About Pulpit and Politics
I plan with this blog to explore the growing influence that religion is having upon politics and society in Canada and elsewhere. This relationship is not merely a topic of interest but rather it has an effect upon the lives of millions of people. There has been a perception among academics, journalists and other opinion leaders that secularism reigns and that organized religion, not to mention private religious conviction, have become largely irrelevant to people. That was certainly the common belief among my professors when I was a university student and my journalistic colleagues in subsequent years.
But far from fading away, religion has come to play an increasingly prominent public role in contemporary societies. One has only to think about the Iranian and Nicaraguan revolutions; the impact of liberation theology in places such as Brazil; the role of the church in Poland; the rise of the evangelical right in the United States, Canada and elsewhere; the rise of militant Sikhism and Islamic extremism. If ever religion was a marginalized force, it has rebounded markedly, and not always for the better.
Canada does not exist in a vacuum. An IPSOS-Reid poll reported, for example, that the vote of evangelical Christians and Catholics who attend church weekly was a deciding factor in the election of a Conservative minority government in January 2006. The question now is whether that pronounced religious vote is a blip or an emerging reality in Canadian political life.
The religious right is growing in power and political influence in Canada. Mainline Protestantism, as represented in the United, Anglican and Presbyterian Churches, has been in decline although it is showing some signs of revival. Conservative Catholics and evangelicals, who once disliked and mistrusted one another, are now engaged in a growing collaboration. Their political agenda is anchored in opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, publicly funded childcare and a resistance to various other social programs.Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are assiduously courting evangelicals, Catholics, and Jewish voters to join their political coalition. That has alarmed other parties, including the New Democrats, who are attempting to mobilize a religious constituency on their own behalf.
For their part, progressive Christians — in Protestant, Catholic, and even some evangelical congregations — have been marginalized in recent years and are now struggling to have their voices heard by politicians and the Canadian public. I intend to deal with these and other topics on this blog.
There is a good deal of research and writing in the United States and elsewhere about how important it is to understand the motivation and tactics of religious groups that involve themselves in the political arena. Far less attention has been devoted to the topic in Canada. I am determined that Pulpit & Politics will help to fill that gap.