Evangelical Zeal in Politics

kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca
Sun Aug 6 07:43:26 PDT 2000

As some of you may have heard, Stockwell Day is now heading something called the Alliance party here in Canada, formerly the Reform Party. He's an evangelical christian with all the regular trappings of the right - "social conservatism." Consequently, religion is out of the closet and into mainstream politics now, in a way that it wasn't before. Y'all in the US probably have more experience with this.

I'm thinking about putting something down on paper for the Toronto Star... but I'm not exactly sure what to write / editorialize. My immediate reaction is to say something like, "Since religion has been politicized, it is time to politicize religion." The traditional division between religious toleration and pluralistic democracy has lent itself to the notion that we aren't really allowed to criticize religious beliefs as religious: "to each their own" or "that's your belief" ... "I believe because it is absurd" [Freud reponds: am I to believe every absurdity?]. The frustrating part is that religion, as a platform for politics, is perceived of as being untouchable: if you disagree, vote for someone else. The idea is that we aren't allowed to publically criticize 'private' belief / faith.

The other tactic, to 'out' the christian right as exclusivist, divisive, and so on has clearly failed - besides, division is one of the building blocks of the political message: "I bring a sword..." - and since those who advance the claim of exclusion are identified as commies, liberals, fags or feminists... (which are all probably pretty accurate!) this approach likely falls on deaf ears.

The other problem is: do we want politics to include debates about theodicy... which, it seems to me, is probably regressive. At the same time I think it is tremendously important to reason ones way through religiously-inspired politics - if we understand something... we're less likely to believe it (maybe that's not completely true...).

In short: how does one provide a critique of religion without being dogmatic or pendantic while working through political issues at the same time.

Although I find it wearisome, I have often found that intelligent diplomacy helps, a kind of invitation for discussion rather than a flat out condemnation - although this appears more liberalistic...

Yes, I'm re-reading my Marx (and Freud) ... "the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism..." Maybe I should look up Locke again too... or Hume...

i hear church bells ringing in the background... ken

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list