Monday, April 11, 2011

PoliticsCanada: Social conservatives: In the upcoming elections, what is the overlap between political Conservs, social conservatives, and evangelicals?

First the article "Don't dismiss the so-cons" was published in National Post,
and republished  in Activate CLPL email newsletter (Apr8,2k11)

refWrite editorial comment:  There is no such thing as a Christian vote adhering to a single party represented in the Parliament of Canada, not even an Evangelical vote, nor a Catholic vote.  Liberal Protestant voters will split their votes among the Greens, the New Democrats, and the federal Liberals; in Quebec some will vote for the separatist Bloc Québecois which trends deeply secularistic -- more than any other mainline party perhaps.

There are at least two marginal parties where religion and politics have hi correlation, parties however which have never yet elected even a single member to Parliament in any of Canada's parliamentary ridings (electoral districts).  One of these marginals will reach its 25th anniversary in Spring 2012: the Christian Heritage Party -- which acknowledges among its members both Catholics and Protestants (including Saturday-observing sabbatarians like Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists).  Of course, aside from official members, CHP, for all we know, may receive votes from adherents of non-
Christian religions, perhaps even some atheists.

The second of the non-parliamentary entities are based upon a Family-emphasis.  On the federal level, the Family-emphatic entity however is not a political party at all, rather it is a lobby aimed at federal Parliamentary members of the mainstream parties by grass-roots activists, in order to fend off forces in the society they consider to be inimical to healthy family life; they want to encourage and strengthen pro-Family politicians in all the federal parties; and consider themselves as non-partisan.  This political grouping is Canada Family Action.  On the provincial level, there is an independent party in Ontario, the provincial Family Coalition Party -- which may not strictly qualify as "social conservative" as do the grassroots lobbyists at the federal level, CFA,  becawz FPC advocates for a party platform of planks requiring a wide-range of governmental support, including funding arrangements, for families based on the 1woman-1man principle, but failing that, for all families.  It is both anti-polygamous (a dramatic case now before the Canada Supreme Court), and anti-2women or 2men parented-families, the latter stand not being at the top of its list of priorities.  Where it can't succeed in discrimination, the party ends up advocating for govt largesse to all families, even those not the centre of its focus of concern.

Similar to CFA as an independent lobby based on a grassroots membership, the Association for Reformed Political Action uses the organizational technique of periodically launching special campaigns of a programmatic kind, not least of all ARPA's campaign against human-r+ts commission of the various provinces and also of the federal government.  In its online materials, it makes no effort to give a fair and balanced account of Canada's Human R+ts Commissions, demonizing them as nothing but negative forces in the country, thus ARPA effectively erases all the good the commissions.  At the same time, it shoud be noted, the Stand Up for Freedom Canada campaign has made some valuable criticisms of these commissions, their present practices that go beyond what woud be a simply positive influence, demonizing them and stirring up its activists to spread one-sided information in order to bring them thoroly into disrepute.  Christian political action shoud not conduct itself in this way, I believe.  Further, these firebrand methods bring the Reformed Faith into disrepute among fair-minded Canadians.

Still, the preceding list of special foundational concerns typifying variously the non-mainstream parties that are favoured by some Christian voters, generating their diverse slants within the general paradigm for understanding Christian politics in Canada today, that list does not exhaust the defintion of social conservatism in all particulars.  For instance, there are some Canadian Jews who are pro-abortion and conversely those who are anti-abortion, some who are pro-family and conversely some anti-family, some who are vegetarians and some who are very much carnivores, both of these latter concerns being potentially politically-consequential for some on each side of the distinction.  And consider in the foregoing example, that the distinction between vegans and meat-eaters can be cross-referenced with the dietary distinction, so relevant to a sociology of Jews, between between kosher and non-kosher practices.

For further instance, the pro-life/anti-abortion constituency extends across all the mainline and marginal political groupings cited, whether they include not only Atheists and Christians at the same time, along with all other coordinately parallel groupings outside our focal demographic categories at the moment (Christians and Atheists in Canada), some as well who are devoted to Anti-Atheism / anti-atheism.  Likewise some devoted to Anti-Christians // anti-christianity.  [Amidst all these particulates disclosed by a fine-grained analysis of religious demographics in Canada, and political concerns that are particularly favoured and flavoured across the country, we can gather a harvest especially helpful to the sociology of religions thru-out the land.]

On the other hand, some Christians feel strongly that every woman shoud be able, ultimately, to make her own decision to abort or not (to murder-- in the context of the mother and the unborn child relationship, given the uniqueness to her  and her important r+t and responsibility to -- without coercion by family, neighors, courts, churches, media of communications --  choose to abort the human life within her, so help her God. But the same ethos can be intertwined with a moral-political choice to deny government support to agencies like Planned Parenthood; perhaps to deny tax-money to support free standing abortion clinics historically spearheaded by Dr, Henry Morgantaler (Order of Canada),  perhaps to deny funding for in-hospital abortion clinics.  While at the same time perhaps allowing rental of hospital space to freestanding abortion clinics supported by private funding for their staff and functions.   PoliticaL tendencies with such complex solutions woud seek to win a debate to distinguish the abortion industry as industry, from the women who want and sometimes receive abortions.  Supporting the women's sphere-sovereignty over their own wombs, their own reproductive organs and outcomes.

