Marci McDonald, "The Armageddon Factor": Part 3: Conclusions (UPDATED)

I have argued so far that Marci McDonald’s book has so many evident problems that it is hard to trust what she says in any areas one cannot check. And that’s too bad, because I don’t think she’s wrong about one crucial matter, the matter at the core of the book. There is a Religious Right in Canada and it has influence worth noticing.

Let’s clarify what we should not mean by that. Over the last several decades, evangelicals and Roman Catholics in Canada have engaged in Canadian public life more and differently than they had done in the previous generation. Since the innovations of the Pearson and Trudeau years, particularly having to do with a wide range of sex- and family-related matters, and in the light of the Quiet Revolution, evangelicals and Catholics have woken up to the fact that Canada isn’t automatically, generally, and perpetually Christian anymore. So these Christians have organized and entered political life both provincially and federally in new ways, in greater numbers, and with more noticeable results. (I have written about some of these developments here: “Bearing Witness: Christian Groups Engage Canadian Politics since the 1960s,” in Rethinking Church, State, and Modernity: Canada between Europe and America, ed. David Lyon and Marguerite Van Die [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000], 113-28.)

The mere fact, then, that theologically conservative Christians increasingly have involved themselves in Canadian public life is not news, and it isn’t fundamentally what Ms. McDonald is talking about. Thus no one needs to be alarmed about Catholic bishops or the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada speaking out about and advocating for their views on abortion, or euthanasia, or the nature of marriage, or Christian education–nor about them sometimes working together on these and other issues on which they share common concerns–as if this is a Scary New Thing. It isn’t. And Ms. McDonald’s book usually makes clear that she’s not alarmed about it, either. She distinguishes sometimes (not, alas, invariably) between such mainstream Christian groups simply playing their parts in the civic conversation, on the one hand, and the people that actually frighten her, on the other.

Who are those alarming people?

Ah: Those are the Christians in Canada who do believe in a weird and ominous amalgam of prosperity gospel, last-days eschatology, cultural imperialism, self-righteousness, anti-pluralism, anti-intellectualism, preposterous Biblical interpretation, radical mysticism, binary thinking, bellicose rhetoric, public dissembling, hardball (if also ham-fisted) politicking, and financial ambiguity (to put it kindly). There are such people and they frighten me, too.

Note: They don’t just bemuse me or annoy me. Yes, I’m disappointed that so many of my fellow evangelicals feel they must resist all forms of evolutionary theory because they believe the Bible requires it. They don’t have to do so, and many evangelical scientists, theologians, and other scholars are trying to help their evangelical comrades get past this unnecessary difficulty–as evangelicals did in the nineteenth century, let alone the twentieth or twenty-first.

Yes, having grown up in dispensationalist circles I regret the amount of energy and ingenuity wasted on trying to figure out the identity of the Antichrist and the date of the Rapture. But I remember many such Christians also being generous donors to World Vision and other relief and development agencies. Belief in the imminent return of Christ does not, in fact, necessarily prompt frantic fanaticism. (In fact, one of the oddities of Ms. McDonald’s account is that she never even tries to explain why people who are putatively obsessed with the looming end of the world undertake long-term, incremental infiltration of government. Wouldn’t their belief that Jesus is about to return mean such investment is a waste of time when souls need to be saved right now?)

And yes, I don’t have much admiration for the Dick Dewerts and their Miracle Channel cohorts, the Faytene Kryskows and their militant mentors and followers, and the Charles McVetys and their American fundamentalist heroes. These folk trade in what seem to me to be shallow and simplistic theology and politics both. But the main organs of Canadian evangelicalism aren’t like them: not the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, not InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, not the major evangelical denominations, and not the major evangelical schools (from Crandall University to Tyndale College and Seminary to Briercrest College and Seminary to The King’s University College to, yes, Regent College).

These folk can bother me, but none of these people frighten me. What does disturb me in Marci McDonald’s purview is the fact that extreme forms of Canadian evangelicalism–the creation-science, hysterical-prophetic, health-and-wealth, visionary-charismatic, culturally-imperialistic, all-or-nothing forms–seem indeed to have purchase on significant figures in Canadian political life.

