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The great Canadian Christian right conspiracy

  • May 19, 2010
Marci McDonald is a conspiracy theorist who thinks she has zeroed in on a conspiracy that threatens everything Canadians love about Canada but one that the rest of us are wilfully blind to notice, except of course for those intimately involved in the conspiracy.

I know this because she tells me so for 432 pages in her new book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. Tells me so repeatedly with varying degrees of emphasis and alarm. She knows this conspiracy exists because she discovered it while everyone else in the media was too lazy, too smug or too indifferent to notice what was going on all around them. The problem with being a conspiracy theorist is that you tend to see the conspiracy everywhere and the fact that others don’t see it is just further proof of how insidious and effective the conspiracy is.

Being the intrepid reporter she is, McDonald has applied the tricks of her trade to uncover supposedly dark, twisted and seriously deranged forces that are destroying multiculturalism, diversity, fairness, the criminal justice system and, ultimately, democracy itself. Described on the book jacket as one of Canada’s most respected journalists, she was a U.S. correspondent for Maclean’s magazine during the political rise of the Christian Right in the 1980s. The election of Stephen Harper immediately set her on a search for similar “dark forces” at work in the Canadian setting. She thinks she found them.

At the heart of this apparently wide-ranging plot to make Canada an apocalyptic force with a key role in the coming Armageddon are some dispensationalist Christians in southern Ontario, Red Deer, Alta., and the lower mainland of British Columbia, who employ techniques borrowed from some scary evangelists in the United States to “influence” or maybe even “control” the “hidden” Conservative agenda in Canada.

As with all conspiracy theorists, everything, however tangential, is grist for the mill, so conflation is the order of the day. Home-schoolers, pro-lifers, anti-Human Rights Commission activists, euthanasia and same-sex marriage opponents, law-and-order proponents, creationists, supporters of Israel, Christian university students all get mashed up with the people who believe the rapture is imminent and are cheering for the possibility of Armageddon in their life time. The result is that if you are a Christian it is likely, probable or inevitable through a thinly veiled guilt-by-association logic that you are an active member, fellow traveller or unwitting dupe of this emergent cabal.

The uncomfortable difficulty with McDonald’s conspiracy, and one she is forced to at least acknowledge, is that so far it is a remarkably ineffective conspiracy. If Harper is aiding and abetting it, he is proving to be at best a luke-warm co-conspirator. After all, he has been reluctant to make any of the issues the heart and soul of the agenda of his two minority governments. Which of course is the other key weakness in her argument. If this is a conspiracy, with huge financial resources and significant access to the levers of power throughout the land, why is it that Christians are losing on just about every core issue of McDonald’s plot?

This contradiction can actually be explained simply by understanding that McDonald is a cultural warrior as well as a conspiracy theorist.

The Armageddon Factor strives to appear balanced and impartial, but in essence this is reporting by someone who seemingly finds it impossible to believe that people can simply disagree on abortion, same-sex marriage, education standards, foreign policy options and even the regulatory framework of the CRTC without being part of a movement intent on creating a theocracy which would put the Taliban to shame. She also seems to believe that if you disagree with her on substantive policy issues, organize politically and democratically to represent your position, you are not actively participating in the democratic sphere but rather working to overthrow democracy.

For Marci McDonald, odds are that you are engaging in what to her is clearly undemocratic activity to usher in the apocalypse because you are among the chosen who are destined to be part of the rapture. What other possible explanation could there be?

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