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Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life Paperback – Jan 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Kingsley Publishing; First edition (January 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1926832078
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926832074
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #714,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jason Kenney had a telling smirk on his face when he appeared on CBC and CTV to discuss his latest 'ruling'. Kenney had travelled to Montreal to tell the nation that women must discard their veils when swearing the public oath in Citizenship ceremonies. Unlike the pushy French or the frightened Dutch, he wasn't suggesting that veils be banned; no, this was a simple request to respect Canadian values, to uncover the face so that everyone could be satisfied that the oath, in fact, had been recited.

But wait a minute. I was in one of those ceremonies many years ago, along with over a hundred people from around the world, gathered in a large hall, facing a Citizenship judge away up there in the front of the room, carefully reciting the words from the small piece of paper in my hand. Looking around at the others? Looking at the judge? Nope. But, believe me, I did say the words and, in a few moments, collected the already prepared certificate declaring that I was a Canadian citizen, a procedure that took months of paperwork and personal interviews, as well as mastering more than most native-born Canadians know about their home and native land.

So then what was the big deal that put the self-satisfied smirk on the Minister's face that afternoon in Montreal?

Dennis Gruending provides a wise and thorough answer to that question in Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life, published beautifully by Kingsley Publishing in Calgary.

Gruending comes well prepared to answer the question. He's spent a lifetime at the intersection of religion and politics. Born in Saskatchewan, he was raised in a rural community as a devout Roman Catholic. Benedictine monks and brothers at St.
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Dennis Gruending's "Pulpit and Politics" should be read by everyone interested in the phenomena of what might be termed 'religous politics' (my term, not Gruending's) and its influence in Canada. In a fascinating examination what drives Christian progressives and conservatives, Gruending, a former Member of Parlimaent from Saskatchewan and Christian himself, presents what could be mistaken for two competing religons were it not for the fact both faith-driven 'progressives' and 'conservatives' proclaim they are authentically 'Christian.'

For the religous right, individualism is exalted, wealth is regarded as sign of God's approval, and the real message of Jesus is that the poor need to stop being lazy and get a job. The punitive morality and mean-spirited judgmentalism of the religous right's pseudo-Christianity (again, my term, not Gruending's) is rooted in the Old Testament's Cult of Yahweh. In the U.S., the religous right has fueled the recent phenomenal rise of Tea Party politics. Whatever one may think of the Tea Party's appeal to bigotry and intolerance, thier brethren in Canada are only too anxious to follow in their footsteps.

For Christian progressives, the purpose of politics is to help build the Kingdom here and now! For them, Jesus taught care of the poor and sick, feeding of the hungry, and an end to war. They take seriously Jesus' warning, in the Bible no less, that 'you cannot serve God and wealth.' Thus, any public policy that does not serve the ultimate ends of social justice and peace simply does not represent authentic Christianity. Their priorities are not fighter jets and more prisons, but putting an end to child poverty and hunger.
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Religious fundamentalism holds powerful sway over the politics of our times and no one has sensed this more clearly than Dennis Gruending.

Four years ago he began writing a pioneering Canadian blog called Pulpit and Politics, one that gets better with each passing year and is followed closely by Canadian political parties and by the media.

Now Dennis has published this valuable book, which includes his best work from the blog, and also happens to coincide with the start of a transformative (for better or worse) full-term of government by an unfettered Conservative majority, a government that owes much to the religious conservatives. We are now seeing the leaner and meaner impact of these Stephen Harper policies in many areas, including more prisons and a bigger military.

Fortunately, for those whose approach to faith and politics differs, the book also charts the counter rise (after too long an absence) of religious progressives and their struggles to advance social issues such as equality, justice, human rights and peace.

For many, who are just beginning to sense how deeply these fundamentalist influences have penetrated our politics, this book is an eye-opener. The Air India bombing, which still haunts Canadians more than 25 years after the fact, was not an event that happened in political or religious isolation. It was perpetrated by religious extremists living in Canada and can now be seen in the context of right-wing religious forces that have emerged to influence mainstream Canadian politics to a degree unprecedented in our history.

'There is a fine body of research and writing in the United States and elsewhere about the importance of understanding the motivation and tactics of religious groups involved in public life,' Dennis writes.
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