Pulpit and Politics, a review by Ron Dart

My recent book book Pulpit and Politics has been reviewed in the Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice, an on line publication.  The reviewer is Ron Dart,  a professor in the Department of Philosophy & Politics at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. You will see that he recommends the book and is pleased that it deals with religion as an authentic force in public life, rather than dismissing it out of hand as is commonly done in secular academic analysis. He criticizes me, though, for being soft on religious progressives while being hard on religious conservatives. Also, he disapproves of my describing the current reality in Canada as one of competing religious ideologies, one progressive and the other conservative. 

Religious ideologies

I can say that I chose the term “ideologies” deliberately. The  sociologist Mark Jurgensmeyer (I write about him in my book), says that “secular nationalism” and religion are both what he calls “competing ideologies of order.” Each can give meaning, coherence and organization to the day to day world. That is a pretty good definition of an ideology and I think religion qualifies.

But I would argue (and I believe Juergensmeyer would agree) that not all people of faith possess the same religious ideology. I sub-divide these religious ideologies into progressive and conservaitve. Yes, this is a social construct and it oversimplifies things, but then every description of organized activity is a social construct.

Shades of gray

I also acknowledge that there is a continium between progressive and conservaitve. There are, of course, shades of gray. Some religious conservatives (but likely not most) believe that global warming is a looming problem. Many religious progessives would support faith-based charities, but still believe that the state has the major role to play in reducing social inequalities. Many, perhaps most, individuals may possess some mix of these competing ideologies within their person.

Red Tories

Professor Dart has a social construct of his own to offer. He has written extensively about the Red Tory tradition in Canada and he believes that it could well have something to offer today that might allow us to “step beyond our ideological impasse.”

I have responded to Professor Dart’s on line journal, saying that I have a good deal of regard for the Red Tory tradition. In fact, I wrote a biography called Emmett Hall: Establishment Radical about the late Supreme Court Justice whose Royal Commission recommended medicare for Canada. Hall was a law school classmate of John Diefenbaker’s and certainly he fit the description of a Red Tory.

Where are they?

My question, however, is this: Are there any Red Tories around these days? I read recently in the New York Times that moderate Republicans are an endangered species in that party today. Similarly, I can think of virtually no Conservative MP today’s House of Commons who represents the honourable Red Tory tradition. Where have they gone? Can they possibly make a comeback? I would like to know.

In any event, I thank Professor Dart for reviewing my book, criticism included. Ideas are precious and they should be debated, respectfully, as has been the case here.

3 thoughts on “Pulpit and Politics, a review by Ron Dart

  1. Hi Dennis,

    In my experience, many of the Red Tories have now gone Green – quite a few, in fact. They take the “conservation” in conservatism quite seriously.

    Also wanted to recommend that you have a look at the works of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, perhaps especially his The Christian Future; or, the modern mind outrun as perhaps being something I think you might find very engaging, although it may be that it’s significance won’t be completely apparent without reference to some of his sociological and philosophical works, such as Speech and Reality or Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man. A couple of chapters of the latter have been excerpted from the book and are posted online. Read especially the essay “Farewell to Descartes” and “Polybius, or the Reproduction of Government” both of which can be found here

    Click to access I-am-an-Impure-Thinker.pdf

    On the relation of ideology and religion, I highly recommend you have a look at cultural philosopher Jean Gebser, and his great work The Ever-Present Origin. After than, you’ll never experience the world in quite the same way again.


  2. As a christian who is incredibly frustrated with the relationship between christians and politics, may I offer some thoughts. First of all, it doesn’t matter how many books you read or how enlightened you become. Sooner or later it comes down to a matter of what do I do with this information. There seems to be a feeling that if you inform the christian community, you’ve done your job and it is up to others to take the next step and make the changes. Christians need to work as a collective to make any concrete changes in the world, but so far all I see is a Christian elite who seem incapable of connecting with the blue jean wearing christian who are the real power of christianity. There is no place for the average christian to go to talk about christianity’s place in the political world and be heard. The political suits are talking with the christian suits and none of you are understand that the issues of the average christian go beyond abortion and gay marriage. Good luck with the selling of your books, but don’t kid yourselves that your doing God’s work until you can see christians take back our politicians. Now, where can I find a website where christians can have an honest debate about the christian and politics.
    Mark Nickel


    1. Dennis replies: Thanks for your comment Mark. I don’t own a suit, at least none that is new or stylish enough to wear in public. In fact, I most often wear blue jeans — but somehow I think you will still consider me to be among the “suits”. Fair enough. I don’t see myself as doing God’s work or as leading Christians or anyone else to do anything. People have to take adult responsibility for their own enlightenment and action. I’m just a guy who writes books and a blog because that’s what I enjoy. And I intend to keep doing it. Thanks again.


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