All the Christianity that fits

May 24, 2010

Review of The Armageddon Factor, by Marci McDonald, part II

In 1980 Toronto clergyman Ken Campbell published No Small Stir.  The first page of the book showed a photo of Pierre Elliot Trudeau in his Mercedes convertible bearing the license plate PET 666.  Campbell explained to readers that the number 666 is the mark of the Beast, and on this authority he called Mr. Trudeau the Anti-Christ.  I later learned that the number 666 is a Hindu symbol of strength and creativity which predates the Christian era by several thousand years, but at the time Campbell’s condemnation of Trudeau coloured my perception of the man.

Over the years I have seen the “Anti-Christ” label float around like a butterfly.  A succession of Soviet leaders held the honour during Regan’s “Evil Empire” era until the title shifted to Saddam Hussein.  Then it flitted around the Obama campaign, and on to the current designate, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.For leaders of the Christian right, each era needs a focal point for the hatred which they can use to turn on the financial taps, and “the Anti-Christ”has proven as convenient a label  as “witch” was to medieval doctors.

I did my master’s research on the evangelical perspective in book censorship controversies in North America in the 1970’s.  Basically parents reacted to uncertainty, to a perceived loss of power as society changed, by attacking school textbooks.  Politicians moved too fast to be suitable targets for troubled parents, but a book couldn’t change its tune:  it was there in black and white, a statement which could be picked apart at one’s leisure, an impersonal symbol of everything wrong with one’s world, and it could be destroyed in the name of keeping one’s children safe from harm.

One of the first things I did as Head of English was get the Bible approved as a textbook for the schools of Lanark County.  That raised a few eyebrows at a board meeting, but my colleagues used the Bible as one of the sources for the teaching of English literature, and it wasn’t on the list.

Politics in education forces teachers to play checkers to the rules of monopoly.

My sympathy goes out to the educators at the Ontario Ministry of Education who worked for seven years to write the best health program for elementary schools they could produce, shepherd it through the approval process all the way to the office of Premier McGuinty, only to have it torpedoed by Reverend Charles McVetey.

McVetey no doubt claims in his fund-raising campaigns that he is trying to save children from indoctrination.  The Ministry curriculum team were trying to save children from rape, disease, and pregnancy by giving them the information they need to protect themselves.  Who do you think cared more? McGuinty caved in to McVetey’s voting block and seven years of hard work by a lot of committed, highly-competent educators went for naught.

To my mind this is the dark side of Christian activism.  Real Christian values are supplanted by the desires of cranky, insecure idealogues with Armageddon on their minds.

Liberal MP John McKay turns up frequently in The Armageddon Factor. Turns out I knew John when we were members of the Queen’s Christian Fellowship in Kingston in the early 1970’s.  McKay was a very good guy at that time and he doesn’t seem to have changed much since becoming M.P. for Scarboro-Guildwood in 1997.

Marci McDonald seems to respect McKay, a lawyer who has actively promoted a Christian agenda during his time on the Hill, but from a compassionate viewpoint.  McKay’s private member’s bill, C-300, would empower the Canadian federal government to investigate complaints of human rights and environmental abuses leveled against Canadian mining companies in foreign countries.

The purpose of the bill is to protect local people in the path of mining companies, but for neo-conservatives the interests of the corporation are apparently more important than those of the village women in Papua New Guinea who have been beaten and raped by gangs of security guards employed by Barrick Gold.

Amnesty International issued a public statement on December 9, 2009 revealing that local police at the same mine in Papua New Guinea violently evicted local families and burned down and destroyed at least 130 buildings and houses. Barrick initially denied the allegations, but after the conclusions of Amnesty’s local investigation were released the company was forced to accept the findings.

McKay’s bill has received stubborn resistance from Canadian mining companies and from Stockwell Day and the rest of the Harper cabinet.  If the Canadian government stands and holds the lantern for corporations to do this sort of immoral act, then no amount of screeching about sex education from Reverend Charles McVetey is going to convince me that the Christian right holds the moral high ground in Canada.

In The Armageddon Factor:  The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, McDonald criticizes the current Conservative government for its highly selective adherence to Christian values.  While Harper has done little by way of legislation to advance a theocratic agenda, he has brought the enormous patronage power of his office to bear in packing the Senate, appointing only judges who agree with him, firing “independent” watchdogs who speak out against his policies, and removing funding from organizations which he considers to have helped advance a left-wing agenda.  At the same time, McDonald claims, a disproportionate amount of stimulus funding has gone to faith-based agencies and denominational schools.

John McKay’s more compassionate Christianity, on the other hand, seems like a fine place from which to build an inclusive Canada which can treat our world as a garden, worthy of our care and love.

For the other half of this article, cut and paste:


2 Responses to “All the Christianity that fits”

  1. Richard Eng Says:

    Rod, I think you mean Rev. Charles McVety, not McVey.

    • rodcros Says:


      Thank you for the helpful correction. Another reader just politely mentioned that Yonge Street in Toronto is spelled differently than my home address, Young’s Hill. I had a look at your comment on David Frum’s mean-spirited review of the book. Nicely argued.


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