Two summers ago a young friend of mine encountered a youth rally one day while working near Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa. The event was called The Cry andÂ its speakers denounced contemporary Canada butÂ supportedÂ the government of Israel. Faytene Kryskow, one of the organizers, later told an evangelical publication, “There was a sense that it is time for the socially conservative youth of Canada to rise up.” The Cry is coming back to Ottawa on August 23, with similar events planned for Toronto, Iqaluit and St. Johnâ€™s this fall and winter.
Organizers are predictingÂ that the Ottawa event will â€œlikely be the largest non-government event at the Canadian Parliament in recent history.â€ Thatâ€™sÂ a stretch — theyÂ claimed attendance for rallies in 2002 and 2006 that seemed inflated. Yet several thousand young people may well gather for what has been described as â€œan intense time of prayer, worship and preaching.â€
Kryskow, who is described on The Cryâ€™s website as its â€œvisionary directorâ€, is in her early 30s. On her personal website, Kryskow describes herself as an â€œitinerant ministerâ€ and speaker. She will, for example, participate in October 2008 at the All Nations Convocation in Jerusalem, organized by Watchmen for the Nations, a Christian right and pro-Israel group based in the U.S. and Canada. Kryskow also leads a conservative Christian youth group called 4 My Canada, which has purchased a six-bedroom house not far from Parliament Hill to serve as its â€œdiscipleship centreâ€.
Kryskowâ€™s invitation to The Cry in Ottawa paints a bleak picture of Canadian society â€“ â€œgross moral decay, family breakdown, immorality, perversion, abortion, the highest suicide rates in Canadian history and general cultural demise.â€ She blames it all on the â€œthe sexual revolution, the new age movement, secular humanism . . . and the womenâ€™s movement which has transformed into the modern day pro-choice movement.â€ These groups, she says, â€œhave sunk their ideological claws into a generation and have produced a mass of social wreckage and a trail of shattered lives.â€
But Kryskow says there is a new movement afoot. â€œIn this end-time hour a radical generation is being raised up by Holy Spirit with a revelation of the power of mass prayer and fasting,â€ she writes. A â€œtribe of believing radicalsâ€ has succeeded in turning the tide. This tribe, it would appear, has convinced the Harper government to become its vehicle of virtue. Kryskow writes, â€œWe now have a government that has been advancing the cause of righteousness and justice on many fronts and a generation that is catching a vision, from sea to sea, to influence every realm of society.â€
The Ottawa event promises to be a combination of prayer rally and fast, a march, a concert and an action where participants tape shut their mouths in symbolic solidarity with foetuses. There will be â€œabandon worship and fervent prayerâ€– which is a descriptor for charismatic and emotional worship. There will be a prayer for peace â€œwith a leader from Israelâ€ and special visits from as yet unidentified members of Parliament. The Cry says that the Ottawa event and those in other centres will cost $300,000 and asks for donations, which it says are tax receiptable. That means that either The Cry, or another organization assisting in the event is registered as a charitable organization.
The Cry was inspired by an American youth initiative named The Call, which describes itself as yet another â€œdivinely initiatedâ€ prayer group. The Call grew out of large rally in Washington, D.C. in 1997 organized by the Promise Keepers, a Christian right menâ€™s group. A man named Lou Engle claims that following that gathering he had â€œa God-given dreamâ€ to organize a corresponding youth movement. Conservative Christian youth rallied in Washington D.C. in September 2000 and the movement spread from there, including to Canada.
Existing Christian right organizations in Canada have also begun to nurture a youth corps in this country. Kryskow writes that in 2002 â€œthe Lord moved upon the hearts of a cluster of national leaders to raise up a movement of young people in Canada that would petition heaven for His mercy and favour on Canada.â€ Speakers at the The Cryâ€™s 2006 event included David Demian, head of Watchmen for the Nations, and Rob and Fran Parker from the National House of Prayer (NHOP). The NHOP has used its website to promote The Cry and the organizationÂ isÂ opening its doorsÂ to host 35 high-school aged youth who will help with last minute preparations for the Ottawa event. Kryskow has also received attentionÂ from an array of Christian right media, including the television channel 100 Huntley Street, The Miracle Channel, and Christian Week, a publication that is distributed in many churches.
What is one to make of this growing network of prayer and intercessory organizations,Â includingÂ youth groups? They exist within a fundamentalist and charismatic movement known for its emotional and enthusiastic forms of worship, including speaking in tongues, holy laughter, and a belief in powers of prophecy and healing.
They areÂ Christian reconstructionists who believe that â€œGod governsâ€ and that government and all of society must submit to the Bibleâ€™s moral principles. There is no place in this movement for compromise on issues or for ecumenism. A good part of the ardour arises from a millenarian belief that we are approaching end-times, when Christ will return to reward the righteous and punish sinners. Many believe that the return of Jews to Israel and establishing an Israeli state in 1948 was the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy, and a foreshadowing of the second coming. That explains the unyielding supportÂ for Israel.
Many in Canadian prayer and intercessory groups are also following their American counterparts down a republican path. For the past 30 years in the U.S. white evangelical Christians have been the Republican party’s single most reliable community of support, and they remain so despite the unpopularity of the Bush administration. In Canada, the Christian right provides support and succour to the Harper Conservatives, a strategy that is displayed blatantlyÂ by organizers of The Cry.
Fortunately, Canada remains a secular democracy where the ideas of fundamentalists, millenarians and reconstructionists, young or old, can be openly debated. But when you apply their ideas to public policy, itâ€™s creepy; in fact, itâ€™s downright scary.