And here’s the odd thing. Marci McDonald rightly shines her journalistic spotlight on people such as Timothy Bloedow (aide to two MPs and founder of the truly scary website christiangovernment.ca) and Gary Goodyear (minister of state for science and technology who is trained in the dubious science of chiropractic and seems unable to affirm evolution in anything like its mainstream scientific form). But one name keeps popping up in almost every category of the Religious Right—creation science, Christian cultural imperialism, B’nai Brith, prosperity gospel, prolife, Christian private schools, you name it—and it’s the most powerful name on the list: Stockwell Day.

The fact that Mr. Day is involved in so very many such groups is perhaps surprising, but what’s ironically surprising is that Ms. McDonald doesn’t connect her own dots and train her fire on Stockwell Day as himself the most baleful feature of the Canadian Religious Right. What is someone like him doing in the Cabinet, with one important portfolio or another, and standing quietly by to take over as Conservative leader if Mr. Harper fails? How can someone like Stockwell Day be so powerful unless he does represent significant elements in the Canadian electorate?

Forget making fun of the creation-science museum in Alberta. Forget trying to demonize Preston Manning. Forget Charles McVety and Faytene Kryskow, both of whose ministries (according to data furnished me by the Centre for Research on Canadian Evangelicalism, among other sources) have experienced significant drops in funding and personnel over the last 24 months. Focus on Stockwell Day and his associates and the religious culture that spawned and supports them. How have such people become so powerful and stayed so prominent even under Prime Minister Harper, who is not like them (as Ms. McDonald frequently, if inconsistently, acknowledges) and whom no one accuses of ruling the Conservative caucus with a light touch?

Analysis, then, should not be devoted to some supposed cabal of right-wing organizations that seem to me instead to have little direct power (National House of Prayer, the Laurentian Institute, the Manning Institute…). Attention instead needs to be trained on the religious culture that has produced and sustained certain powerful individuals in the Conservative Party. Ms. McDonald’s researches into the Watchmen for the Nations-type of fellowship, into Christian schools and home schooling, into the Word-Faith charismatic churches, and into the growing power of certain forms of Christian television seem to me to be investigations well worth following up by people with better skills in the pertinent social sciences, even as we can be grateful for her explorations of them as first steps.

For where Ms. McDonald’s account fails most egregiously is just here: We never understand the people she profiles. She never even attempts to draw together the various themes of her subjects into a coherent worldview: what they believe and why, what they love and loathe and why, what they hope for and fear and why, how they engage in politics and why. In short, she fails to answer this fundamental question of journalism and history, “How could these people possibly think that?” And that failure leaves her subjects literally unintelligible to Ms. McDonald and her ilk.

The grave implication of such unintelligibility, furthermore, is that it leaves the Marci McDonalds of Canada unable to constructively deal with the Religious Right as fellow Canadians who have different opinions about some (not all) crucial matters and who ought to be accommodated somehow in a welcoming, multicultural society. Instead, the Religious Right remains merely bizarre. They are ignorant and insane, and therefore enemies worthy only of contempt, fear, and resistance—which is how we’re left at the end of The Armageddon Factor.

The next book on the Religious Right in Canada, therefore, needs to be written by someone with much better anthropological skills, who can sympathetically enter into the mindset of her subjects and communicate it to the rest of us. We might well disagree with them on this or that matter and politically resist them on this or that issue, but we will be able to do so on the ground of understanding them as fellow citizens and neighbours—the way we have been learning to do with aboriginal Canadians, Jewish Canadians, female Canadians, poor Canadians, socialist Canadians, homosexual Canadians, Muslim Canadians, and other Canadians whom the elites, as well as many of the rest of us, have had trouble immediately recognizing as full human beings worthy of respectful comprehension.

