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.
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.
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.