‘Mr. Harper’s ideas have little to do with his religious affiliations’
By John McKay MP
Scarborough: There has been much debate in the news as of late over Stephen Harper’s religious affiliations, and whether or not his evangelical roots are to blame for his anti-evidence and anti-science attitudes. I have some sympathy for those who are making this argument, as they are expressing a commonly held misconception about evangelicals that gets endlessly repeated and therefore takes on a force of truth; namely that evangelicals as a group oppose scientific inquiry and rational thought. This is not true, and has never been true but evidence of its untruthfulness seems to never get in the way of those wishing to make an argument.
Mr. Harper’s anti-rational, anti-scientific public policies do not generate themselves from his membership in the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church. Were he a more serious evangelical it might well be that some of his more excessive public policy initiatives in such diverse areas as foreign aid, treatment of accused criminal persons, or refugee claimants would lead him in the opposite direction. He seems to have a limited Biblical understanding of how to treat “the poor and oppressed.”
The debate on faith and politics has also minimized the role that people of faith and faith organizations have played in the development of our own democracy. In Canada, faith leaders who wish to have a voice in the political discussion are often ignored and ostracized. Yet things such as medicare, foreign aid, and a humane criminal justice system all have their roots in people of faith working out the calls to justice and mercy in our society. Many of Canada’s most important institutions could not function without the hard work and significant commitments made by people of faith. So it is more than just a little offensive to be marginalized by a secular ideology that does not welcome people of faith in the public square of ideas.
Frequently the churches, mosques, and temples get stuck with the pointy end of public policy decisions made without their input simply because they are “religious.”
Which brings me back to Stephen Harper. Anyone who is elected to serve in the House of Commons has a set of beliefs. I don’t expect that my Sikh, Jewish, or Hindu colleagues should suspend their beliefs nor should the prime minister or I be expected to suspend ours merely because we attend evangelical churches.
In my view Mr. Harper’s ideology has little to do with his faith and much more to do with his grand narrative which seeks to change the face of our nation. It seeks to play to those who wish to see us as a “warrior nation” rather than a conflict resolver; a nation that seeks vengeance rather than justice; a triumphalist nation rather than one merciful to the poor and disenfranchised. None of the foregoing can be found in the Christian & Missionary Alliance liturgy.
Regrettably some evangelicals have so bought into the faux debates about same-sex marriage and abortion that they are prepared to overlook actions, policies, and rhetoric which are neither merciful nor just. Simply put, many evangelicals have been played for suckers. If you like your religion served up with an unhealthy dose of vengeance Mr. Harper is your guy.
So rather than asking if Mr. Harper’s religion influences his decisions we should be asking why Mr. Harper’s faith doesn’t influence them more. Faith needs reason as much as reason needs faith. Faith should call us to “seek justice, be merciful, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).”
John McKay is Member of Parliament, Scarborough—Guildwood