Dennis Gruending’s recently released Pulpit and Politics: Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life examines the growing competition between progressives and conservatives of faith for political power and influence.
With the 2011 election handing Stephen Harper a Conservative majority-partly because of the conservative religious vote-Gruending believes the rivalry between the two camps will become more pronounced.
His book looks closely at the political ideology and tactics employed by religious conservatives in the public arena and documents the struggles of religious progressives to have their voices heard on issues of equality, environment, human rights, justice and peace. With an eye on history and world events, Gruending follows this contest between progressives and conservatives from Parliament Hill to church basements, synagogues, temples and universities in Canada and abroad.
In his view, religious faith informs political decisions about the division of wealth, education and race relations, immigration, respect for democracy, foreign policy and environmental issues.
Gruending, raised a Catholic, thinks there are two basic types of religious people engaging in politics: the right-wing sort such as fundamentalist Alberta premier Ernest Manning (father of Preston), who felt that good Christians did not need government programs, and the progressive type such as Baptist pastor Tommy Douglas, who brought a social gospel to politics based on the belief that we are our brothers’ keepers.
“I see continuing links between social gospellers such as Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles and contemporary people such as Bill Blaikie and Lorne Calvert, and Catholics such as Joe Comartin and Charlie Angus,” Gruending says. “Similarly, I see links between Ernest Manning and his son Preston, and with Stockwell Day, and any number of today’s Conservatives. I include Stephen Harper in that number, although he is more difficult to read than the others.”
In his estimation, the social gospel impulse, while still with us, has a flame that burns much less brightly than it once did.
Gruending has watched the fray unfold as a writer, a director of information for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and an NDP MP. Earlier in his career, he worked as a print and television journalist and as a radio host. He is the author of six books, including the best selling Great Canadian Speeches (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004).
Pulpit and Politics
Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life
By Dennis Gruending
Kingsley Publishing 2011
ISBN 1-926832-074 $22
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