Canada’s Hidden Fundamentalism

Canada’s head-long rush to the extreme right of the political spectrum is multi-causal.

While the economic theory of neoliberalism/neoconservatism has been transferring wealth and power upwards in Canada (and throughout much of the world) for over 30 years now, Canada’s current acceleration towards a dystopian cliff can be partly explained by religion.

Canada’s current embrace of Republican-style politics and economic theory has thrust us into the arms of Christian Fundamentalism, which has a strong political constituency in the United States’ Republican party, and now, in the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC).

Author James Hall explains that the CPC political base, which includes the Reform Party and, before that, the Social Credit Party, has a strong Fundamentalist base, similar to the religious base of the Republican party under former U.S president Bush. Further, Hall explains that much of the base is Christian Zionist as well.

The personal belief systems of the CPC politicians may or may not align with the Christian Fundamentalist ideology, but the economic theory of neoliberalism aligns itself with the ideology for purposes other than spiritual.

The Christian Fundamentalist ideology, as described by Chris Hedges in American Fascists, The Christian Right And The War On America, has certain defining characteristics that distinguish it from other religions.

One of the most salient of these differences is the belief that the Bible was meant to be taken literally. It follows from this that the earth is 6,000 years old, that a vengeful God will save believers and punish non-believers, and that God will take care of the earth’s environment.

Politically and socially, biblical literalism enables a binary world view of good and evil, which in turn fosters intolerance for those who live and believe differently. The Christian Right, for example, is intolerant of homosexuality, abortion, “non-believers” (including Muslims), “secular humanists”, and real science.

Seen through this lens, the Harper government’s suppression of real science is understandable, as is its promotion of cataclysmic global warming through the unsustainable development of the Tar Sands and other extractive industries. Why worry about the earth and the environment if God will take care of everything?

In this world view, God protects believers and erases the anxiety of moral choice. Even imperial war crimes are rendered palatable, since the people being murdered are infidels.

The “gospel of prosperity”, as taught by the televangelists, also shows that since a belief in God means “freedom”, believers don’t need unions, human rights, collective bargaining, or other social/public protections. This “gospel” is then exploited by neoliberals who, for selfish motives of personal enrichment, endorse it.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this is headed, or to see why the separation of church and state is imperative.

Not only can a government mobilize a huge constituency of voters if it is aligned with the church, but it can also exploit belief systems by creating self-serving legislation that is seemingly endorsed by, in this case, Biblical literalism.

Taken a step further, the hierarchical (male) governance of the Church can be seen as a model for top down, anti-democratic political governance, and ultimately, for totalitarianism, which, Hedges argues, could manifest itself as Christo-fascism.

Canada has most of the symptoms.

By Mark Taliano