Book Review: The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper. By Lloyd Mackey. ECW Press 2005. Pp. 221. $32.95. ISBN: 1-559-22713-0.

In the past, the religious background of a political leader was seen as non-consequential by political observers. A simple reference might have been acknowledged but a deep analysis of its significance was simply ignored. Anyone with a religious
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  59782705. DOC 6/2/2011 6/2/2011 T  HE P ILGRIMAGE   OF  S TEPHEN H  ARPER . By Lloyd Mackey. ECW Press2005. Pp. 221. $32.95. ISBN: 1-559-22713-0.  The political landscape in Canada changed on January 23, 2006. For the first time since 1993, aconservative prime minister took office. Of greatersignificance is the fact that Prime Minister StephenHarper is openly religious—the first prime minister since John Diefenbaker (1957-63) to openly espouseChristianity. Americans may find Canadian discomfortover the religiosity of its highest office holder bewildering—but for those Canadian opinion makers in academia andmedia who pride themselves as being “unique” fromAmerica, it is unsettling to hear their prime minister endhis speeches with “God bless Canada.” It rings toosimilar to the “God bless America” benediction of U.S.presidents.In the past, the religious background of a politicalleader was seen as non-consequential by politicalobservers. A simple reference might have beenacknowledged but a deep analysis of its significance wassimply ignored. Anyone with a religious worldviewunderstands that all of life is viewed through that lenswhich gives meaning and direction. Political academicsare only now awakening to the role that religion hasplayed and is playing in the lives of government leaders.Lloyd Mackey, now a “retired” political journalist, hasmade a considerable contribution to highlight thesignificance religion has played in the life of StephenHarper. This work is a testament to the fact that religionmatters and that one cannot truly understand the politicsof a leader until you also understand and appreciate hisor her religious beliefs. Bifurcation of faith from theprofessional life is not only unwise, it is dishonest—itcannot present a complete whole of who an individual is.Harper’s pilgrimage is more cerebral than emotional.His religious views were shaped in part by such thinkersas C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeride, William Buckley andReinhold Niebuhr. Though raised with a United Church-Presbyterian background, Harper now worships with theChristian and Missionary Alliance Church. While he takes 101  59782705. DOC 6/2/2011 6/2/2011 102  JOURNAL OF LAW & RELIGION  [Vol. XXII his faith seriously, he stops “short of being obsessed bymatters religious.” Religion is part of who he is—but notall of who he is. Mackey highlights Harper’s role as fatherto his two young children—Benjamin and Rachel—andhusband of Laureen. They attend church regularly—herelishes his role as a “hockey Dad” to his son—and heplays board games with his daughter.Mackey’s presentation not only explains the religiouspilgrimage of the Prime Minister but also describes hispolitical journey. The general audience would benefitfrom this work as it provides sufficient background tounderstand   both. The reader is not expected to know theintricacies of conservative Canadian politics. Mackeyprovides the necessary background to enable the readerto gain an appreciation of where Harper fits in Canada’saffairs of state. Nor is the reader expected to know theminutiae of religious theology of Canadian churches—what is needed is presented. This methodology servesthe book well—making it appealing to a greater audience.With this volume, Mackey has broken new ground inCanadian political affairs. Perhaps it is an indication thateven in Canada, the media are beginning to recognizethat religion, while not the only determining factor of apolitician’s frame of reference, is nevertheless one worthunderstanding.Barry W. Bussey * * *General Counsel, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada, Oshawa,ON, Canada.
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