Last week, Stephen Harper rode into Jerusalem in a triumphal procession. It differed significantly from another entry to Jerusalem 20 centuries ago.
Harper rode a limousine, not a donkey. People strewed compliments in his path, rather than clothes and palm branches. And though he received prolonged applause in the Knesset, I didn't hear anyone shouting "Hosanna!"
But perhaps the biggest difference was the content of his remarks. Jesus censured the Jewish establishment; Harper praised it.
He even created a new definition of anti-Semitism. The new anti-Semitism, he told the Knesset, is any criticism of the policies of the nation of Israel. That would make Jesus - born a Jew, a direct descendant of King David, executed as the King of Jews - an anti-Semite.
Cynics have suggested Harper's uncritical support of Israel's policies may have been a political tactic to capture Canada's Jewish votes in 2015. If so, the ploy could backfire. Statistics Canada says Jews make up about one per cent of the Canadian population; Arabs and Muslims roughly twice as many. That discrepancy will only increase with immigration.
And Harper's support of Israel has pretty much ensured the Arab and Muslim vote in Canada will go against him. It will be remembered, for example, that Harper visited Jewish holy sites, but he did not visit Islam's Dome on the Rock.
He took a huge delegation with him to the Middle East - 37 government representatives. Plus 208 non-government people, including one Roman Catholic priest/journalist and 21 rabbis. But, as far as I can tell, not one imam. And no clergy from any Orthodox, Anglican, United, or Lutheran churches, only from the evangelical churches.
Harper and his wife Laureen attend East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa, an evangelical congregation. Its website declares that it accepts the Bible as the authoritative Word of God: "The Old and New Testaments, inerrant as originally given, were verbally inspired by God and are a complete revelation of His will for the salvation of people. They constitute the divine and only rule of Christian faith and practice."
As an individual, Harper is entitled to believe whatever he wants; as prime minister, he isn't. Harper has said he supports Israel wholeheartedly because it is the only democracy in the Middle East. I suspect he's only telling half the truth.
He backs Israel because he believes in the Bible. If he accepts the Bible as authoritative, he has no choice.
When the Hebrew slaves were fleeing from Egypt, God told Moses, "I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession."
The Bible is a little vague about the Promised Land's borders. At first, God simply told Abraham to go "to a land that I will show you;" another time, God promised Abraham everything from the Nile to the Euphrates.
Setting aside those quibbles, the Bible repeatedly asserts Israel's right to occupy land already populated by at least 10 tribes, collectively called the Canaanites (in Greek, the fabled Phoenicians).
For the same reason, I think, Harper is dismantling or redirecting research by Canada's scientists. Instead of doing pure research, the National Research Council is being turned into a service agency for business. With seven per cent of the world's fresh water in Canada, the Experimental Lakes Project deserved its worldwide recognition for environmental research.
Harper shut it down.
Environmental scientists have been muzzled, their studies filtered through a public relations department in Ottawa. Statistics Canada had the validity of its census weakened. Irreplaceable documents have gone into dumpsters as the Harper government closed 25 libraries in 13 federal departments and agencies.
Who needs that information, if everything we really need to know is in the Bible?
But no cuts to armed forces, law enforcement and punishment - functions endorsed in the biblical narrative.
Harper is too smart to declare this doctrine publicly. And the media are too scared to ask questions that might invade his freedom of religion. Ever since the Kennedy campaign in 1960, when Americans feared the Vatican might control the White House, politicians' personal religious beliefs have been out of bounds.
But when they affect political decisions, those beliefs shouldn't be overlooked.
I see Harper as a watered-down (that is, classically Canadian) version of far-right Republicans in the U.S. They make no secret of their desire to eliminate from their education system anything (biology, zoology, evolution, geology, even astronomy) that might conflict with the Bible.
Canadian media have never grilled Harper about his doctrinal convictions. In the shadows of his Israel pilgrimage, perhaps they should.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist.