It is no secret that Canada made some news earlier this week by electing a conservative government for the first time in about a dozen years. The conventional wisdom says that it all came down to a well-run campaign and a corrupted liberal party government as the new Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved to the center by avoiding issues like abortion and gay marriage, not to mention religion. But is this really the case?
According to some religious journalists, Harper, a smart and serious fundamentalist ran for his nation's top leadership position, and even the paper of record, The New York Times, responded with a 100% religion-free story? Can it be? Well, says Kathryn Joyce, it's not without precedent. When George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 - presenting himself as a business conservative with a fondness for the philosophy of Jesus Christ, but a business conservative first and last - there was some media speculation about the Christian "code language" underlying his public speeches, rumored to broadcast special Jesus signals to the heartland that zipped right over the egg-shaped heads of the liberal, coastal elites.
Just as with Bush’s first campaign - which also rode in with the benefit of an incumbent party scandal - the media have largely overlooked the real significance of the religious conservatism hinted at by Harper’s religious language, and have effectively de-fanged Harper’s social conservatism - in Harper’s own terminology, the Burkean or theocratic conservatism - that Harper turned to in 2003 when building a coalition between economic and religious conservatives that would be strong enough to take on the Liberal majority. But while the media shapes Harper up as Bush-lite, and U.S. conservatives frightened of smothering their own pick with too much public support make embarrassing promises that Harper won’t be an "American toady," few seem to realize that Harper is politically and religiously much further right than Bush himself, and his language suggests that he takes the conflict between left and right much more seriously.
Canadian evangelical journalist Lloyd Mackey has literally written the book on “the pilgrimage of Stephen Harper”, and he talks about attending Harper’s C&MA church here. Mackey, whose new book, The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper, has painted the candidate as one of a new breed of "secretly"-Christian politicians bucking the secular Canadian status quo by doing Christian political works little recognized by the outside world.
BTW: In 1997, Harper addressed the Council for National Policy, which was founded by Left Behind apocalypse novelist Tim LaHaye and has included as members a who’s who of the radical right, including James Dobson, Grover Norquist, Paul Weyrich, Gary Bauer, Brent Bozell, Holland and Jeffrey Coors, Pat Robertson, Phyllis Schlafly and Oliver North.