To conclude: I lived as a Canadian in actor Ronald Reagan’s America. I grew smug, as a Canadian, as I witnessed wrestler Jesse Ventura become governor of Minnesota and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger become governor of California. I still feel astonished, as a Canadian, that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is taken seriously by anyone serious. But after returning to Canada in 1990 and seeing my former Grade 7 and 8 science teacher, Mr. Harris, become premier of Canada’s mightiest province and then get re-elected—well, I’ve realized that things can happen that I never thought could happen in North American politics.

So I think Ms. McDonald is right to worry. I just hope that she, and lots of other Canadians, will worry in the right direction and in the right mode. Don’t worry about the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and World Vision and Trinity Western University. Don’t worry about the National House of Prayer and 4mycanada. And don’t worry even about folks like Charles McVety and Tristan Emmanuel, who seem very much to be opportunistic creatures of the mass media and who serve, at best, as occasional rallying points for disgruntled Canadians on particular issues while they otherwise have very little clout.

Worry instead about cabinet ministers and parliamentary aides who sound like theocrats, who sound anti-intellectual and anti-pluralist, and who gladly and openly consort with other people who clearly are so. That’s Marci McDonald’s main message, I daresay, and it’s a message worth heeding. But once we have received that message, let’s proceed to work hard to truly understand these other Canadians and only then decide how we’re going to respond.

UPDATE: In the paragraph above in which I speak of Minister Day as “baleful,” some readers have misinterpreted the voice I am using and therefore have misunderstood particularly the meaning of this graf and the final one. I am trying to say the following: If Ms. McDonald thinks the Religious Right is so important, then why doesn’t she focus her attention on the person who her own accounting would say is its most powerful figure, Cabinet minister Stockwell Day? And if she can show that the RR is as bad as she apparently feels it is, then that would make Minister Day especially bad (= “baleful”). But since I myself am not at all sure what she means by the Religious Right, therefore not sure what I think about it, and therefore not sure what I think about Minister Day in this respect–a man whom I have not met personally and about whose career I know only a little–I should not be understood as casting aspersions on him. Yes, I’m troubled about his apparent links to persons and organizations and ideas I don’t admire. But I don’t have enough to go on to be more than simply worried about what those links might mean. I also, not incidentally, know of links of his that I do admire. So I’m confused. And I’m simply saying that since Minister Day seems to be important in Marci McDonald’s account of the Religious Right, she ought to have subjected him and his associates in government to appropriately rigorous and illuminating journalistic examination, which she regrettably did not.

0 Responses to “Marci McDonald, "The Armageddon Factor": Part 3: Conclusions (UPDATED)”

  1. Deborah Gyapong

    Thank you for your most interesting examination of Marci McDonald’s book. I have to disagree with you about Stockwell Day, however. There is nothing anti-pluralist or theocratic about him. When he was Leader of the Opposition, he had on his staff everyone from an openly gay francophone communications advisor, to the Red Tory pro-choicer Rod Love as his chief of staff, to a slew of people who remained from Manning’s time there.

    I know, because I was one of the few social conservatives Day hired. And I was one of the first social conservatives Harper fired when he won the leadership in 2002. I thank God for that because politics was never a good fit!

    That of course was 10 years ago. I think you also have to give Day credit for being a loyal and competent cabinet minister over the last few years. There isn’t a hint of his doing anything in the least to undermine Harper or trying to stage some kind of leadership comeback. I can’t recall his making any gaffes in a long, long time.

    As for the anti-intellectual, health and wealth Gospel heretics and the hyper-charismatics you find alarming, I don’t. Here’s why. First of all, they are a small minority of a small minority of regular church attenders. Secondly, those who are too strident, or over-the-top tend to marginalize themselves. If anything they shoot the rest of us in the foot and set back sound public policy rather than pose any danger of imposing a theocracy.

    I think we, too, must never underestimate what can happen to people who have been snagged by a Benny Hinn or someone of that ilk to invite Jesus
    into their hearts. Jesus is, after all, the author and finisher of our faith. He can work wonders in teachable spirits, even if they are not intellectual, take the Bible rather literally at times, and engage in much eisegesis.

