Jerry Falwell came to prominence in 1979 with the creation of the so-called “Moral Majority.” A group of evangelical Christians whose aim it was to influence the politics of the United States in such a way as to have society conform to their notion of what was moral.
The target of this group was the Republican Party and in 1980 it was credited by some with getting Ronald Reagan elected President.
The one defining characteristic of evangelicals that is crucial to understanding how they influence, not only the conservative right wing in the United States but also the newly created Conservative Party in Canada is their literal interpretation of the Bible as the word of their Abrahamic God. Evangelicals believe that their God created the Earth in seven days. They believe in Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood and they believe that the world is about 6,000 years old. Most importantly they believe that everybody must be “saved” by recognizing Jesus as their personal “savior.” To this end they have become involved politically in an attempt to change the laws of the US and Canada to lead the population out of their “sinful” ways and into a path more “moral” whether we choose it or not.
I have written before about how alike the Conservatives are to the Liberals in their economic policies. They are both socialists. Up until the early 1990s there was little difference between the two spectra of the left wing; Conservatives were interchangeable with Liberals. With the alienation of Western Canada by the Mulroney Conservatives in the 1980s we have seen an attempt by the evangelicals to infiltrate the halls of Parliament Hill through the creation of the Reform Party, then the Canadian Alliance (for which I ran for as a candidate) and now the Conservative Party of Canada.
On many of the issues of personal behavior we can see a clear difference between the new Conservatives and the Liberals. Examine this list of issues and consider how a Conservative might approach the issue versus a Liberal.
- Assisted Suicide
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- Gay “Marriage”
- The Death Penalty
- Sunday shopping laws
- Human Cloning (if such a thing were possible). and
- The teaching of creationism in schools
Evangelicals, believing that your body, being a gift from their God, belongs to their God and that you should have no choice in tampering with their God’s creation. You cannot take your own life, you cannot adulterate your mind with drugs, you cannot tamper with natural reproduction etc.
A liberal, on the other hand, is more prone to allowing us a choice when it comes to our actions. This difference is due, in part, I believe from their religious beliefs, if they exist, of Liberals versus the religious beliefs of Conservatives (at least contemporary Conservatives). The following comparison of the professed religions of party leaders should illustrate what I’m talking about:
- Louis St. Laurent – RC
- Lester B. Pearson –United Church (which does not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible)
- Pierre Trudeau – RC
- John Turner – RC
- Jean Chrétien – RC
- Stephane Dion – RC
- Paul Martin – RC
- Michael Ignatieff – Russian Orthodox
Here are the professed religious beliefs of some recent conservative Leaders
- Joe Clark – RC
- Brian Mulroney – RC (which brings us to 1988)
- Preston Manning = Christian and Missionary Alliance
- Stockwell Day = Pentecostal
- Stephen Harper = Christian and Missionary Alliance
All three of the past conservative leaders since 1988 profess religions which are evangelical.
It should come as little surprise that the majority of Liberal leaders were Catholics. The Catholic believes that in order for an action to be moral the person must have made the action freely without compulsion. He must have had a choice. This tenant of Catholicism is partially responsible, I believe, for the relaxing of personal behavior legislation beginning with Trudeau. For example the abolishment of the death penalty which occurred under Trudeau but was attempted to be brought back in by the Conservatives under Mulroney. But Mulroney being a Catholic himself allowed a free vote and the attempt by the more evangelical Conservatives failed.
From the rise of the political evangelical movement in Canada beginning in 1987 to the recent majority government of evangelical Stephen Harper Canadians can expect, at the very least, a continuation of restrictions on personal freedom such as our repressive drug laws. We can expect some private member’s bills in the next five years attempting to roll back the clock on legislation which had gotten the government out of the bedrooms of Canadians. Look forward to a renewed effort to censor adult content on television, look forward to a crack down on prostitution and teenagers smoking pot.
Thankfully since many of the newly elected Conservatives are not of the evangelical persuasion the likelihood of these motions passing are slim. Especially given that Harper, evangelical or not, who no doubt wishes to be reelected will not give his support to this Conservative hidden agenda. The genie of personal freedom has slowly been let out of the bottle, thanks mostly in part to the courts and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to put it back in will mean that the Party that does so will be quickly relegated to the left side of the house.
(Originally broadcast on Just Right #200, May 19, 2011)