Now, social conservatism also includes the parameter (not affirmed by all its varieties, but very configurative within the overall paradigm) of fiscal conservatism -- in regard to taxation levels, spending cuts, and national-debt levels.  Fiscal conservatism is less likely to be articulated among Christians in Canada in Libertarian terms than it is in the United States.  As we pointed out above regarding Ontario, the as-yet non-parliamentary Family Coalition Party excels the Conservative Party on both provincial and federal levels, in providing rationale and advocacy for govt generosity in financial support for families, while perhaps being more stingy in regard to other soceital spheres.    

-- materials below and editorial comment above by Politicarp

Here's the analysis of some of these matters, by leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada:

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 08:12 AM PDT
As published in the National Post, April 8, 2011

Social conservatives “have become a spent political force in [Canadian] national politics,” according to Queen’s University political-science scholar James Farney. “We’re now just seen as eccentric,” suggested Link Byfield, a prominent Canadian “so-con” himself. On the front page of the April 5National Post, a story by reporter Charles Lewis was headlined “Social conservatives watch campaign from sidelines.”

Wikipedia tells us that social conservatives “believe that government has a role in encouraging or enforcing what they consider traditional values or behaviours.” But Wikipedia also offers this important caveat: “the accepted meaning of traditional morality often differs from group to group.” Not all social conservatives are the same. It’s worth emphasizing that the term “social conservative” is spelled with a lower case “c,” not the upper case “C” of the Conservative party. Social conservatism is much broader than any one political party.

If social conservatives were interested only in an active debate about abortion or gay marriage, then it is true, as noted by Lewis, that we would be disappointed by the current campaign: No major party has distinguished itself on these issues. But that doesn’t mean these issues are not in play.

In the last Parliament, there were more MPs in the non-partisan Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus than in either the Bloc Québécois or the NDP. Yet, neither the death of the Bloc nor the NDP has been proclaimed [due to presumed irrelevance].  Moreover, social conservatives are interested in a wider variety of public-policy issues than abortion and gay marriage.

Take a good look at the activists and politicians who are involved in policy concerning the protection of children. Read over the list of witnesses before Commons and Senate committees in regard to raising the age of consent to sexual activity with an adult from age 14 to 16 in 2008 and you’ll see so-cons. Consider those advocating for the law that now requires internet service providers to report child porn being transmitted or hosted on their platforms and you’ll see so-cons.

While these initiatives took place under the Conservative government of the last five years, so-con influence extends back further. The 1993 introduction of child-pornography crimes into the Criminal Code and the 2004 introduction of laws against human trafficking crimes both were sparked by so-cons.

Cut across party lines and examine the faces standing with Senators and MPs in support of all-party reports about poverty in Canada, issued in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and you’ll see the presence of so-cons again. Poverty and homelessness aren’t typically identified as socially conservative issues in the media. But we don’t let the media define us.

For some commentators, the term so-cons isn’t adequately marginalizing. So instead, they call us “theo-cons” — theological conservatives — who are guided in our policy and political efforts by our religious beliefs. Theo-cons have been presented by some as strange and scary. Yet Statistics Canada informs that in 2001 (the last long-form census) 84% of Canadians self-identified as having a personal religious affiliation, with 77% self-identifying as Christian and [within that total percentage] 12% [further identify] as Evangelical. And it would be foolish to think that the views of these people aren’t, in some way, guided by their religious convictions. Check your neighbour to your left and your right, because we “theo-cons” walk among you.

Along with Rick Hiemstra, director of research and media relations at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, I recently wrote a report on evangelical voting trends in Canada between 1996 and 2008. The paper drew a lot of attention on Parliament Hill because it revealed the fluidity of the evangelical vote as it shifted from predominately Liberal support in 1996 to the Conservative Party in 2008. What many found particularly surprising was the increase in the vote that went to the NDP during that 12-year period [which is consonant with the relative de-Labourization of the NDP and the rise of the Yuppie Middleclass as powerbrokers within it, as well as the loss of some Jews in the NDP and Liberal parties becaws of their increase in support of the Palestinians against the State of Israel in the same period]. The supposedly theo-coniest of the theo-cons appear to exhibit voting patterns not too different from the rest of Canadians.

As the evangelist John Wesley lay on his deathbed in 1791, he sent a note to British MP William Wilberforce, who was then leading the political battle to end the slave trade. Wesley, with an Evangelical eye to the long game (the Slave Trade Act didn’t pass until 1807 and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act passed in 1833 as Wilberforce lay in his own deathbed) wrote simply, and inspirationally, about the significance of standing contra mundum, “against the world.” Sometimes it is necessary for the benefit of those around you to stand seemingly against everyone else, for the world’s sake. What is good is not always immediately obvious or popular.

By the way, William Wilberforce, the abolitionist, was a theo-con. And, like Wilberforce, contemporary theo-cons are committed, not eccentric. And we’re not a spent force yet.

National Post article by
Don Hutchinson, Vice-President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
and director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life located in Ottawa.

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