Chris Hedge’s in Canada’s National Post

kinnon —  February 10, 2007 — 8 Comments

Today’s National Post (behind a pay wall) has an interesting article sent to me by one of my favourite sister-in-laws. The article is ‘We do not see a religious right in Canada’ Chris Hedges Vs. McVety by Joseph Brean.

HedgesvsmcvetyI received a number of angry responses to my previous Hedges post (from some of my friends, no less) and might expect no less from this post. It would appear that Hedges was in Toronto this week (I must have missed the memo) at a University of Toronto Bookstore sponsored, Innis Town Hall debate between Hedges and Dr. Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College (and son of its founder, Elmer McVety.)

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Brean writes,

Mr. Hedges, with his wise-owl glasses and a chippy tone of voice that seems to suggest you should have thought of all this yourself, comes across as more Harvard don than Gonzo. (“You better quote from the book before you start trying to paraphrase it,” he snipped at John Oakley, a Toronto radio host and the debate’s moderator.)

But he is no ivory tower boffin. He has been ambushed in Central America, beaten by Saudi military police, deported from Libya and Iran, captured by the Iraqi Republican Guard, and he was in Sarajevo during the siege. Now he teaches at Princeton and has just published a book called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

Rev. McVety, by contrast, has a degree from the California State Christian University, which does not even have a Web page, and he publishes a magazine that has a full-page photo of him and his wife on the cover. He had lost the credentials battle before they even sat down. (link added – read the comments in the Benediction post and see the Note* at the end of this post.)
<snip>
He is a blustery self-promoter who speaks simply and on cue, like a windup toy. He is a Biblical literalist who dislikes evolution because it is “focused on death, the killing of those that are not strong,” and defends creationism on the grounds of intellectual freedom. He even goes so far as to say that Darwinism is racist because the subtitle of The Origin of Species refers to “the preservation of the favoured races.”

But, loony as he sometimes sounded, he scored an unseemly draw in the debate because Mr. Hedges’ arguments –however forceful, well-researched and frankly terrifying for the American picture — in the Canadian case, amounted to little more than guilt by association.

<snip>

…corporate America has “adopted and backed” this hijacking of Christianity, Mr. Hedges said, because it has proven profitable.

“If you believe that Jesus is going to take care of you, and that miracles happen, you don’t need health insurance. All of your jobs can be outsourced to Mexico or the Philippines or China, but God will take care of you if you just get right with Jesus,” Mr. Hedges said. “There has been a synergy between powerful right-wing corporate interest and foundations and the radical Christian right in the United States, and I think you’re beginning to see that synergy here [in Canada].”

Harsh as he is, Mr. Hedges is not part of the wider anti-religion movement as embodied in such writers as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, who ridicule faith itself as irrational. He is a faithful Christian, biblically literate, with a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity school, although he does not attend church.

“I come out of the Church. My father was a Presbyterian minister. I graduated from seminary and I am a believer, not in an orthodox way, but I certainly ultimately define myself as religious,” he said.

With such a dire warning coming from a believer, it ought to be a pressing question whether Canadian democracy faces this same danger, and whether there are substantial allegiances between the Canadian Christian right and the American. But neither man addressed this at the debate and nobody asked.

On the other hand, if such media hungry preachers as Rev. McVety are the worst danger posed by the Canadian Christian right, then Mr. Hedges is crying wolf, and he knows it.

“There’s a buffoonish quality to many of these people, and that’s something that I think McVety to a certain extent exhibits,” Mr. Hedges said in an interview. “Those of us who live in the rational, reality-based world have a hard time understanding how potent and dangerous these people are.”

Canadian evangelicals, however, seem to bear little resemblance to the men in Mr. Hedges crosshairs, those who travel the country in Lear jets paid for with the rent cheques of thousands of lost souls. (emphasis added)

“We do not see a religious right in Canada. We see a fear of a religious right in Canada,” said Stuart Macdonald, professor of Canadian Christian history at the University of Toronto’s Knox College. “We see a few people trying to create one, but they have not succeeded, and most evangelicals are not where the Republican right is in the United States, they’re far more moderate. On one or two issues, they might have some sympathy, but we have to really dig to find extremists, where in the United States, they’re all over the place.”

