article, “Crosses, turbans and maple leaves,” the esteemed Economist magazine claims to identify a new trend: Canadian politicians now are dabbling with overt, American-style appeals to Christian religiosity. Specifically, the authors write that “Stephen Harper is probably the nearest thing that Canada has had in recent times to a prime minister from the religious right. He is an evangelical Christian of a strongly pro-Israel persuasion.”
That’s a seductively neat explanation of the man’s politics, but it’s simply not accurate. It’s likely that the Economist (as is typical for the magazine, the byline consists of cryptic pseudonyms) is merely rehashing standard Canadian received wisdom—which long has had it that Harper, like predecessors Preston Manning and Stockwell Day and many Tory MPs, is a blinkered evangelical.
In fact, most people who genuinely know Harper, or who have worked closely with him, describe him as having Christian beliefs that are rather vague, and that seldom inform his politics. Even his most stridently anti-evangelical critics complain that Harper has “refused to answer media questions about his [religious] beliefs.”
In the United States, about a third of the population is evangelical Christian. But in Canada, the figure is much lower. Among Canadian liberals, the e-word has become code for “extreme,” or “fundamentalist.” But that’s inaccurate, too...