Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life
Kingsley Publishers (October 2011)
A provocative expose of the competition between religious progressives and conservatives for power and influence in Canadian politics. Gruending follows this contest between from Parliament Hill to the church basements, synagogues, temples and universities of the nation and abroad.
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Dennis Gruending brings both insight and hands-on experience to that fraught crossroads where faith and politics intersect, helping to trace not only the rise of a Canadian religious right but also the first stirrings of a reawakened religious left.“ Marci McDonald, journalist and author of The Armageddon Factor
“well informed observations on the role of faith in politics, and the politics of faith, an insightful guide to the current political landscape.” Rev. Bill Blaikie, former MP.
“focused like a laser on the analytical heart of today’s burning issues.“ Joe Gunn, executive director, Citizens for Public Justice.
Over the past few years I have been struck by the growing competition between religious progressives and conservatives for power and influence in Canadian politics. This is an historic rivalry and one that will become even more pronounced now that Stephen Harper has won a majority government in 2011, partly through the efforts of religious conservatives. Their political agenda is anchored in opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, publicly funded childcare, a dislike of many social programs, and a general suspicion of government. Since its inception in 2006, the Harper government has courted conservative evangelicals, along with some Catholic and Jewish voters, to join a political coalition that would change Canada into a leaner and meaner state, albeit it one with more prisons and a larger military.
I will look closely at their political ideology and tactics in these pages, but that is only half the story. I will also report on efforts by religious progressives who are struggling to have their voices heard on issues of equality, justice, human rights, and peace. This is an effort that plays out on Parliament Hill, as well in church basements, synagogues and temples. It is not merely a topic of casual interest; the consequences for our future are potentially dramatic. Religious faith informs political decisions about the division of wealth in our society, education and race relations, immigration, respect for democracy, foreign policy, and environmental issues, to name just a few.
The following pages also examine religiously inspired ideas and events elsewhere that are having an impact in Canada. We cherish our reputation as a peaceable kingdom, but we are not immune to religious fundamentalism, even extremism. The bombing of Air-India Flight 182 bound from Toronto to New Delhi in 1985 killed 331 people, making it the most widely felt terrorist attack in Canadian history. It was planned and executed by Sikh religious extremists living in Canada. There are no tranquil islands in an increasingly globalized world of ubiquitous jet travel, round-the-clock news feeds, and secured Internet chat rooms.
There is a fine body of research and writing in the United States and elsewhere about the importance of understanding the motivation and tactics of religious groups involved in public life. Far less attention has been devoted to the topic in Canada. I am determined that Pulpit and Politics will help to fill this gap.