Guest Blogger: Aileen Van Ginkel
In her book, The Armageddon Factor, Marci McDonald states that Canadians need to wake up to the menacing presence of Evangelical Christians in Canada. McDonald states that "theirs is a dark and dangerous vision, one that brooks no dissent and requires the dismantling of key democratic institutions."
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), an organization that serves a gathering of 39 Christian denominations, 85 ministry organizations, 35 higher education institutions and close to 1,000 individual congregations, rejects the charge that Canadian Evangelicals are working to establish a theocratic government where "non-believers — atheists, non-Christians and even Christian secularists — have no place, and those in violation of biblical law, notably homosexuals and adulterers, would merit severe punishment and the sort of shunning that once characterized a society where suspected witches were burned."
McDonald's claims fly in the face of the EFC's 30-year track record and its reputation for well researched social policy and legal arguments, which are valued by legislators and the courts alike. The Centre for Faith and Public Life, established by the EFC in Ottawa in 1996, has worked on public policy initiatives with members of all political parties, because, as EFC Vice-President and Director of the Centre, Don Hutchinson says, "promoting public policy based on biblical principles is not possible from a single political perspective. When one is concerned equally for the unborn as well as for those living on the street, one must be willing to work across the political spectrum."
The EFC appreciates the positive comments about "social conservatives," which have been made in response to The Armageddon Factor, including those written by Charles Lewis. "Want to know something about social conservatives?," he wrote in his National Post blog. "The Catholic Church and many evangelical Christians are opposed to abortion and gay marriage but spend a lot of time feeding the hungry and housing the homeless and lobbying for social justice. As well, the religious, some of whom are conservative, pay taxes, support schools, vote, volunteer and look after their neighbours. They also give to charity, run shelters and give comfort to the sick."
Other journalists and writers, including Paul Wells with Maclean's (see links below), have pointed out a variety of problems in the leaps in logic that McDonald makes as she seeks to prove the existence of a take-over conspiracy on the part of Evangelicals.
For our part, we regret McDonald's failure to acknowledge the possibility that Evangelicals can be motivated to participate in public life from a belief in God's purposes for a just society that cares for the vulnerable and respects human dignity, while respecting the democratic principles that welcome difference of opinion. Indeed, the EFC promotes the importance of a plurality of views in the public square and celebrates the positive benefits that emerge from the contribution of many voices. By imposing the "theo-con" label on Canadian Evangelicals and advising Canadians to shun us and our contribution to Canadian society, McDonald undermines the same democratic values she claims to espouse.
Aileen Van Ginkel is Vice-President, Ministry Services at The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
For more information on the evangelical movement in Canada, see the Centre for Research on Canadian Evangelicalism webpages on the EFC website.
For more comments on The Armageddon Factor, see the following weblinks (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the print media coverage):
Religion in the Public Square, Ottawa Citizen
Evangelicals Clean Up the Mess, Toronto Sun
Armageddon Factor, a book on Christian Right, is Shrill Nonsense, Calgary Herald