Calgary Herald columnist Catherine Ford recently wrote a spooky column invoking the spectre of William “Bible Bill” Aberhart to scare her readers into antipathy toward, of all things, the upcoming Provincial Prayer Breakfast, to be held in Edmonton later this month.
Ford is fair-minded and competent enough to note that the speaker at the breakfast is not all that frightening: “Pat Nixon, an ordained Baptist minister and founder of the Mustard Seed, the valuable and much-admired ministry for street people.”
Still, the premier himself is also scheduled to speak, and that fact, plus the sponsorship by two MLAs, has set Ford a-wondering whether Alberta now teeters on the brink of a conservative Christian revolution of the scale that brought to power radio preacher Aberhart and the Social Credit Party he founded in 1935. Indeed, her fears get the better of her as she pushes the Wayback Machine to “a retrograde society based on 19th-century morals, attitudes, sexism and racism.”
“This is happening right here, right now, right under our noses,” she breathlessly announces, although “in plain sight” would be another way to put it, since the prayer breakfast is a public event and anything featuring the premier as speaker is likely pretty apparent even to the attenuated newsrooms of what’s left of Alberta’s major media.
Poor Ms. Ford continues: “Do we really want a return to the so-called glory days of an almost all-white, all-Christian province (except for the owners of Chinese laundries and restaurants), ruled with one hand on the Bible and one voice on the radio every Sunday morning?” But the slippery slope downward from a prayer breakfast to a Christian theocracy has got to be both slick and steep in Alberta for anyone to take Ms. Ford’s agitation seriously. I’ve been to several such breakfasts in various parts of Canada, and the level of conspiracy between clergy and politicians has been…slight…and the resulting cooperation between Christian churches and governments has been…not obviously changed.
So let’s chalk up her worries to the typical paranoia of Baby Boomers that Mom and Dad’s religion will once again rise up to wag a finger in their faces and tell them what to do. No, Christianity isn’t that sort of social force anywhere in Canada today—not even in Miriam Toews’s southern Manitoban Mennonite towns—and we can all calm back down.
Still, once we’ve discounted her excessive anxiety, Catherine Ford yet poses an interesting question.
What precisely is the point of these prayer breakfasts? Are they anachronisms left over from a Christian Canada that hasn’t existed for a generation? Then they ought to be retired.
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