    And they too, in a democracy, deserve a place at the table. How much of it is a class thing?

    The big problem I see is that while you might see huge distinctions between Stockwell Day and Preston Manning, or yourself and say Tim Bloedow, those who like to criticize the Christian right and accuse it of being theocratic will lump all of us in the same boat.

    As you showed in part two of your analysis, that’s pretty much what Marci McDonald did in putting a sinister cast to Manning’s “wise as serpents, harmless as doves” mantra.

    Alas, what your conclusion reminds me of is that there are many cracks, divisions, remaining hostilities and friendly fire among Christians in Canada, the main reason why they are far from being any real force at all when it comes to say getting some protection for the unborn or ensuring we have conscience rights and protection for religious freedom.

    Interestingly, part of the reason why Harper is probably hanging on to the Catholics who ditched the Liberals over same-sex marriage is because he has shown himself to be quite centrist fiscally.
    Many many social conservatives are not fiscal conservatives. Many fiscal conservatives are not social conservatives, though I think it is impossible to have a free market society and a limited government without a virtuous, aka socially conservative populace.

    Anyway, again, I thank you for the discussion, but please rethink your rather alarming and erroneous picture of Stockwell Day.

    Cordially,

    Deborah Gyapong

    • Mike S

      I tend to thing that many of the links attributed to Stockwell Day are rather dated as well.

      As the new leader of the Canadian Alliance he was a like a lightning rod attracting acclaim and criticism. I remember very clearly how leaders of various church and independent ministries of the Charismatic bent were attempting to meet with him and how actually making a connection was considered as a kind of status symbol.

      So I wonder how many of these links represent and on-going real affiliation, how many still exist, how many are or were merely something he offered support to, and how many only existed in the mind of the people who boasted about them.

      In any event, it is old news now, so there likely isn’t much to it. Just as most Evangelicals don’t speak very much about Armageddon, the Rapture and the Antichrist anymore, Stockwell Day is no longer considered the Great White Hope.

      P.S. I am a little puzzled by Marci McDonald’s emphasis on Armageddon. That was big stuff even 20 years ago but it is no longer a motivating force among Evangelicals who once considered it a pillar of their faith. Stranger still, it was never a big part theology of many of the Charismatics she fingers as the shadowy figures connected with Stockwell Day, Krystow, the Parkers etc.

      • John Stackhouse

        Mike S, I wonder, as you do, about how current are the affiliations attributed to Mr. Day, what his current opinions are, who his current advisors are, what vision of Christian engagement with Canadian politics currently guides him, and so on.

        Mr. Day phoned me this week and we had a 45-minute conversation in which I can say, without being indiscreet (and I have Mr. Day’s express permission to say what I like about that conversation), that he continues to hold considerable respect for ideas and individuals from whom I would wish he would distance himself much more.

        So I sincerely wish the current Stockwell Day, so to speak, was much more evident and intelligible to Canadians particularly in the respects raised by Ms. McDonald and the conversation we have been having about her book.

  2. Jeff Loach

    John, thanks for a thoughtful review. Could that next book on the religious right in Canada be written by, oh, maybe John G. Stackhouse, Jr.?!

  3. Bene D

    Surprising.
    Humbling.
    Thank you.

    I like this book, it’s timely. I’m glad Marci McDonald wrote The Armageddon Factor, and that you chose to give it your thoughtful attention.

  4. Richard Ball

    “To conclude: I lived as a Canadian in actor Ronald Reagan’s America.”

    Gratuitously insulting of a great man and a great President.

    • John Stackhouse

      It was not gratuitous. It’s an essential part of the point I’m making. You’re entitled to think RR was “a great man and a great President.” I’m entitled to think he was neither.

      • poserorprophet

        I’ll second that. RR was a disaster for both the American people and the rest of the world.

        (Of course, one would be hard-pressed to find an American President who couldn’t be described in that way… maybe Nixon… but only because he inadvertently helped people to see what the presidency is all about.)

