In recent years, Canada has mostly had people in the prime minister’s chair who claimed the Catholic faith as their own. But now, for the first time since John Diefenbaker, we have a person of evangelical faith holding the highest office in the nation.
Many are questioning how Harper’s faith convictions will affect the way he governs, since some of the values of evangelicalism seem to cut across what have become known as Canadian social values. It should be noted that Catholicism also has values out of synch with some so-called Canadian values.
But the public has already seen that some prime ministers of the Catholic persuasion did not seem very devoted to upholding Catholic Christian values, like the right to life of the unborn and the protection of traditional marriage. And, in like manner, it remains to seen if and how Harper’s evangelical faith will make any difference in his practice of politics at the highest level.
Prime Minister Harper attends East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa, and before that he attended another Alliance Church in Calgary. These churches are part of the evangelical denomination known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C & MA) that was founded in 1887. The Alliance has grown over the years and now numbers about 2,000 churches in the United States and about 450 in Canada.
The Alliance is strongly committed to the veracity of the Bible and from that source, would generally hold to the right to life of the unborn child. It also has no compunction in defining marriage as being the “union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” On the latter point, the 2004 C & MA Manual states, “In no case ought any person to enter into any so-called ‘marriage’ with a person of the same sex.”
In an open letter to then-prime minister Paul Martin, C & MA president Franklin Pyles wrote the following in February 2005: “We do not believe that marriage was invented by the state, but was instituted by God himself. Hence, we deny that this definition can evolve as societal attitudes or opinions change. We believe that tampering with this foundational institution of human life will result in harmful aftereffects to men, women and children.”
On the issue of abortion, we already know Harper’s position. He has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of bringing forth any legislation on this controversial issue. And formal policy adopted at the Montreal convention in 2005 states that the Conservative government “will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.”
I, for one, would be very surprised to see Harper deviate from this stance, even with a majority government. I think his pragmatic philosophy that sees any regulation of abortion as a political poison pill will trump any moral convictions he may personally have on the subject. Please, God, may I be wrong.
The new prime minister has promised a free vote in the House on the controversial issue of same-sex “marriage.” This does seem to be an issue on which Harper is willing to spend some political capital. But it will be interesting to see how this is done.
Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada worries that Harper may spring this upon the House of Commons, and thus in a sense subtly sabotage the attempt to overturn it, by not giving its supporters the necessary time to work for it.
There has been a good deal of cynicism by pundits and media people that Harper would like nothing better than to have this bill defeated, get it out of the way and then to move on. I hope the cynicism is misplaced. Whether it is or not, I cannot claim to know. I do know that despite the clarity of the Alliance policy manual, it is unlikely that Harper has heard much solid biblical teaching on the issue of homosexuality or same-sex “marriage.” But, it is at least possible he has heard some and that his convictions are more than skin deep as a result.
MacLean’s magazine reported that in the Alliance Church in Ottawa on the Sunday before Harper was sworn in, Rev. Bill Buitenwerf prayed, “We pray that he will glorify (God’s) name while he is in office.” The fact of the matter is that Harper’s faith background gives him ample resources to know what is morally right. Therefore, we should pray much that he would have the courage to follow godly convictions. For it would be a shame. indeed, if he rises to be only one more politician in a string of many who have checked godly values at the vaunted doors of 24 Sussex Dr.