By Michael Wagner, Published in the July/August 2010 issue of Reformed Perspective magazine (reformedperspective.ca), p. 7: The Christians are coming! Christians now occupy important places of influence in Stephen Harper’s federal government and are surreptitiously changing policies without Canadians being aware of what’s going on. We’ve even managed to put Canada on the road to becoming a theocracy!
Or at least, that’s what Marci McDonald would have Canadians believe. In her bestselling book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada (Random House, 2010) she sets out to warn Canadians that they will lose their rights and freedoms unless this sinister Christian plot is exposed and halted.
If only . . .
It is true, as she points out, that conservative Christians have gained influence in Ottawa since 2005, largely because the Conservative Party won the federal elections of 2006 and 2008. There are some conservative Christian MPs in the Conservative Party, so when that party became the government it was inevitable that those Christians would gain influence. Also, some new Christian organizations have been formed since 2005, and they are having an impact. In this respect there is a grain of truth to McDonald’s charge that conservative Christians are more influential now than a few years ago.
However, her thesis is grossly exaggerated. The federal government is not doing a thing about the two policy areas of greatest concern to conservative Christians—abortion and homosexual rights. Indeed, Prime Minister Harper has publicly emphasized on a number of occasions his complete support for a “woman’s right to choose.” So, sadly, McDonald has nothing to worry about on these fronts.
ARPA to usher in the End Times?
Many conservative Christian activists are held up to scorn by McDonald as threats to Canadian democracy. You or someone you know is likely among this subversive group. The Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), you may be surprised to find out, is one of the so-called “Christian nationalist” groups that’s working to help Canada usher in the end times and the return of Christ. McDonald wants to warn Canadians about a group she calls Christian nationalists, “a militant charismatic fringe with ties to Harper’s Conservatives that has gained influence out of all proportion to its numerical heft” (p. 10). She then notes the central characteristic of this group: “What drives the growing Christian nationalist movement is its adherents’ conviction that the end times foretold in the book of Revelation are at hand. Braced for an impending apocalypse, they feel impelled to ensure that Canada assumes a unique, scripturally ordained role in the final days before the Second Coming—and little else” (p. 11).
Keeping this in mind, she later writes that Mark Penninga founded “his own Christian nationalist lobby, the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA), backed by the country’s Reformed churches” (p. 244). Following McDonald’s logic, then, ARPA is one of the Christian nationalist groups, a charismatic fringe movement waiting for an “impending apocalypse.” That’s a pretty sloppy way of characterizing ARPA. McDonald is a veteran reporter and she should have been much more careful in making distinctions between different Christian groups.
She has some rather nasty things to say about these Christian nationalists too. According to her, “Theirs is a dark and dangerous vision, one that brooks no dissent and requires the dismantling of key democratic institutions” (p. 359). Remember, this refers to ARPA, as well as some other Christian organizations such as the Canada Family Action Coalition. If they get more power it sounds like Canadian democracy will be kaput.
Of course, it’s unpleasant to see one’s friends and relatives (or even oneself) held up to scorn in a book. But there is a bright side. ARPA is being mentioned in McDonald’s book because people have noticed its presence. When your opponents are talking about you that way it’s because they’re concerned that you’re making an impact. Their concern is a backhanded compliment to your effectiveness. In my view, the Christians who are singled out by name (e.g., Mark Penninga) and the groups that are singled out (e.g., ARPA) should be encouraged.
I’m not just trying to put a positive spin on things. I really think that people who make a difference for the Lord in today’s society are likely to receive opposition. There’s a tongue-in-cheek saying that “no good deed goes unpunished,” and there’s truth to that when it comes to offering a Christian witness in an increasingly anti-Christian society. Although it’s unpleasant and undesirable to be disliked, remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (ESV). The implication, of course, is that people will not speak well of you if you are a true prophet. McDonald’s book is an example of this phenomenon.