Sunday, December 10, 2006

If Canadians only knew

Yayacanada directed me here, which directed me here, which led to my reading a l-o-n-g article by Marci McDonald called “Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons”, on the creepy relationship between the current Canadian government and American-influenced (and, often, American-financed) Christian evangelists.  I’ve always assumed that Harper uses these people in the same way that the neocons use the American Christian fruitcakes, but McDonald outs Harper as a True Believer, a fruitcake in his own right, and not just a user of fruitcakes.  It is possible to see many otherwise inexplicable aspects of Canadian politics as manifestations of the Fruitcake Agenda:

“In 2004, more than four hundred thousand evangelical tourists flocked to Israel, outnumbering any other visitor group, including North American Jews. According to Israeli sources, they poured an estimated $1.4 billion into the economy. So vital has the influx of Christian Zionists become that the Knesset now boasts a Christian Allies Caucus, and the Jerusalem Post has launched a new monthly Christian edition. ‘It’s a tremendous message of solidarity,’ says Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Alan Baker. As Joseph Ben-Ami points out, ‘The Jewish community in Canada is 380,000 strong; the evangelical community is 3.5 million. The real support base for Israel is Christians.’

Hagee’s congressional lobbying blitz in Washington last July was, in fact, directly inspired by a strategic blueprint drafted by former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin three decades ago. At a time when Washington was pressuring Israel to relinquish the West Bank and East Jerusalem and create an independent Palestinian state, an Israeli report fingered the US evangelical community as Tel Aviv’s best hope to counter those demands. In 1978, Begin invited Hagee and other American televangelists to Jerusalem to point out their common theological stake in the geography they saw as essential to the unfolding of Biblical prophecy. As Hagee likes to say, he went as a tourist and ‘came back a Zionist.’ Three years later,when Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor provoked a global outcry, Hagee held his first rally for Israel in San Antonio. Since then, both the Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition have made support for Israel a key plank in their domestic political mandate. As Falwell told 60 Minutes, the American Bible belt is ‘Israel’s safety belt.’

In Canada, one of the chief links in that safety belt is Reverend John Tweedie, an evangelical pastor from Brantford, Ontario, who now chairs a Netherlands-based charity called Christians for Israel International. Not only does Tweedie lead regular tours to the Holy Land, but his group has also sponsored the immigration of hundreds of Jews from the former Soviet Union to settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Four years ago, Tweedie teamed up with B’nai Brith to organize Canada’s first joint mission to Israel by Jews and evangelicals. It was no coincidence that he chose to partner with one of the most conservative wings of the Jewish community. Like most Christian Zionists, Tweedie opposes the creation of a Palestinian state or an Israeli pullout from Gaza and the West Bank. ‘I have a Biblical worldview,’ he says, ‘so I don’t agree with trading land for peace.’”

and, referring to Preston Manning, who used to be the leader of a predecessor party of the party that Harper now leads (my emphasis in red):

“As Manning watched last winter’s election from the sidelines, he fumed at what he likes to call the ‘sham tolerance’ of the national media. ‘There was considerable receptivity to the argument that Mr. Harper comes from the wrong part of the country,’ he says, ‘and holds these religious convictions which are dangerous.’ For Manning, it brought a sense of déjà vu. In Reform’s earliest days, he’d dodged sly digs about his religious ‘wing nuts’ and later watched as Stockwell Day, the outspoken Pentecostal who had snatched the Canadian Alliance from him, was caught in a creationist quagmire. After the CBC resurrected footage of Day opining that Adam and Eve once walked with dinosaurs, Warren Kinsella, then a Liberal operative, promptly went on TV with a purple Barney doll to crack, ‘I just want to say to Mr. Day that The Flintstones was not a documentary.’ Day’s leadership was swamped in a gusher of guffaws. ‘There’s a taboo in the House of Commons that you do not talk about your deepest spiritual convictions,’ Manning says in exasperation. ‘Part of the reason is that people who open themselves up just get hammered.’

Now Manning is doing his part to ensure that his spiritual protege and the estimated seventy evangelicals in the Conservative caucus – however well muzzled – don’t suffer the same fate. Last year, he set up the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a $10-million Calgary-based non-profit aimed at training Conservatives how to run ridings and campaigns, then staff MPs’ offices. He calls it ‘a school of practical politics,’ but one of the centre’s main preoccupations is tutoring the Christian evangelicals now flooding into Ottawa on how to survive the perilous waters of public life.

In February, less than a month after Harper’s victory, Manning took over Ottawa’s Holiday Inn to kick off his centre with a three-day seminar called Navigating the Faith/Political Interface. A sold-out group of more than one hundred MPs, aides, and public-policy researchers turned up to take notes at what the Ottawa Citizen dubbed ‘Mr. Manning’s Charm School for Unruly Christians – or What Not to Say.’

While Manning blames media hostility and intolerance for much of the fix in which evangelicals find themselves today, he also concedes that some Christians bring on their own image woes. ‘Some of these faith-oriented people conduct themselves in such a way that they scare the hide off the secular,’ he confided later. He counselled newly elected MPs to curb their zeal. ‘The preference is to ride into Parliament with a speech that will peel the paint off the ceiling,’ he told them, ‘but you’ll set your cause back fifty years.’ Much of his advice amounted to spin control: ditch the God talk and avoid the temptation to play holier-than-thou. ‘You have to advocate righteousness,’ he said, ‘without appearing self-righteous.’

For the seminar’s theme, Manning chose Matthew 10:16, in which Jesus is about to send his disciples out into the world ‘like sheep among wolves’ to carry on his work. ‘He said, ‘I’m going to give you a few guidelines first,’’ Manning explains. “And one of the major ones was, ‘Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’ In other words, be shrewd – be as smart as the other guy – but be gracious. Be non-threatening.’ Manning promptly illustrated the difficulty of following his own advice. ‘In a moment of spontaneity, Mr. Manning went off his notes,’ the Ottawa Citizen reported, ‘and said many people become gay after ‘horrific’ experience with heterosexual relationships.’

Harper and Manning have done a tremendous job in misleading Canadians about just how nutty the Theo-cons actually are.  Canada has a long tradition of avoiding mixing politics and religion, which goes back to the conscious decision of wise 19th century politicians, many of them quite religious themselves, who wished to avoid the problems they saw at the time in places like Ireland.  The fruitcakes are lying in order to introduce their evil and destructive ideas into Canadian politics.