  5. Richard Ball

    Dr. Stackhouse: The gratuitous part was the insult, not the place it had in your argument. Let’s say you had a job as a disc jockey before becoming a Professor. If I dismissively referred to you as disc jockey John Stackhouse, rather than as Professor Stackhouse, it would be a gratuitous — uncalled for — insult.

    • John Stackhouse

      The point here is that one would not have expected actors Reagan and Schwarzenegger to become successful politicians, nor wrestler Jesse Ventura, nor math/science teacher Mike Harris. Whether or not you think they were good politicians, they were unlikely people to become such.

      • William Ramp

        The question of a politician’s ‘improbability’ worries me less than something else. Whether they are religious or not, the politicians I find scary are those of any stripe or background who seem to be motivated primarily by some mixture of anger, fear, vengeance, resentment or contempt (or who incite these feelings in voters as a modus operandi), who aren’t thoughtful, and who selectively respond to citizens in terms of an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. This doesn’t necessarily correlate, either positively or negatively, with professed religious faith, evangelical or otherwise. For example, while I mostly disagree with Preston Manning’s politics, I don’t get the sense that he thinks or acts this way (though I worry a bit about some of the company he sometimes keeps). On the other hand, I can think of one or two (not particularly religious) politicians in Canada for whom politics really did seem to be a grudge match: about getting back at or purging the scene of groups, real or imaginary, held up for contempt.

  6. Emily Dee

    I think that Marci McDonald’s book and your excellent critique, both make a strong argument for the necessity to separate church and state.

    That’s not to say that religious groups can’t lobby government or that politicians can’t vote for or present bills based on their personal beliefs. Quite often their constituents elect them because of, not inspite of, those beliefs.

    But I am alarmed with the infrastucture that has been created with people like Timothy Bloebow. And the fact that Stephen Harper made a conscious decision to exploit the extremist elements of religion for political gain, with fear mongering and promises of things he’s having trouble delivering.

    I think it took a lot of courage for McDonald to write that book, given that it would be almost impossible not to insult someone when you are writing about diverse spiritual beliefs.

    But at least it has sparked debate, because for some who are promoting “Christian values”, they are actually destoying them.

  7. Matthew Westerberg

    I agree with Richard about the Ronald Reagan remark: It appears to be gratuitously insulting.

    First, Reagan may or may not deserve to be regarded as a “great man and a great president” but surely he is worthy of better company than Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sarah Palin. It is insulting to rank a person among company that demeans his or her accomplishments and/or character. As in: “John Stackhouse, Jan Hendrik Schon, Ward Churchill, and Leonard Jeffries.” Well, yes, it is true that, like the other three, you do publish; but more to the point, you’re a serious and widely respected scholar, not a loudmouth or a quack. Similarly, Ronald Reagan didn’t run California into the ground, as Schwarzenegger has, or consistently fall on his face before the public eye, as Sarah Palin continues to do.

    Second, that actor reference. It comes across as elitist and again, somewhat insulting along ad hominem lines. It implies that someone lacking a formal, rigourous preparation for the presidency is highly unlikely to become president, let alone a good president. (It also might imply, though I doubt you were intending this, that Reagan was using his acting skills to mislead the public. This would be a serious charge and would have to be backed up with more than ad hominem attacks.) But this is inconsistent with the history of the American presidency: many of America’s presidents have not been formally trained and prepared for that position. So Reagan is hardly distinguished (in a way that would surprise) from other presidents just because he happened to have been an actor. Barack Obama was a community organizer. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. Lyndon Johnson was a schoolteacher. Harry Truman was a farmer and storekeeper, who never earned a college degree. Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer. Ulysses Grant was undistinguished as a civilian, both as a farmer and a store clerk. Abraham Lincoln had almost no formal education. Andrew Jackson was a land speculator, bush league lawyer, and militiaman. Etc. Of course, none of this is surprising when you consider that the first president of the United States, George Washington, was a land surveyor, planter, and militia leader. It simply isn’t at all noteworthy that an American president was once an actor. (Especially when that actor was student body president of his college, president of the screen actor’s guild for several years, governor of California for eight years, and failed Republican candidate in 1975, prior to winning the republican nomination and then the presidency in 1979.)

