Last summer in Ottawa I met with and offered my usual bad advice to leaders of Canada's No. 2 political party, the Conservative Alliance (CA). At that time Stockwell Day, then 50, a former assistant pastor and Christian school headmaster with 15 years of impressive governmental experience, was desperately trying to hold on as leader of the CA, but was being pilloried in the press because he wore unapologetically the scarlet C for "Christian."
Mr. Day told WORLD (July 21, 2001) about some mistakes he had made, but he would have had to be perfect to overcome typical (Toronto) Globe and Mail headlines such as "Leave the Prayer Book at Home, Stockwell." My column ended this way: "If Stockwell Day does not survive politically, that will be sad for Canada and a warning to American evangelicals: The task [of leading a country where ardent anti-Christians occupy the high ground of media and academia] is very hard."
The election for CA leader finally came last month, and Mr. Day did not win. Stephen Harper, 42, received 55 percent of the vote of party members. Mr. Day, according to a clever line in The Toronto Star, "believed in moral absolutes, [Mr.] Harper believes in economic absolutes." That means he's a conservative libertarian, against heavy-handed government but not willing to restrict heavy-handed abortionists.
Many CA members evidently were swayed by press scare stories about religious zealots taking over Canada. When Mr. Day went to a rally at Canada's largest Bible college, critics accused him of having "perverted" the electoral process. "Zealous Day crosses line," the Calgary Herald complained, and The National Post proclaimed in a headline, "Church and state don't mix." The Post (somewhat like The Washington Post a decade ago) claimed that evangelicals "are not intellectual, and they refer everything back to the Bible," because of "the neurotic need to restrict, to force sameness and goodness all round."
Mr. Day might have had a chance had he given in on the killing of unborn children, but he said he opposed abortion under any circumstances, including rape, incest, or a threat to the mother's health. This was so gutsy that columnist Lorne Gunter semi-defended Mr. Day with sentences like these: "Day is not a dolt; indeed he is a very clever man. He is not a religious fanatic bent on shackling women to their stoves and fitting their ovaries for lock-boxes; indeed, although he has a deep Christian faith, he is at least as tolerant of differing viewpoints as any of his critics. Nor is he a strategic moron."
Thanks, Mr. Gunter, who also wrote at the end of the campaign that "Mr. Day will now be compelled to leave centre-stage before he has had a chance to show Canadians the real him." Maybe, but Mr. Harper, seeking party unity, named Mr. Day "foreign affairs critic," the CA equivalent of Britain's "shadow" Secretary of State. Perhaps he'll be back, but that will take press support rather than ridicule. Disinclined to win an election over the broken bodies of unborn children, he will need not just advertising before elections, but newspapers and magazines that can consistently make Canadians understand why protection of the unborn is non-negotiable.
Publications in the United States also need to tell the truth. Right now, many Christian university students receive little if any intellectual support. Many are capable of holding their own in general discussions, but in a humanities classroom interrogation by a hostile professor is too much. In such courses, Christians are sometimes compared to Nazis; Christianity is viewed as an institution "created" for societal control; and a student who says Christianity is true is roundly criticized for showing "insensitivity" to the feelings of others. Sounds like the Canadian election.
A potential silver lining in the mostly dark cloud of campaign-finance reform is that, if the Supreme Court does uphold the measure, it will be harder for advocacy organizations to buy ads. That's a silver lining-you heard right-because maybe Christians will do more of what we should have been doing over recent decades. Instead of throwing tens of millions into campaigns every two or four years and complaining about media bias, we should invest those funds in news networks that can thoughtfully report from a biblical worldview. Campaign-finance reform removes power from overt advocates and gives more money to covert press advocates, which is why The New York Times and The Washington Post pushed so hard for it.
Stockwell Day's road will be hard, and so will ours in America. He and we will have to pray mightily and also outwork those who currently dominate media and academia. Christians are now immigrants to these fields, and like other immigrants we'll have to labor at least twice as hard to gain and expand footholds.