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The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada [Hardcover]

Marci McDonald
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 11 2010
In her new book, award-winning journalist Marci McDonald draws back the curtain on the mysterious world of the right-wing Christian nationalist movement in Canada and its many ties to the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
 
To most Canadians, the politics of the United States — where fundamentalist Christians wield tremendous power and culture wars split the country — seem too foreign to ever happen here. But The Armageddon Factor shows that the Canadian Christian right — infuriated by the legalization of same-sex marriage and the increasing secularization of society — has been steadily and stealthily building organizations, alliances and contacts that have put them close to the levers of power and put the government of Canada in their debt.
 
Determined to outlaw homosexuality and abortion, and to restore Canada to what they see as its divinely determined destiny to be a nation ruled by Christian laws and precepts, this group of true believers has moved the country far closer to the American mix of politics and religion than most Canadians would ever believe.
 
McDonald’s book explores how a web of evangelical far-right Christians have built think-tanks and foundations that play a prominent role in determining policy for the Conservative government of Canada. She shows how Biblical belief has allowed Christians to put dozens of MPs in office and to build a power base across the country, across cultures and even across religions.
 
“What drives that growing Christian nationalist movement is its adherents’ conviction that the end times foretold in the book of Revelation are at hand,” writes McDonald. “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.”
 
The Armageddon Factor shows how the religious right’s influence on the Harper government has led to hugely important but little-known changes in everything from foreign policy and the makeup of the courts to funding for scientific research and social welfare programs like daycare. And the book also shows that the religious influence is here to stay, regardless of which party ends up in government.
 
For those who thought the religious right in Canada was confined to rural areas and the west, this book is an eye-opener, outlining to what extent the corridors of power in Ottawa are now populated by true believers. For anyone who assumed that the American religious right stopped at the border, The Armageddon Factor explains how US money and evangelists have infiltrated Canadian politics.
 
This book should be essential reading for Canadians of every religious belief or political stripe. Indeed, The Armageddon Factor should persuade every Canadian that, with the growth of such a movement, the future direction of the country is at stake.

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About the Author

MARCI McDONALD is one of Canada's most respected journalists. The winner of eight gold National Magazine Awards, she is also the recipient of the Canadian Association of Journalists' investigative feature award. A former bureau chief for Maclean's in Paris and Washington, she has interviewed Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton, and spent five more years in the United States as a senior writer for US News & World Report. A winner of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy, her study of the backstage machinations behind the free trade deal led to her book, Yankee Doodle Dandy: Brian Mulroney and the America Agenda. Her controversial cover story in the Walrus, "Stephen Harper and the TheoCons," inspired this book.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

GOD’S DOMINION
I
 
 
On a sun-dappled Saturday in the summer of 2008, a thousand young people throng the lawns of the Parliament Buildings in a classic picture-postcard tableau. Against the iconic backdrop of the Peace Tower, toddlers race through the crowd trailing rainbow streamers and a fresh-faced blonde stretches out under an umbrella to breastfeed her plump newborn. As the compelling rhythms of an electronic keyboard pound over the loudspeakers and a dance troupe swoops across an impromptu stage twirling oversized maple-leaf parasols, an onlooker might be forgiven for assuming that Ottawa’s tourist bureau orchestrated the idyllic scene. Then a young woman in a maple-leaf T-shirt shatters that perception with an anguished wail. “Father, save us!” she implores from the microphone, tears coursing down her cheeks. “Hear our cry!”
 
As her sobs erupt into the incantations of an old-time revival, it suddenly becomes clear that this is no occasion for celebration or national pride. For the conservative Christians who have flocked to Parliament Hill for this day-long fast and prayerfest called Thecry, it is a concerted, eleventh-hour plea for the repentance and reformation of a nation they believe is headed straight to the hellfires of damnation for having betrayed its divinely appointed destiny—a destiny spelled out in the national motto, Psalm 72:8, chiselled around the neo-Gothic windows of the Peace Tower: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
 
Never mind that Old Testament scholars attribute that snatch of ancient Hebrew poetry to a desert patriarch whose entire cosmos was circumscribed by the Mediterranean and the Euphrates River. For Faytene Kryskow and a growing number of evangelicals whose faith is founded on the inerrancy of the Bible, the seventy-second psalm offers irrefutable proof that, thousands of years before Confederation and even before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, God fingered Canada for a key role in the final days preceding the Battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ.
 
