Why Stephen Harper behaved strangely in Israel
Somewhere in this tumultuous time it is believed the Antichrist – the personification of evil – will appear, leading to the battle of Armageddon, in which the forces of darkness and light contend for the fate of the world. Before this battle, only those designated as “righteous” – which in fundamentalist terms means only those who believe in Jesus as their Saviour – will through divine intervention be kept harmless. After Armageddon, Jesus will return to earth and establish a spiritually perfect “kingdom”.
As Harper’s pastor described it in a sermon on August 11 last year, “…it seems like Armageddon is coming, it seems like the end of the world is coming, there’s a whole sense in the world that Christianity is capitulating to morality, no longer keeping to the Biblical standards.” Over and over again, the end of the world as we know it is tied, in Stephen Harper's belief system, to a lack of formal devotion to Jesus.
The designated opponent of the Antichrist, at the battle of Armageddon, will be Israel, according to many believers.
In this context, it is easier to understand Stephen Harper’s unwavering, even at times baffling devotion to support of Israel, against the flow of world affairs, and in contradistinction to the positions of our closest allies. He is acting as if he sees the fate of Israel as the touchstone for the fate of the earth and human civilization.
His apparent antipathy towards followers of the Muslim faith, on the other hand, suggests that he sees Muslims as the best approximation of the Antichrist, the evil force trying to take over the world.
Pastor Buitenwerf put it this way in a sermon on August 11 last year, when describing the Muslim faith: “We often say it’s the extremists are the problem. But really the Koran doesn’t leave any room for other nations, other religions. There is no religious tolerance in the Islamic faith. And as long as those in authority are of the Muslim faith they will continue to persecute Christians – it’s just a matter of fact, you can’t get around those facts. It’s part of their religion. So there’s a threat there all the time …this is not going away, this struggle – and there is a struggle; there is a desire for the Muslim world to gain world dominance – that’s a goal that is very well stated and documented.”
Black-and-white, good and evil. War and conflict – inevitable war and conflict. That seems to be the vision of Stephen Harper.
This intimate intermixing of religion and politics is entirely new in Canada. The shaping of domestic and international policy by the federal government on the basis of a doctrinaire Christian ideology has really never been seen before.
Political leaders like Tommy Douglas, Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson and Robert Stanfield all had strong affiliations with one religious denomination or another.
However, every one of these major political figures established a firewall between their personal beliefs and their political initiatives. Tommy Douglas, in fact, railed against Alberta politicians William Eberhard and Ernest Manning (Preston Manning’s father – Preston Manning is also a member of the C&MA), when they used their radio Bible shows to push their political aims.
Pope Francis, less than six months into his pontificate, came out strongly in favour of cooperation and collaboration between Christians and Muslims. He said that “Christians and Muslims will work together to promote mutual respect”, focusing his attention particularly on how they will educate their children to practice tolerance.
Stephen Harper has clearly positioned himself far away from this conciliatory and inclusive perspective.
In an interview on CBC Radio’s As It Happens on November 8, 2013, Joe Clark, recognizing this discordant stance, called Stephen Harper government “a private interest government [in a public interest country].”
Journalist Paul wells, interviewed on CBC Radio’s The Current, spoke on October 22, 2013 about his new book on Stephen Harper entitled “The Longer I’m Prime Minister...”. He noted that Stephen Harper was “not necessarily an ostentatiously religious guy himself, but people whose faith informs their own conception of politics know that a Harper government will leave them more alone than another government would. He’s the most right wing prime minister in my life-time. And yet he’s awesomely disciplined, and he’s very careful, while constantly sending signals to the right wing base that he’s their guy, he’s very careful to not do anything that would upset his broader appeal….because the goal is to endure….”
So now a vital question lies before all Canadians: do we wish our government to act formally and deliberately on the basis of a narrow religious platform?
Or do we want something else?