Conservative Christianity and the PPC
No one ever thought they would be a serious government candidate, but whether we like it or not, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) made a strong impression in this election. They are nowhere near winning a seat, but have hurt Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s chances and tripled their support from 2019, when they averaged just 1.6% of the vote. “Unfortunately, we will not be able to continue this fight in Parliament,” said PPC leader Maxime Bernier, “but we will continue this fight to unite Canadians under the umbrella of freedom.
Less an umbrella than a little rain hat, because while the party may claim to be playing the long game, its inflated support this time around is more likely due to the timing of an election during a pandemic, and the small but vocal anti-vaccination, anti-mask and even COVID denial movement that rejects all mainstream parties.
That is, basically, what this party has become – an eclectic catch-all for people who feel like they don’t belong anywhere else. This includes the hysterics, eccentrics and extremists, and although some of the more obvious fanatics and racists have been kicked out, a sinister side remains. When Bernier founded the party in 2018, he described it as classically liberal and libertarian, and in some ways that’s what he may have stood for. But this style of politics can still be found in the Conservative Party, and it’s more likely that Bernier stepped down not because of politics, but because of anger and pride. He was the prince in expectation, and when the crown was given to Andrew Scheer, the charismatic and capable Bernier was never going to accept it.
So the cult of personality began. But there just aren’t many classic liberals and libertarians in Canada, and the party has attracted all kinds of misfits, many of whom are far from liberal and interpret freedom as their right to close borders, to criticize minorities, to cry multiculturalism and – more recently – to embrace every pandemic conspiracy theory making the rounds on social media.
This is where conservative Christianity comes in. Although we do not have exact figures, the support Bernier enjoyed among fundamentalist and literalist Christians appears to have been deeply significant. Bernier wooed them, prayed with them, appeared in a much-watched video in which he was blessed and proclaimed by a well-known pastor.
Yet here is a party that wants to lift many public health restrictions related to COVID-19, develop the oil and gas industry, end official multiculturalism, and drastically reduce immigration levels. At a time of heightened racism and a deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., The PPC has said it will repeal the official Multiculturalism Act. Bernier even denied that the discovery of thousands of graves of Indigenous children proved Canada’s involvement in an attempted cultural genocide.
How can such ideas appeal to people who claim to follow Jesus? It was a man known as the Prince of Peace, who commanded us to welcome strangers and newcomers, to treat every person as a child of God, and to be created in absolute equality, and who has repeatedly preached the importance of community, sharing, giving and empathy. The Bible demands that we take care of the planet as stewards, not owners, and that we live not as individuals without responsibility but in direct solidarity with those around us.
The reasons for conservative Christian support for Bernier are not unique to Canada. We saw the same with Donald Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and many other countries. The phenomenon is dangerous for the body politic and tragic for organized Christianity. This gives the impression that the faith is reactionary and insular when in fact it is – or should be – the opposite. People often embrace right-wing ideas when challenged and afraid of change, but conservative populism makes the world not objectively safer but subjectively smaller, and that is an illusion.
So, what about the future? While Bernier claims that issues such as abortion and gender identity are not on his party’s platform and have always been seen as more socially liberal, he has drawn an element into his ranks. fierce anti-abortion. They will not remain silent and will insist on promoting what they often consider to be an obsession. This clash between Christian social conservatives on the one hand and anti-state activists on the other may have survived the election but will surely expose the artificiality of the People’s Party in the months to come.
The future of the conservative Christian place in the Bernier project will largely depend on whether or not Erin O’Toole remains at the head of the Tories. He has declared himself pro-choice and supports the ban on conversion therapy, even though most of his parliamentary caucus does not agree. If, however, he were to be impeached and replaced by a more conservative alternative – new MP Leslyn Lewis comes to mind – we could see an exodus of evangelical support from the People’s Party.
Until and unless all of this, a fringe party that reinforces some of the less noble aspects of Canadian society will continue, grotesquely, to attract Christians who see the 1st– Jewish century Jesus not as someone who called for the world to be turned upside down in a revolution of love and justice, but as someone who called us all to worship the suburbs of the 1950s. is not heresy, I don’t know what it is.
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