Now, as they chart the signs and portents that seem to signal the advent of those end times, as global warming thaws the polar ice caps and the global economy reels from another sort of meltdown, they are driven by an increasing imperative to reverse the moral impediments blocking the country from its scriptural fate. Despite decades of attempts to establish God’s dominion north of the forty-ninth parallel, Canada remains one of the few countries in the developed world without an abortion law and was among the first to legalize same-sex marriage. But on the promotional video for Thecry, Kryskow, the event’s chief organizer, ticks off a longer list of transgressions—from “gross moral decay, family breakdown, immorality and perversion” to “general cultural demise”—all of which must be set right. At the microphone, her voice is hoarse with emotion, her thin frame wracked with grief. “Lord, we pray for the sins of this nation,” she pleads. “Heal our land.”
 
The only hope for national redemption, as she sees it, lies in the strategic prayers of born-again believers to prod the country back onto a righteous legislative track. Turning to face the Supreme Court down the street, then toward all three wings of the Parliament Buildings, she leads her followers in an hour-long anti-abortion rite, their arms outstretched like kung fu masters channelling spiritual vibes—“prayer bombs,” she calls them—and their mouths plastered shut with scarlet duct tape inscribed with the word “life” to symbolize the stifled screams of an imperilled fetus.
 
But Thecry is not merely another pro-life rally attempting to storm Parliament Hill. Its agenda is much broader and far more radical: nothing less than restructuring Canada as a devoutly Christian nation governed by biblical literalists according to principles selectively plucked from the Old and New Testaments. That theocratic vision provides the underpinnings for a new Christian nationalist movement emerging in the capital, where Kryskow has become its most public face, the winsome front for a handful of militant evangelical groups determined to infiltrate the political system and, as she puts it, “reclaim Canada for Christ.”
 
Exactly what that phrase entails is as hard to pin down as Kryskow’s sketchy explanations of the country’s end-times role, but its implications for public policy are worthy of note. Establishing a Christian government in Ottawa—or re-establishing it, as Kryskow insists—would mean not only putting Bible believers in political office, but returning control of such services as education and social welfare to those institutions that Christian reconstructionists regard as the bedrock of a godly society: the family and the church.
 
While most of the teens and twenty-somethings in this crowd have been drawn to Kryskow’s calls for a Christian revival in Canada, few realize that she is part of a charismatic renewal movement that aims to wipe out the distinctions between church and state around the globe. Even her hyperbolic brand of righteous patriotism has been lifted from an American template: Thecry is patterned directly on TheCall, a daylong fast and prayer rally that drew fifty thousand Christian youth to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., only a week earlier. On TheCall’s website, in fact, Kryskow’s gathering is listed as the chief Canadian event sponsored by Missouri revivalist Lou Engle, the controversial pioneer of the red-duct-tape ritual that has become a staple of U.S. pro-life protests.
 
In Ottawa, Kryskow downplays those American ties, cultivating her reputation as a homegrown dynamo whose effervescence and impressive political connections have transformed her into one of the leading figures in this country’s emerging Christian right. At a time when the press corps routinely gets the cold shoulder on Parliament Hill, she sails through the corridors of power with an official security pass, popping up in the House of Commons’ gallery to cheer on the Conservative government’s initiatives and huddling with members of Parliament in the privacy of their offices to tout traditional values while joining hands with them in prayer.
 