As for Rev. McVety, if he speaks for Canadian evangelicals at all, it seems he has been mostly unsuccessful in influencing the government on their behalf. Gay marriage is now off the agenda, for example, as is abortion. Prof. Macdonald says the minority government makes the likelihood of such religious influence all the more remote.

“It is so easy for people to get up and claim they speak for a broader constituency than they do,” he said.

<snip>

In this week’s interview, however, he was more circumspect, and acknowledged he knows little about Canadian evangelicals.

“I think that Canada certainly is beginning to suffer from the same dislocations that have beset the United States, and that disenfranchisement of large segments of your population create political mutations that give rise to radical movements,” he said.

But Canada is not in the same state of crisis as the United States, with the “personal and economic despair” that is the engine of the U.S. Christian right: “You don’t have 47-million people who don’t have health insurance,” he said. “You still have a social state and that is your protection against this movement.”

“People in despair turn to demagogues who promise fantastic utopias, who promise miracles, who promise a world of magic, who promise that Jesus will walk with them every day and guide them in their life and has a divine plan for them. Demagogues are also very good at sanctifying rage,” he said.

With his religious bona fides, Mr. Hedges would seem the ideal Christian to call these American demagogues to task, and he does so ably in his book. But he never landed a knock-out punch against the Canadian.

Rev. McVety, for his part, scored points by pointing out that corporate America is “deeply secular,” not Christian, and he won a hearty ovation after Mr. Hedges described Christian media as a “hermetic” system of propaganda that promotes an unhealthy self-image, to which Rev. McVety quipped, “Are you talking about Hollywood?”

“What you just heard is the Gospel according to Chris Hedges, and because someone died and made him king, we need to walk in lockstep,” Rev. McVety said, his bottled rage building before the television cameras. “You come here from Hah-vahd, you call me a bigot. Prove it. Prove that I’m a bigot.”

Twiddling his eyeglasses, Mr. Hedges just ignored him.

Before the flames begin, let me say that I’m not a huge Hedges fan. I don’t buy his story of the incredibly scary Christian Right – writing that appears to have more in common with Canadian writer Margaret Atwood’s fiction than it does with reality. But I do think that Hedges is correct in his “people of” and “theology of” despair assessment. And he does accurately portray the promises of what many supposed Christian leaders preach to a people starved for relationship and hope. That is something that those of us who profess Christ need to hear…and to respond to.

*Note that Dr. McVety’s undergraduate degrees are both from Canada Christian College – before it was a degree granting institution, and that his wife, listed as Dr. Jennifer McVety has an honorary D.P.C from Canadian Semimary – not to be confused with Canadian FullMary, I guess. I actually can’t find a listing for “Canadian Seminary” if that’s what Ms. McVety’s “doctorate” is supposed to be from – Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary – sometimes referred to as Canadian Seminary, do not grant Doctorate degrees. There does appear to be a interesting story in the degrees of many of the CCC faculty alone.

kinnon

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

8 responses to Chris Hedge’s in Canada’s National Post

  1. Charles McVety graduated from A.Y. Jackson S.S. and played hockey in the NYHL for the NY Toros. He then went to U of T and played hockey for the Scarborough College inter-varsity team. He then went to Canada Christian College where he captained the team to 4 championships in the Greater Toronto area EHL. CCC Played the reigning Canadian college champions in a Exibition match and had the Vern Buffy Coached team down 6-2. I have the video tape of the 3 period stop time game. Plus championships in USA tournaments. Charles had the most talent of any player I have seen that didn’t go to the bigs, that was not his ambition.
    CCC has legally granted degrees since 1967 under a CANADIAN FEDERAL CHARTER granted to THE ASSOCIATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND EVANGELISM.
    Have some decency and go talk to the guy before you start stabbing the man in the back with your lies.

    Reply
  2. The extra degrees are from ‘satellite campuses’, such as St. Petersburg State University in Florida or the one you mentioned.

    The Evangelical Association (as opposed to the better known Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) is not small, and is well networked.

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  3. Doug,

    From your email address, I’m going to assume you are a family member. I’m not sure what Dr. McVety’s hockey history has to do with his credentials. Perhaps you could unpack that for me.

