Perhaps this is obvious to everyone, perhaps it has been written about and I have missed it…
Did the ‘Communion scandal‘ actually improved Prime Minister Harper‘s image? Is that, at least partially, why the polls are saying his popularity is up by 7 points (as per Angus Reid poll, reported on CFRA today)?
Let me explain my reasoning…
Steven Harper is a lot of things: an awesome economist (and, in these turbulent times, most of us prefer to have an economist rather than a lawyer or an academic without any experience outside the College campus.). That is a big plus for Mr. Harper.
But, his political opponents have always successfully exploited the fact that, for ever, Steven Harper will be associated (in the minds of most urban Canadians, especially those in Ontario and Quebec) with the ‘Evangelical’ taint his Reform Party past brings. Rightly or wrongly, the Reform Party could not shake the kind of ‘Sarah Palin-type- thingy’ (please excuse the technical jargon…): right on so many things, but, kind of scary when it comes to ‘faith issues’….
In some places, politicians are ‘expected’ to be ‘religious’: it ‘proves’ to the ‘little people’ that they are ‘humble’ and ‘pious’…. This is still true of ‘US conservatives’ – at least, this is more true of them than any other Western ‘group’.
Why these ought to be good qualities in a political leader, I don’t know!
As a matter of fact, I seriously question whether people who are willing to put religious faith above facts and reason – and, especially above the will of voters – ought to be in any positions of power whatsoever. After all, I would like the laws governing my country to be reasonable – not faith based!
Here, it is important to note that this ‘faith’ could be religious or ideological – it does not make an iota of difference in the practical impact of ‘faith-based’ laws on our society!
Though Canadians are very poor in recognizing ‘ideological faith, we are very sensitive to ‘religious faith’. Therefore, any suggestions that a politician might be so religious as to obey the tenets of his religion over the will of his constituents when drafting laws and policies harms that politician. It makes it very unlikely that he/she would get a majority, because the large urban areas will not take what they perceive as that big a risk.
And, more and more Canadians are aware of just how many religious leaders abuse their power. This is not specific to any one faith – one could easily find examples of abuse from just about every religious sect. Rather, more and more people suspect that the fault lies in allowing any man or woman to exercise power over another, using spirituality as the ultimate weapon: obey, submit, behave this way and believe this dogma – or you will suffer eternal torture…
That is why most organized religions in Canada are loosing members: dogmatization of spirituality is becoming more and more unacceptable to urbanized, mainstream Canadians! And that includes Canadians of all political bends…
When the Roman Catholic Church said that priests ought to deny ‘Communion’ to any politician who does not vote to ban abortion, there was a serious backlash against the Roman Catholic Church. This was widely understood to be ‘spiritual blackmail’ of the politician: threatening him/her with eternal damnation of his’her soul UNLESS he/she placed the Papist dogma above the will of their constituents!
The ‘little ‘l’ liberal’ Canadians are loath of any erosion in the ‘secularity’ of our laws: they will never support a politician whom they suspect of having a religious agenda!
Perhaps not surprisingly, there are more and more ‘non-religious’ ‘little ‘c’ conservatives. People who do support many core conservative values, but who are very uncomfortable with the ‘religious’ component of today’s Conservative movement. Very, very, very uncomfortable!
Just remember John Tory!
Steven Harper – with all his good and bad points – had a problem shaking the ‘religious’ image of the old Reform Party. And his political opponents exploited it very, very skilfully.
Now, to this ‘Communion scandal’:
Some Roman Catholic Cleric attacked Steven Harper for his conduct during a Catholic funeral mass which Steven Harper attended. It would appear that the priest walked up to the people sitting in on the benches in the church. Steven Harper offered him a hand for a handshake – that is what politicians do, they shake hands as a symbol of greeting or acceptance or a number of other things.
The priest, instead of shaking the offered hand, stuck a communion wafer in it.
Now, the PM was ‘damned if he did/damned if he did not’ do just about anything.
Had he rejected the wafer and tried to give it back to the priest, he would be committing a grave offense: he would be ‘rejecting Jesus himself’!
Had he tried to minimize damage by pocketing the damned thing and giving it back to the priest later, he would create horrible offense: one does not ‘stick Jesus in a pocket’!
And, had he committed ritual cannibalism and eaten the ‘literal flesh of Christ’ – as Roman Catholics believe they are doing when they consume a Communion Wafer – he would be giving great offense because non-Roman Catholic Christians are not allowed the salvation which eating the flesh of a dead guy is supposed to bring, according to the RC dogma.
The PM took the latest option. And, was immediately attacked for not being a fine young cannibal! A bunch of RC clerics attacked him, for ‘offending their faith’ – while not saying a peep about the latest child sex-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church became public that day!
Steven Harper’s political opponents – seeing an opening to attack – made the most of the story. The one about the PM accepting a communion wafer – not the one about more RC priest pedophiles. They ‘shouted it from the rooftops’! They got it into all kinds of papers, so no Canadian could remain unaware that Steven Harper is insensitive to religion!
Wait a minute!
Steven Harper was trying to shake the ‘he’s too easily influenced by religion’ image – especially among the urban folk. And now, his opponents are announcing to everyone that Steven Harper is not religious enough???
What an effective way to allay those fears of people who liked him, but worried he might be a religious freak! He’s just a normal guy, after all!
No wonder that Steven Harper’s popularity went up!