At the Green Choices for Faith Communities conference, Elizabeth May told delegates if you’re not talking dollars and cents the government won’t listen. Photo by Michael Swan

Green Party leader Elizabeth May names “econo-theism” as Canada’s national faith

  • March 29, 2012

TORONTO - Canada is not a secular state. It is ruled by "econo-theism," Green Party leader Elizabeth May told a March 25 interfaith conference in Toronto.

“We worship the economy,” May told delegates to the Green Choices for Faith Communities conference at the Noor Cultural Centre.

The conference organized by Greening Sacred Spaces and the Green Awakening Network included presentations on political activism for churches, spirituality, solar power for Churches and modern lighting systems to cut energy use.

Greening Sacred Spaces presented an award for ecological achievement to Toronto's St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin parish for its ecology-driven programming and its 2006 Church building, the first Leed Gold certified Church in Canada. Newtonbrook United was also given  an award for its efforts since conducting a 2006 green audit.

May told the conference that the religion of economics has dogma, a catechism and requirements of faith.

“It's central tenet is dedication to selfish individualism and self interest," said May, who is studying for the Anglican priesthood at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.

If traditional religious voices find themselves marginalized in Canadian media and political debate it is because they choose to speak the language of morality without reference to the gross domestic product, according to May. Canada's theocracy of economics is most evident in the government's unwavering promotion of the oil sands, she said.

“I recognize the importance of the separation of church and state. I don't think that's the challenge in front of our society today," she said. "I think the challenge is to separate oil from the state."

There's nothing radical, flakey or dangerous about churches, mosques and synagogues getting together to talk about the environment, said Janice Keil following May's speech.

“It's absolutely essential that people don't associate activism with something that is radically dangerous," Keil said.

Keil's uncle, Benedictine Fr. Wilfred Heugott, was vilified as a communist for supporting Tommy Douglas's campaign for medicare when the Saskatchewan monk was editor of The Prairie Messenger, a Catholic newspaper. Today's social gospel fight is for the an economy that won't destroy the planet, said Keil.

“Every faith group has to learn about their own faith tradition,” said the Regis College Master of Divinity graduate, now a member of the Darchei Noam reconstructionist Jewish community.

People need to stop thinking of climate change as the obsession of scientists or environmentalists, said May.

“The climate crisis is an environmental issue like drowning is a water issue,” May said. “Climate change is fundamentally a moral issue.”

She called for Churches to speak louder on the moral direction of the economy.

“The moral voice on these questions must be loud and in the middle of the conversation. We can't have it restricted to Saturday and Sunday.”

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