    I know – from comments that you have made elsewhere – that you strongly disapprove of Reagan’s policies as president, and perhaps of his character as well. So be it. But I believe that the reference you made here to Reagan detracted from the soundness and logic of your otherwise excellent and for me, quite helpful (thank you!) article.

    • John Stackhouse

      Matt, I think you’re getting worked up about a pretty basic point. The unlikelihood of Ronald Reagan becoming president is so obvious that it is used as a joke in “Back to the Future.” I have said nothing directly here about how I feel about his actual governing of California or his presiding over the United States, since that is irrelevant to the point at hand. And I was drawing on other well-known examples of people who could also be recognized by most readers as unlikely to have succeeded in politics and yet who did–at least in terms of getting elected (and, in the case of Governor Palin, getting nominated to candidacy for the vice-presidency).

      Your history lesson of other people who became president I found interesting, if also tendentious in places! But it only confirms my point with examples less well known.

      And please remember that I was reminiscing about my actual experience: I moved to the U.S. during President Reagan’s first year in office and lived there throughout his tenure, etc., etc. So of course I have to use him as an example because he is the first example of this type in my experience.

      So let’s move on, please. If I had wanted to slam President Reagan, you know I could have and would have.

  8. Dan

    I haven’t read the book, but from your review it sounds like an exercise in elitist condescension.

    As for the Reagan remark, those who think his election as president odd simply don’t know how active Reagan was in politics for many, many years and how extensive his political thought and writings and speeches were long before he became president. To my mind, his record compared to Carter and to the first year of Obama is rather stunning.

  9. Christopher Morton

    RE: “And Ms. McDonald’s book usually makes clear that she’s not alarmed about it, either. She distinguishes sometimes (not, alas, invariably) between such mainstream Christian groups simply playing their parts in the civic conversation, on the one hand, and the people that actually frighten her, on the other.”

    Does she really distinguish? I would like to be chariably about McDonald’s book, but she seems to jump schizophrenically from the scary (McVety) to the legitimate (such as the EFC). She does note that they have comparable goals with completely different(and scary on the part of McVety) methods but she fails to distinguish between the EFC’s doctrinal statement which is more ecumenical and more (ridiculous?) extreme forms of dispensationalism suggesting that most of these groups are driven by this “armageddon factor.” I am troubled by McDonald’s pigeon holing of legitimate Christian influences in Ottawa.

    Christopher

  10. Mike S

    In parts 1 and 2 you mentioned that you disagreed with McDonald’s conclusions, except for the ones you agreed with. One of the organizations you mentioned needing more investigation was Watchmen for the Nations.

    I am a former PAOC pastor and university chaplain, I studied at Ontario Theological Seminary (Tyndale), and although I would generally consider myself a social conservative, I would consider myself an evolutionary creationist.

    I have also been a fellow traveler with Watchmen for the Nations, and after reading some of Marci McDonald’s book, she seems to attribute a great deal of power and influence to them.

    Here is an example of one thing that jumped out at me on Page 162 where she writes about David Demian’s message about Generation X saying,

    “In charismatic circles, prophetic pronouncements are regarded with the same reverence that the Vatican reserves for papal edicts. When David Demian declared at a Watchmen for the Nations gathering that Canada’s end times destiny would be realized by Generation X, she knew she had received a divine commission. But unlike Papal edicts, Demian’s decree carried a cryptic corollary: ‘This generation must learn to walk backward before they run forward,’ he declared, leaving the assembled Watchmen mystified. For Krystow, the riddle was soon solved. During a Watchmen Gathering in Montreal she had a vision of a broom sweeping away debris to expose forgotten ruins. To write a book unearthing Canada’s Christian origins”

    Generally this is correct, but McDonald is skewing the narrative to fit her thesis and paint a different picture. As I was there myself, I can shed a little light.

