Monday, September 24, 2007

Ted Byfield Takes a Swing at Reality

Occasionally, Ted Byfield comes astonishingly close to reality, and then veers away from it at breakneck speeds.

This week, we find Ted musing about the "collapse of church" in Canada:

Where Canada was, if anything, more loyal to its churches in the first half of the 20th century, it now lags far behind, and church attendance in the U.S. is considerably more than double the Canadian average.

Ted thinks he's found quite the treasure trove of insight:

Mark A. Noll, the historian of American religion most distinguished for his celebrated book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (the scandal being too many Evangelicals don't use the gray matter God gave them, and many think it wrong to even try) confesses himself mystified of late by a country called Canada.

"What Happened to Christian Canada?" he asks, and that's the title of his little booklet published this year by Regent College Publishing in Vancouver.

Amusingly, in the criticism applied to Evangelical faith in the United States lies the germ of reality that Ted then does his level best to ignore:

too many Evangelicals don't use the gray matter God gave them

He then goes on to try and lay the blame at the feet of political leaders past (and now dead):

In Quebec, he finds an explanation in the rise of Catholic Action, a movement that gained great momentum after the Second World War and recruited platoons of talented young people -- like Pierre Trudeau, Marc Lalonde and Gerard Pelletier.
The United Church, created in the 1920s by the union of the Methodists, Congregationalists and most Presbyterians, sought to combine the socialistic reforms of the social gospel with the spiritual message of evangelicalism. This had much the same result. When the government itself legislated the social gospel, the church was left with no message at all.

But all this is an inadequate summation of a brief but very observant analysis of Canada's religious collapse.

Or, perhaps there is an even simpler explanation. Canadians started looking critically at what had been wrought in the name of "the church"(™). One need look no further than the Quiet Revolution in Quebec - born of the policies of Maurice Duplessis and the unreasonable degree of power the Catholic Church held during that time.

The other point that Byfield misses (or chooses to ignore) is that as Canada's education system flourished, individuals found it less necessary to be outwardly religious. That isn't to say that carrying faith ceased, but rather the need to attend church services diminished.

One can draw discrete parallels between the Reagan administration dismantling public education in the 1980s and the rise of evangelical christianity. This comes as little surprise - evangelical christianity does not encourage critical thought - it demands obedience. In general, the less educated the population, the more willingly they will follow strict edicts from religious leaders.

Intriguingly, the HarperCon$ have also taken a series of moves that devalue and weaken Canada's educational infrastructure.

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