Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The liability of the Christian right

The Globe and Mail has an article by Gloria Galloway and an editorial by Jeff Simpson today about the role of Christian activists in the Conservative party. The main thrust is that Stephen Harper has to worry about how much clout is given to them, as there's a looming danger of reinforcing the public perception that the Conservatives have a "hidden agenda":

From the Simpson editorial: The result must be to give these religious conservatives at least greater influence in a party that already has several handfuls of such men and women in the parliamentary caucus. Their candidacies pose a difficult political challenge for Stephen Harper, who must give some solace to these conservatives on a few issues without appearing to be beholden to them.

From the Galloway article: "The difficulty, from a party perspective, is that it begins to hijack the other agendas that parties have," said Ross Haynes, who lost the Conservative nomination in the riding of Halifax to one of three "Christian, pro-family people" recommended by a minister at a religious rally this spring in Kentville, N.S. Candidates who are running on single issues such as opposition to same-sex marriage "probably can't get elected because they certainly don't represent any mainstream population view," Mr. Haynes said.
I'm sure there are lefties and Liberals across the country who react to pieces like this by wringing their hands at the prospect of right-wing Christian candidates, but this immigrant can't manage more than a satisfied grin. See, the very fact that these candidates are a news story rather than par for the course pleases me endlessly. It brings to mind the Macleans year-end poll for 2004, which indicated that the concerns of Harper and Haynes on this issue are not misplaced. One of the questions they asked was: "Do you think political leaders should be using their religious beliefs to guide their actions at all times, sometimes, or never?" and the responses were: "At all times," 9%, "sometimes," 24%, and "never," 65%. Sixty-five percent is a pretty telling number. The truly fascinating statistic, though, was what emerged when they looked at the results from the poll responders who had already identified themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians. At that point the numbers looked more like this: "At all times," 18%, "sometimes," 30%, and "never," 49%. Nearly half of the born-again Christians sampled stated that politicians should never use their religious beliefs to guide their actions.

To someone who grew up in a country where even Democrats need to flash their Christian credentials to be considered electable, that's nothing short of astounding. Just thinking about it still makes me giddy. I get to live in a country where even the leadership of the Conservative party has to consider social conservatives a liability. I get to live in a country where not only the general public, but also Conservative leaders worry about things like this, and think they're a problem. Maybe someday I will stop feeling like a kid on Christmas morning about that, but it's not today.

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