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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cyrus Scofield Meets Leo Strauss in a Continuing Struggle Between Good and Evil

In describing the Harper government, most in the media base their stories on the mistaken assumption that they are the Conservative party of Sir John A. MacDonald, with a 150 year old tradition in Canada.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. I've often described it as like listening to a hockey commentator at a Blue Jays game. They just don't understand the plays.

This is not the historic Conservative Party of Sir John A., but rather the historic Social Credit Party of William "Bible Bill" Aberhart. And everything good and bad, that sparked the movement in Depression era Alberta, is alive and well on Parliament Hill.

When the Social Credit/Reform/Alliance movement was being criticized as narrow minded, Harper told the National Post: "The rest of the country has responded by telling us in no uncertain terms that we do not share their 'Canadian values.' Fine. Let us build a society on Alberta values." Rich coming from a man who was born and raised in Toronto.

But what would his version of Alberta values be?

The Struggle Between "Good and Evil"

William Aberhart studied and followed the teachings of Cyrus Scofield, the man who created modern day dispensationalism. And despite the fact that many theologians, debunk Scofield's theories, a vast number of Evangelicals, still follow the end of day predictions set out in the Scofield Bible.

It was also the basis for Tim LaHaye's popular 'Left Behind Series', that has fueled the new Christian Zionist movement, spearheaded by John Hagee and his Canadian counterpart, Charles McVety. Tim LaHaye is one of the founders of the Council for National Policy, where Stephen Harper delivered his neoconservative sermon in 1997.

LaHaye was also the man behind the creation of the Moral Majority, now referred to as the Religious Right:

In 1979, LaHaye and Falwell established the Moral Majority, with Falwell as its leader and LaHaye as a guiding member of its three-person board of directors. The Moral Majority drafted tens of millions of conservative Christian voters into the culture wars, swelling the ranks of the Republican Party and serving as Reagan's core constituency. (1)

Though the players have changed over the years, these millennialist theories involve a classic struggle between Christians and a powerful enemy. For Aberhart and his followers, it was a Jewish conspiracy, based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

For Ernest Manning, Aberhart's successor, the enemy was Socialism/Communism, and even in the early days of the Reform Party under Ernest's son Preston, many of the extremist groups they voted to allow in, were radical anti-Communists.

Now under Stephen Harper, the forces of "evil" as they see it, is the Muslim world. This is why they have suddenly become such good friends of Israel, because they envision that it will be the place for the final show down.

Tristan Sturm and Jason Dittmer, co-wrote a paper on the geography of the Apocalypse:

It has been argued in geopolitical literature recently that “religion is the emerging political language of the time” and “international politics is being increasingly scripted in the spatial grammar of a millennial struggle between "Good and Evil”.

With four of the last seven U.S. presidents claiming to be ‘born-again’ (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush) political geographers should be attentive to the strategies and reasoning practices used in the name of religion. Geographic inquiry into apocalyptic or millennial Christianity is often hinted at but has, with few exceptions, received no focused analysis.(2)

I did know that Jimmy Carter was a born-again Christian, but he followed a social gospel. Bill Clinton I'm not sure about, but both Ronald Reagan and George Bush were devout dispensationalists.

The 1980s saw the election of Ronald Reagan, who had espoused Christian Zionist views in the past, and who enjoyed a close friendship with the evangelist Rev. Billy Graham. According to Reagan’s former legal secretary Herb Ellingwood, Reagan had developed a nearly obsessive fascination with apocalyptic prophecy, reading scores of apocalyptic novels. As governor, and later as president, Reagan became known for quoting Ezekiel, confiding to State Senate leader James Mills at one point that “everything is falling into place. It can’t be too long now. Ezekiel says that fire and brimstone will be rained down upon the enemies of God’s people. That must mean that they’ll be destroyed by nuclear weapons. They exist now, and they never did in the past.”

By the time of George W. Bush’s induction into the White House, approximately 40 million Americans expressed beliefs that fall within the scope of Christian fundamentalism, and that number increased dramatically following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Like Reagan, who often framed the struggle with Communism in language rife with religious overtones, George W. Bush has framed the War on Terror in a like manner, presenting the conflict in apocalyptic terms as “a monumental struggle between good and evil, [in which] good will prevail.” Along with frequent references to “evil” and “evildoers,” the President remarked in his September 20, 2001 speech before a Joint Session of Congress that “God is not neutral” in the War on Terror. Similar imagery has been echoed by evangelical leaders such as Falwell, who in 2002 infamously referred to the prophet Muhammad as a “terrorist” in a 60 Minutes appearance. (3)

Enter Leo Strauss

What is a hero? In Hollywood movies, and increasingly in political mythology, he is a man who represents untarnished good in a battle against uncomplicated evil. Ambiguity is forbidden when the sheriff of any traditional Western has a showdown with the rustler; the good guy shoots faster, straighter, deadlier. The exemplary BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares, an official selection here at Cannes, observes that the favorite TV show of Leo Strauss, the University of Chicago professor whose political theories inspired the American neo-conservative movement, was Gunsmoke. Marshall Dillon was Strauss's idea of the iconic good guy, vanquisher of all who would challenge or subvert the American way. (4)

While Strauss himself detested organized religion, he saw it as a necessity if neoconservatism was to ever be successful.

He too saw life as a classic struggle between "good and evil", but for him the evil was liberalism. He blamed it for everything that was wrong with the world.

Stephen Harper is the classic neoconservative. There are no grey areas.

Strauss contended that only the elite were capable of making decisions, and democracy was a sham. Therefore, it was up to the leaders to make all the decisions that clearly the ignorant masses were incapable of making for themselves.

But how far will he take this? Will he honour the predictions of one of his heroes Ronald Reagan who said "that fire and brimstone will be rained down upon the enemies of God’s people." Or will he just be content to make Canada a complete corporate theocracy?

Or will the 'ignorant masses' wake up from their stupor and realize that we kind of like democracy, and don't believe that the 'elite' know better than us. And that we are the ones who represent the "Good", and neoconservatism definitely the "Bad"?

I think you know which one I'm hoping for.


1. Reverend Doomsday, Rolling Stone Magazine, Robert Dreyfuss, January 28, 2004

2. Mapping the End Times, Tristan Sturm and Jason Dittmer, Ashgate Publishing

3. The Other Zionist Conspiracy: A History of Christian Zionism, by Valerie Saturen

4. Cannes Diary IV: Heroes and Villains, Time Magazine, Mary Corliss, May 14, 2005

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