Evangelicals in Canada versus evangelicals in the USA

I’m only going to say this one more time. Canadian evangelicals are not identical with our American cousins and not all aligned with the political right.

Along with a couple of others, I’ve been saying this publicly now for almost thirty years, and our fellow scholars have gotten the word. The textbooks read differently than they used to when they describe evangelicalism in Canada.

Most of the news media, however, along with most of the courts, political parties, and educational leaders, seem to have missed the memo. So here goes.

Canadian evangelicals are not clustered on the right wing of our political spectrum. Many of them support the Conservative Party and doubtless some are attracted to the People’s Party of Canada. But as professors David Rayside, Jerald Sabin, and Paul Thomas show in their recent book on Religion and Canadian Party Politics (UBC Press, 2018), evangelicals have long voted and continue to vote right across the political spectrum.

Take a look at the pastor of Canada’s largest evangelical church, The Meeting House in southern Ontario. Bruxy Cavey is the Puck of Canadian Christianity, a cheerful clown with a big heart, a sharp mind, and an earnest message. And he doesn’t come within a mile of conservative Christianity—or just about anything else one might call “conservative.”

Give a listen to Canada’s major evangelical broadcaster and Canada’s most-read journalists—who, conveniently, publish on this website—and see if you can credibly link them to right-wing politics.

Visit the website or read the magazine of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and note the complete absence of what you’d look for if you were trying to spot a conservative cabal.

Pastors of Vancouver’s main evangelical churches couldn’t even agree to support Franklin Graham—noted American preacher and apologist for Donald Trump—when he recently came to town to evangelize.

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to at least some journalists getting the story wrong and assuming that evangelicals are all on the right. The prime minister’s open hostility to anyone holding views anywhere to his right might nudge one to wrong conclusions.

But Canadian evangelicals in general are not single-issue voters, so they look across the political spectrum for leaders who will care for the poor, work for justice, spend wisely, tax fairly, and make Canada better as best they can. There is no single evangelical political position in Canada—nor in the USA, for that matter, but that’s a topic that must await another time.

I appreciate that many Canadian journalists hanker for an exciting villain in the Canadian political narrative. I know that many of them wish they were in the United States covering the larger-than-life circus that is American politics. But as long as they’re here, responsible to give an accurate account of what’s going on in Canada, I respectfully request that they tear their eyes away from the southern spectacle and do their job.

And that means, among other things, refusing the easy, and gratifying, but mistaken, identification of Canadian evangelicals with the worst of our American counterparts.

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).