Opinion

Matthew 6 Has Some Words for Harper's Tories

It's one of the most anti-Conservative chapters in the Bible. So why did Nigel Wright cite it?

By Crawford Kilian 14 Aug 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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In court yesterday, Nigel Wright cited the Bible as motivation for writing a $90K cheque for Mike Duffy without telling his former boss, Stephen Harper.

Northrop Frye, our greatest literary scholar, was also an ordained minister and a deep student of the Bible. He once lamented that today's students, reared in a secular society, approach English literature utterly clueless -- because they don't know the book that inspired that literature.

Charles Dickens, the Stephen King of the 19th century, wrote even for those who needed his books read to them. He knew they would catch his biblical allusions, and appreciate his stories all the more; today you have to go to grad school to understand how the Bible illuminates Bleak House.

So it was striking to see Nigel Wright, as a witness at the Mike Duffy trial, cite the Bible as his motivation for writing a $90,000 cheque for Mr. Duffy without telling his boss Stephen Harper.

As quoted in Bloomberg, Wright said: "I was doing a good deed, and this is sort of Matthew 6. ... You should do these things quietly and not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

Citing the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew reflects Wright's reported devout Christianity, but it was a newsworthy statement in itself to the biblically illiterate reporters covering the trial.

A coded warning for Harper

It may also have been a coded warning to Stephen Harper, because Matthew 6 is one of the most explosively anti-Conservative passages in the Gospels, if not in the entire Bible.

In the King James version, the chapter begins with a punch in the mouth to public do-gooders:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

So Nigel Wright "did alms" in secret to the tune of $90,000 to Mike Duffy, but it's unclear whether he expected the reward to come from God the Father or from Stephen Harper the Boss.

I suspect the former, because Harper and his followers spent the time before calling the election by sounding trumpets about billions of dollars' worth of alms for Canadian voters.

Matthew has a lot more than that to say about Harper and his government. Chapter 6 also condemns those who noisily pray in public (like many of Harper's religious supporters); "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

The Lord's Prayer as anti-Conservative talking points

That's not all. Matthew 6 gives us the Lord's Prayer, which is a point-by-point refutation of Conservative ideology:

Give us [not sell us] this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts [not foreclose on our mortgages] as we forgive our debtors. ...

For if ye forgive men their trespasses [not throw them in the slammer on mandatory minimum sentences], your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

At this point Pierre Poilievre and Paul Calandra may want to loosen their neckties and babble their talking points, but Matthew is not through with the Conservatives just yet:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

This is sage advice as well for corporations like Kinder Morgan, whose pipelines also seem all too rust-prone.

Never mind toiling or spinning

Conservative ideology is obsessed with success through hard work, but not Matthew:

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not better than they? ... Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? ... Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Chopped into quotations and sound bites, even Matthew 6 may sound clichéd. But let him roll, building up momentum from verse to verse, and you understand why a devout Christian like Nigel Wright would invoke him to justify writing a cheque for 90 grand to ease the suffering of a poor beggar like Mike Duffy.

Wright is also a highly intelligent man who has used his intelligence to lay up considerable treasure on earth. A $90,000 cheque is not a good deed like helping an old lady across the street, and Wright must also know verse 24 of Matthew 6, which warns us:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve both God and Mammon.

As Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright assuredly served Mammon. Given his citation of Matthew 6, he sounds like a man struggling to serve God again.

In his famous debate on evolution with Bishop Wilberforce, Julian Huxley is supposed to have listened to the bishop's fatuous arguments and murmured to a friend: "The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands."

Whether Huxley said that or not, Nigel Wright has delivered his former boss into the hands of the Lord -- or the Canadian people.  [Tyee]

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