the world fail to understand this messianic role of the USA, there will be need of recourse to “compelle intrare,” based on which Saint Augustine approved forcible joining of heretics to the Church.However, Strauss suggested that political leaders didn't really need to go to church or practice any faith, so long as they understood the importance of using it to manipulate.
When researching his book, Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, William Johnson interviewed Harper's former fiancee, Cynthia Williams. When asked about his faith she became embarrassed and said that they never went to church or anything. (6) Harper's VP at the National Citizens Coalition, Gerry Nicholls, confirmed this, but said that Harper did have strong "spiritual" ideas. (7)
Ezra Levant has denied that Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, was a Christian fundamentalist, because he never went to church. But you don't have to go to church to believe in something, and the manifesto he created made it clear that Europe must return to it's Christian roots.
The New York Times referred to this new doctrine as a "civilizational war that represents the closest thing yet to a Christian version of Al Qaeda."
I suspect that Harper's Evangelism is more political than ecclesiastical. He is one of The Chosen.
OK. So Whose Version of Christianity Do We Obey?
Ronald Reagan moved Evangelicals into his government at an alarming rate. Stephen Harper has done the same. The idea is to restructure our laws to fit with The Old Testament. I get it.
But Christian sects are often at odds with each other, in how they interpret the Bible.
In his book, Faith in the Halls of Power, D. Michael Lindsay discusses this, using as an example, the Aids crisis. Gary Bauer, Reagan's family values czar, felt that Aids was God's punishment for homosexuality. However, C. Evertt Koop, partner of Francis Schaeffer and Reagan's Surgeon General, disagreed. He thought it his Christian duty to help, and the Koop Report promoted safe sex, including the use of condoms, anathema to many in the movement.
Harper appears to have painted himself into a corner on this issue. He refused to attend an International Aids Conference and scrapped plans to build an Aids vaccine plant, in favour of bullet factory, though he cashed in on a photo-op with Bill Gates, who was willing to help finance the former.
Part of this neocon/Religious Right mandate, is to remove the teaching of evolution from classrooms, and replace it with Creationism. But again, whose version?
According to John Baldock (Women in the Bible), there are at least two versions.
In weaving together two accounts of the creation of the universe from different traditions, the opening chapters of Genesis offer us contrasting images of the nature of the relationship between man and woman. In the first account, which dates from C-400BC and is the more recent of the two, the relationship is seen as one of equals for we are told that God 'created humankind asleep he removed one of his ribs and made it into a woman. Whet the man saw her, he said, 'she shall be called Woman [Hebrew] in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them'. ... However, in the second account, which is dated to I000-900BC, we are told that God first created 'the man', then the plants, animals and birds. He then caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep he removed one of his ribs and made it into a woman.This is why we need the separation of Church and State. It's that simple. And we need the truths of science, not "noble lies". Everyone should be allowed to practice their religion freely without being put on a list.
The neocons tell us that they are doing "God's work". But looking at the Tea Party and the new right's addiction to war and greed, have they ever considered that this might just be the devil's handiwork?
Just a thought.
*The idea of a 'Northern European' Christian movement, comes from the Reformation when Northern Europe, with the exception of Ireland and pockets of Britain, turned Protestant, and southern Europe remained Catholic, while Central Europe fought holy wars for the remainder. The belief is that the "colonies" were won by the Protestants.
1. Leo Strauss and the American Right, By Shadia B. Drury, St. Martin's Press, 1999, ISBN: 0-312-12689-1, p. 19
2. Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada's religious right, By Marci McDonald, The Walrus, October 2006
3. Drury, p. 11-12
4. Reaction and Reform: The Politics of the Conservative Party Under R.B. Bennett 1927-1938, By Larry A. Glassford, University of Toronto Press, 1992, ISBN: 0-8020-7673-4, p. 139
5. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg. 200-203 2
6. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3
7. Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper Me and the NCC, By: Gerry Nicholls, Freedom Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9732757-8-0