The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada
by Marci McDonald
(Random House, $32, 419 pages)
If you deliberately set out to write a bad book you would have a hard time outdoing Marci McDonald, whose The Armageddon Factor is so comprehensively awful that there is no reason whatsoever to ever read it. The long-time journalist has set her sights on exposing the rise of the Religious Right in Canada and its supposed coziness with Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, but the book is so rife with errors and misleading arguments that it is completely void of merit.
The most glaring problem in the book is that there are numerous factual mistakes. There are too many to list, but to name just three, McDonald calls Ontario MPP Frank Klees a Baptist minister (he’s not), Concerned Christian Coalition founder Craig Chandler a former Alberta MLA (he has been a political candidate but he was never elected), and Jason Kenney a one-time chief of staff to Stockwell Day (he never was). McDonald claims meetings occur that the alleged participants say never happened and puts words in the mouths of people who never said them. It would be niggling to point to these errors if there were only a handful but they were so copious, counting them became a chore.
When McDonald is not getting her facts wrong, she is twisting the meaning of events and words. She implies that a letter of congratulations from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the evangelical youth attending an Ottawa event organized by Faytene Kryskow and 4MyCanada is evidence of the close connection between evangelical groups and the government. Such “reporting” is a classic example of making a mountain of molehill when another reading of the same event might be that the Prime Minister was simply being nice to a group of key supporters (and potential future party activists). More molehills become mountains through the overuse of adverbs and adjectives – by definition subjective parts of speech; McDonald makes certain connections, activities, and speeches seem more foreboding than they might be otherwise with headquarters that are “luxurious,” activists who are “stars,” and projects which are “ambitious,” and you almost hear the ominous organ music whenever she talks about socially conservative moral views.
A more serious problem is that McDonald refuses to take the theology of a diverse group of Christians seriously enough to differentiate between them, instead suggesting that their End Times religious beliefs uniformly lead evangelicals (she mostly ignores Catholics) to embrace a social conservatism that will make the country righteous for the return of Jesus. Considering that the “Armageddon Factor” is her thesis, the lack of intellectual vigor or even curiosity about End Times theology is serious shortcoming.
It is hard to tell reading The Armageddon Factor who McDonald dislikes more, Christians or conservatives, but clearly the combination of the two is beyond the pale. She says, “theirs is a dark and dangerous vision, one that brooks no dissent and requires the dismantling of key democratic institutions.” McDonald is less interested in telling the story of the rise of Religious Right than she is in fomenting distrust of anyone whose faith informs their public policy views.
There are four fatal problems with the book: wild exaggerations and conjecture, factual errors, a core misunderstanding of the subject matter, and a clear bias that prevents accurately depicting the story of Canada’s religious conservatives – a story that should be told. Unfortunately, McDonald is not the person to write such a book. Considering that the casual reader might not be equipped to detect all the factual mistakes, there is absolutely no benefit to reading The Armageddon Factor and indeed some harm due to the misinformation the author is peddling.