The Armageddon Factor and its critics

By Dennis Gruending

I wrote in a recent post about Marci McDonald’s book The Armageddon Factor, which traces the growing political influence of Canada’s religious right. McDonald has clearly struck a nerve – two bodyguards accompanied her at a recent Calgary event to promote her book. Reviews and interviews with her (and her critics) have been everywhere since the book was released in mid-May. On the week ending June 5th, The Armageddon Factor was ranked second on The Globe and Mail’s list of hardcover sales among Canadian titles. McDonald and her work have also been the object of close attention among reviewers, Op Ed writers and bloggers. Let’s look at some of the comments.

Charge from the right

The charge from the right was led by the National Post and featured some of its regular polemicists. They included the ubiquitous Ezra Levant, who in his subtle and gracious way described McDonald as a “bigot” against Christians, Jews and Sikhs. On his blog he called her a “Christian hater” and described her as  “bigoted, sloppy, error-prone, smug.” On his Twitter feed, Levant said this: “Watching Marci McDonald on TV. What a hateful bigot. If she spoke this way about Jews, she’d be run out of town as an anti-Semite.” Levant and some others throw this latter accusation around rather casually these days.

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Armageddon Factor traces religious right

By Dennis Gruending

I am just back from travelling for several weeks in the Middle East and that has disrupted my blog writing. I will write about that trip in weeks to come but I want now to talk about a book by veteran investigative reporter Marci McDonald about the religious right. McDonald’s book, The Armageddon Factor, has been four years in its gestation and had its origin in a long piece called Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, which she wrote for The Walrus magazine in October 2006.

It’s high time that someone wrote such a book and in doing so MacDonald has performed a significant public service. Her thesis is that in recent years the religious right has moved, incrementally, from the margins to the centre of influence in Canadian political life, and has lent its best efforts to Stephen Harper and the Conservative government. Harper, in return, has courted a constituency of conservative Protestants, Catholics and Jews in an attempt to embed them in his political coalition.

I have written about this many times on this blog and elsewhere but never as comprehensively and systematically as McDonald has done in her book. She recounts how, upon her return to Canada in 2002 following some years in the United States, she was surprised to find how successfully the religious right had been in establishing itself in this country. This is a development that mainstream journalists in Canada have missed almost entirely. In the U.S., there has been a good deal of writing and discussion about the influence of the religious right, which hitched its political wagon to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s presidential campaign and has remained a bulwark of support for the Republicans ever since. Journalists have a responsibility to probe these connections but in Canada they have been either reluctant or not competent to do so. They may be content to believe those Canadian academics that say there is no discernible religious right in Canada. They are wrong. Any Liberal or NDP candidate for election will tell you that the religious right is usually adept at lending a hand to the Conservatives.

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Joe Gunn, public justice, Canadian churches

Note: Joe Gunn is executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, an Ottawa-based ecumenical group advocating for social justice. He has worked for churches and church organizations, mainly Catholics, in Canada and Latin …

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Catholics and child sexual abuse

By Dennis Gruending

It’s been a bad month for Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic hierarchy, and by extension a bad month for Catholics in general. The church has been rocked by more allegations, many of them now proven, regarding past sexual assaults by priests …

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Jason Kenney as St. Francis of Assisi (not)

By Dennis Gruending

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning gathered members of the Canadian political and religious right for talk fest in Ottawa recently to strategize about how to win …

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NHOP promotes Israeli prayer walk

By Dennis Gruending

I have reported previously about the National House of Prayer (NHOP) in Ottawa. As I write this, Rob and Fran Parker, the husband and wife team who lead NHOP, are planning …

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Truth to Power, Britz, Gruending

By Dennis Gruending

I have spent much of my time in the past months working on a book with an old friend, and I have been less active in the blogosphere as a result. The book will be called Truth to Power, and …

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Bible references found on gun sights

By Dennis Gruending

 Coded biblical inscriptions have been found on the telescopic sights of rifles used by soldiers from several nations, including Canada, who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company that supplied the inscribed weapons initially defended its actions unapologetically, and the response by the American …

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