At the prophetic conferences Kryskow runs under the banner of her youth lobby, 4MYCanada, she seldom fails to snag a guest appearance from one of the evangelicals in Harper’s caucus, and this edition of Thecry is no exception to that rule: Conservative MP Bev Shipley has trekked back to Ottawa during the Commons’ summer recess from his southwestern Ontario riding specifically to deliver greetings on behalf of his colleagues. A fellow Christian nationalist, Shipley has arrived fresh from a controversy of his own. Weeks earlier, he had been pilloried for handing out Canada Day bookmarks that asked constituents to pray for “godly” leaders who would govern “according to the Scriptural Foundation upon which our country was founded.”
 
Still, his endorsement pales in comparison to Kryskow’s chief public-relations coup: an effusive letter from the prime minister himself, which she reads to the crowd. In it, Harper lauds her youth movement for cultivating “thoughtful, faith-filled citizens” and praises its political activism. “Faith has shaped your perspective on the world and strengthened your resolve to make a political difference,” he writes, signing off with a beneficent “God Bless.”
 
What makes the letter noteworthy is that it arrived, unsolicited, from a politician who had spent years scrupulously avoiding any suggestion of coziness with the country’s Christian right. All through the 2006 race that brought him to power, Harper had barred his evangelical candidates from airing their contentious views on same-sex marriage and deftly sidestepped the minefields of the culture wars. Yet here he was in the summer of 2008, about to call an unscheduled election,openly currying favour with that constituency.
 
Was he simply trying to energize a new cadre of Conservative foot soldiers for the upcoming campaign? Or had there been a more profound shift in his strategy? Was Harper now secure in the assumption that, after two years of muzzling the most rambunctious believers in his caucus, he could count on the mainstream media not to notice that the religious right was alive and well—indeed thriving—under his government, where it had already begun to change the nation in ways that are far-reaching and perhaps irreversible?
 
 
For most Canadians, the first clue that they had a born-again prime minister came on election night in January 2006 when Harper capped off his victory speech with a three-word closing, “God bless Canada,” that sent commentators into conjectural overdrive. Some speculated that it was merely a case of rhetorical exuberance momentarily trumping his fabled cerebral cool. Others insisted it was yet another indication of his amply documented admiration for the American political system, a shameless imitation of every U.S. president within recent memory, no matter what their political stripes. Even among his intended audience, not everyone was thrilled. John Stackhouse, one of the country’s leading evangelical scholars, decried the gesture as a “sop” that had managed to miff both non-believers and committed Christians like himself. “It remains so vague, it has no important political purchase,” he argued. “It’s done very little except to irritate people.” In fact, Harper had used the phrase in some speeches as leader of the opposition, and for Preston Manning, his old Reform Party boss, the fuss was infuriating. “It&rsquo...

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for those who love Canada Oct. 11 2010
By Ronald W. Maron TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a dual citizen who has lived in Canada for only the past six years, I heartily recommend this book for all of this country's long-standing residents. In the last years of Jimmy Carter's presidency a parallel movement had begun in the United States. Even though Carter was a born-again believer, the Christian Right did not agree with his policies regarding the initiation of peace to the Middle East. Jerry Falwell, in conjunction with the Republican Party formed the major voting bloc that went by the name of the Moral Majority. It, too, was given very little notice and was discounted because it was, after all, formed by 'loving Christians'. Today, for those of you who have paid strict attention to the social disorder of the States, this movement has evolved into an ever invasive, theocratic monster whose power has overtaken most of secular Republican politics. For those of you who say, "This can't happen here. This is Canada!", the gauntlet has been thrown down by the author Marci McDonald and the reply is "Yes, it can if we're not diligent.".