    Further, according to the link from CCC’s site, they were given degree granting power in 1999, apparently after their ability to grant degrees was rescinded in 1983 – according to Marci McDonald’s research. Oddly enough, there is no mention on the CCC website of their having degree granting power prior to that 1999 legislation. Perhaps you could fill us in on that.

    Dr. McVety’s bio on the CCC website says that he has a Doctorate from California State Christian University. I’ve called California State Christian University’s number a couple of times and the phone has been answered by someone unable to converse in English – other than to say she is the only one there and to “call back tomorrow.” According to what appears to be a related site to CCC’s website, the Evangelical Order of Certified Pastoral Counsellors of America (located in Burlington, Ontario),  CSCU is located in Northridge – the actual home of California State University – perhaps they are confused by the similar names. (Please also note that the link to CSCU on the EOCPCA site leads no where.) According to their contact information, California State Christian University is located in Koreatown – at 3407 West 6th Street Suite 804 – about 23 miles from the California State University – Northridge. Would you clarify for us the who, what, where, when, why and how of California State Christian University? Especially as it has such prominence amongst the faculty at CCC – including Dr. McVety, Dr. Hokkanen, Dr. Duff and Dr. Hong. 

    As it is normal for earned doctoral degrees to include a thesis, I’m wondering whether we could have a look at Dr. McVety’s thesis – or at least know what it was done on, when it was completed, who supervised it, etc – all the standard actions that take place for a doctoral degree.

    And finally Doug, as you have called me a liar, would you please show me how what I’ve written is actually lying.

    Please note that Dr. McVety has sought notoriety (in the non-pejorative sense) in the public square by his actions and comments – I believe that these are fair questions to ask in the public square, as well.

     

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  4. Bill
    In Your blog you state ” before it was a degree granting institution” wrong. I Explained that in 1967 the college granted degrees legally. In 1983 a new criteria was set in Ontario for private colleges. The height of the bar kept changing and was finally reached in 1999. Marci McDonald was Wrong in saying rescinded, never happened. If you read her article, it is a joke. What on earth is a Egyptian printer. And to rehash a clerical receipt error from the 70s, Please.
    Athletics in some colleges matter. It was a big part in Richmond College and CCC.
    I won’t address Charles’ personal details, just general details, but when people talk wrongly about my deceased father’s affairs I will respond.
    It is a necessity to be in the public square to promote one’s college or they die off like most have.

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  5. Doug:

    Is one of your ‘brother’s degrees’ from St. Petersburg.
    Florida or Russia?

    Canadian Christian College – Bill Pr4 May 1999 (Ontario Legislature) mentions:

    “The board of trustees of the Canadian Non-Denominational Association for Education and Evangelism”

    That Association is listed under intent to dissolve – Canadian Corporations Act, Department of Industry 2000 for failure to file.

    Richmond College (1967) and Canadian Christian College (1974) ran concurrently.
    Richmond Collge arts programs were discontinued in 1981.
    Canadian Christian College was not accredited by the province of Ontario until 1999.

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  6. Bene
    There is a connection to Russia not Florida. As far as my brother’s degrees go I have never paid attention to any of my 4 sisters’ and brothers’ studies. I sure paid attention to my brothers’ hockey.
    CCC and Richmond both operated under a federal charter with an inter provincial licence. All private colleges in Ontario were ordered to conform to set standards which CCC did. The 1983 date is off though.
    Bill
    I shouldn’t have used harsh words like lie. Misinformed would have been more appropriate.
    Good-bye.

    Reply
  7. Well, that was fun.

    Hedges is intriguing; he is trying to make a distinction between mainline evangelicals and ‘dominionists.’ Maybe I should read the book to find out who comprise the latter set. His anger and fear in the CBC interview I watched were palpable; he really believes that certain segments of the Christian right are fascistic.

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  8. There is no St Petersburg State University in Florida. There is a St Petersburg State College but that is a junior college.

    The only St Petersburg State University is in Russia and counts Vladimir Puten, the current president of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and several Nobel Lauriates as its graduates. Admission is VERY competitive. Why would one of Russia’s most prominent universities grant an honorary degree to a no-name Canadian evangelist? Does a Russian university even grant an honorary Doctorate of Letters? That is usually something done in the US.

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What do you think?