    1. Charismatic Christians, have widely varying views on prophetic messages, including those who attend Watchmen Gatherings and many of their leaders. I know them.

    2. Watchmen meetings are not about, or focused on prophetic messages by leaders. Nor is it about politics or mobilizing the troops to get active politically. It is principally about Christians coming together (from nearly every denomination, including Amish), to pray and to listen together to what God might be saying and acting on it (meaning repenting for sins etc).

    3. David Demian had always been talking about a special role for Generation X, so what he said was nothing new.

    4. I was there in Kelowna, I heard the message and it was not a “prophetic decree” nor it did not leave me mystified. It was a fairly straightforward exhortation to a younger generation to honour the older generation, taking by analogy the story of the sons of Noah (look it up to see what he meant by walking backwards). It was very clear and concise and it was directed to the next gathering in Charlottown in the summer of 2002.

    5. it was not a riddle that Krystow solved, in fact it had nothing to do with her. However, it would seem that Krystow was inspired by the message and from what I have heard about the book, it did follow the spirit of what Demian spoke about. It was not so much about the Christian origins of Canada but about Christian Canadians in history.

    So in one paragraph McDonald paints a picture that doesn’t really exist, which is very troubling. However, through the book, she attributes considerable power to David Demian as if he was pulling strings behind the scenes. Demian and Watchmen did not “launch” the National House of Prayer, or I would have known about it. They endorsed it, but that is a different thing.

    On page 131 she calls them “secretive”. Strange. Their very first Gathering was reported in the BC Christian News or Christianweek. The Crossroads camera crew has been recording their meetings for a decade. They have been on the web for years and anyone can sign up for their email updates.

  11. Lorna Dueck

    It should still be noted that Marci McDonald’s conclusions on page 359 are serious to the reputation of Christianity in Canada. They have caused denominational leaders to ask me if she could be charged with hate crimes. Another thoughtful leader told me at the least Random House should be accountable in a human rights tribunal for slander to a religious group. A international researcher into the persecuted church read her remarks and said “welcome to the club of the persecuted. If comments like that are open and unchallenged, in three to five years, Canada will push Christianity into persecution.”

    I am choosing not to give this book any more Canadian publicity, but the reading of it has served to teach me to be more mindful and strategic in my public witness. In that sense, a back handed thank you to Ms. McDonald for her offense.

  12. nhop

    John, your opening statement is key, “I have argued so far that Marci McDonald’s book has so many evident problems that it is hard to trust what she says in any areas one cannot check.”

    Here at the National House of Prayer that is the approach we have taken to other groups who were maligned and misrepresented along with us. We just don’t trust Ms. McDonald’s presentation, period.

    If our own experience is that she under-researched and under-interviewed so as to misrepresent our origins, our theology and our clearly-stated position regarding the relationship between state and church, why would we assume she got it right when she describes other groups?

    By the way, we enjoyed your presentation on the subject of Christians and Government when you spoke here in Ottawa in the Fall of 2009 at St. Albans Anglican (my home church). We brought along our interns for the night and had some good discussions afterward. Essentially Rob Parker and myself, being trained in Baptist schools, espouse a pretty clear separation of State and Church. The furthest thing from a Theocratic takeover of government that Ms. McDonald accused us of believing.

    That’s one of multiple things she got wrong on just one Christian ministry here in Ottawa.

    So … it’s hard to have a credible conversation about any of her conspiracy theories. The way I see it, she not only didn’t figure out the dots, but she also connected them in ways that are so laughable that it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so potentially damaging.

    yours truly,

    Richard Long
    Associate Director
    National House of Prayer

  13. Canadian Christian Blogs « Cheese-Wearing Theology

    […] John Stackhouse’s blog. John Stackhouse teaches at Regent College in Vancouver. His blog includes a little bit of everything, from history, to Canadian issues to theology. Check out his multi-part review of Marci McDonald’s “The Armaggedon Factor” here, here and here. […]

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