Many of the Christian reviewers of this book take umbrage with the fact that the Neo-Christian organizations are being called out for what they are. They fear that they, too, are being painted with the same broad brush. Again, having lived through this transition myself and experienced it first hand, no, there is an extreme difference between your everyday, church-going Christians and the Neo-Christian Nationalists. This group is, in a word, EXTREME. They are falsely teaching that North American colonies were founded on theocratic principles when, in fact, they came here to escape religious oppression.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scarier than David Cronenberg Nov. 13 2010
By Mike
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A thought provoking book that will scare anyone who cherishes the freedom from dogma and the social diversity that makes Canada such a great country.
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51 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good point, bad argument May 18 2010
Format:Hardcover
Alas, Marci McDonald has raised an important issue--the rise and increased influence of certain theologically and politically right-wing Christians among the Conservative Party of Canada--but has done so in such a confused and unreliable way as to blunt the force of her argument.

She gets many facts wrong, confuses or conflates categories (fundamentalists = evangelicals = Christian right = religious right = socons = theocons), never defines key terms (ditto), and basically seems worried that people to her religious and political right are getting involved in politics without clearly saying why what they're doing is wrong or what "correct-thinking" people such as herself might do about it.

I'm blogging about this book at length. For now, I'll just say here that it is disappointing that so much evident effort has resulted in such a book, yet Marci McDonald is not wrong: There is a Christian Right in Canada and its influence is significant right up to the federal cabinet.
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3.0 out of 5 stars We have a PM who is an evagelisit Jan. 21 2014
By GaryMac
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
10% of the Cdn population are evangelicals compared to 30% of Americans. However, Our prime minister has been a member of the Chrisitian and Alliance Church since the early 1990's and most of his inner circle are part of the Christian right.

The dogma of the church has provided the inspiration of much of the Harper agenda. While some parts of this book deal with minor matters, it is a must read for those who wish to find out how the evangelical right is operating in Canada and the huge influence they have in the current federal government.

Until he got his majority, Harper was very quiet about his planned agenda. That changed in 2011. Ted Cruz became prime minister of Canada and we never knew.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for all believers in democracy July 9 2010
Format:Hardcover
An excellent look behind the scenes of Conservative and fundamentalist thinking in North America. Their aim is simple: back to creationism, marriage between Church and State, out with abortion and same-sex marriage. Their strategies are darkly complex, though, and Marci McDonald, in a respectful, in-depth but clear analysis makes the issues stand out in full daylight.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is McDonald intolerant, or are her critics? June 28 2010
Format:Hardcover
My review is too long to fit in this space, but you can read it at my Web Page which is referenced in my profile (just search for "The Armageddon Factor").

Basically, I think it's a very reasonable book and not the malevolent, intolerant diatribe that people like Charles Lewis and David Frum (both of the National Post) paint it as. Let's be certain who are the intolerant authors here...
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is a very important book, by a highly respected Canadian journalist. It takes us through the historical perspective to explain the path by which the Christian right came to exert such an influence in Stephen Harper's government, and it demonstrates the links to similar groups in the United States.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the underlying agenda in conservative politics today.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Shame on her
After reading this book, a few things are very clear. First Ms. McDonald does not like people who take their Christian religion seriously. Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2010 by Darwin Researcher
2.0 out of 5 stars About 60% right
I am an insider of some 30 years to the Evangelical movement in Canada.

I was surprised at the amount of research and digging that she has done. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2010 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read
The informations contained within this book should be read by every canadian as well as anyone wanting to better understand the radical departure from traditional politicals views... Read more
Published on July 2 2010 by Mathieu Forget
1.0 out of 5 stars The Armageddon Factor
The Armagfeddon Factor read like a novel, not a reasearched book of facts.
The main concern are the errors in the book because Random House failed to do fact checking. Read more
Published on June 1 2010 by Brian Rushfeldt
5.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call for Canada
It has been obvious for a good number of years that the evangelicals have successfully been training, funding and promoting right wing faith based politicians in Canada. Read more
Published on May 23 2010 by Dale Jackaman
2.0 out of 5 stars Once again those that see a "vast right wing conspiracy" get it wrong
National Post columnist Charles Lewis gets it right:

[...]

Wrong to judge religious right

Interview reveals true intolerance

Charles... Read more
Published on May 12 2010 by E. Gerk
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