On Wednesday, Franklin Graham, son of Billy and one of the world leaders in conservative evangelicalism, tweeted to his 2.3 million followers: “The squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Good news: several provinces in Canada are beginning to withdraw from #COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE warrants. Thank you to the Freedom Convoy and everyone who made sure their voices were heard in Canada’s capital and around the world.
In all honesty, it wasn’t a surprise.
The Ottawa convoy protest and its various aftershocks across Canada are made up of a diverse mix: extreme libertarians, anti-vaccination fanatics, neo-Nazis and conservative Canadians who just seem confused and angry. A surprising number of them also appear to be fundamentalist Christians, as evidenced by the number of Christian symbols, flags and shouts to their detractors and opponents that “God will condemn you”.
There’s also a gallery of kitschy images doing the rounds on social media featuring trucks adorned with Canadian flags dividing the Red Sea as they bravely move forward, some of them in front of a crowned lion, either CS’s Aslan Lewis of Narnia, or the Lion of God. It is terrible and worse art of theology.
It is nothing new for arch-conservatives to transform Christianity to suit their own purposes. This has always been a problem, especially in North America since the 1960s. But it was generally applied to the broad spectrum of social conservatism, exploited to justify opposition to LGBTQ2 equality and women’s choice. Now this perversion of gospel truth has gone much further.
As soon as federal and provincial governments responded to COVID with lockdowns and vaccinations, fundamentalist Christians saw the bad hand of the state as a job. For “state”, read liberalism, control and even communism. Decades of propaganda have convinced these churches and believers that a great world conflict is happening and that governments are on the wrong side. The fantasy plays out like this: families and family values are threatened, anti-biblical values are imposed on these families, and the state and its agents become part of the Antichrist.
I know it sounds crazy, because it is. But in the alternate universe of religious fundamentalism, madness is normal. It’s the world upside down. In this dark mirror of belief, confinements were an inevitable development in the spiritual war being waged. Vaccines are mentioned in the book of Revelation – they are not – as a mark of the devil. Either they are a weapon to prevent procreation and reduce the population, or they are made from aborted fetal stem cells, or… insert your plot into this space.
They also cannot believe that Canadians continue to elect Liberal governments and, like their American counterparts, assume that the electoral process is flawed or fraudulent. This is partly the result of insularity – many of these belief communities rarely interact with anyone outside of their own comfort zone – and because social and emotional distance from mainstream society makes them vulnerable to all kinds of paranoia.
Then there is what is called eschatology, the aspect of theology that concerns our ultimate destiny for all. In other words, the end of time.
Armageddon has been an obsession for subgroups of fundamentalists for centuries, often based on fear or disillusionment with contemporary society. It is actually based on a tragic misreading of the Hebrew Scriptures. Megiddo, the origin of the word Armageddon, is a city in Israel that for centuries was at the crossroads of the trade routes of a succession of superpowers. There was even a battle there as recently as the First World War. So he saw a lot of bloodshed, and so was used as a warning metaphor by some of the Bible writers. By the way, I worked on an archaeological dig there a few years ago, and the locals make a nasty falafel pita wrap!
It’s no joke, though: the nearness of the end of the world, distrust and hatred of the state, belief that God is on your side, anger at the seemingly unstoppable progressive nature of society and a visceral dislike of Justin Trudeau — who seems to embody everything they reject and despise.
At the risk of sounding uncharitable, these are not people who embrace nuance or theological depth. The idea that Scripture – while the inspired word of God – is not divine dictation, and requires analysis and context, is considered by them to be heretical and tainted. A loud trucker is much more respected than an educated teacher.
The protest will go ahead at some point and Ottawa will return to normal. But everyone involved has tasted victory, including those who are driven by their faith. Although we would like to think otherwise, we haven’t heard the last word from the Christian right from very far away.
MORE COREN: Ontario’s social conservatives are a force Ford must reckon with
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are solely those of the author. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
More on iPolitics