The Canadian Social Gospel: 1880-1960
What is the social gospel?
Date Written: 14/07/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22841
What is the social gospel? It is an attempt to apply Christianity to the collective ills of an industrializing society, and was a major force in Canadian religious, social and political life from the 1880s to the 1960s.
What is the social gospel? It is an attempt to apply Christianity to the collective ills of an industrializing society, and was a major force in Canadian religious, social and political life from the 1880s to the 1960s. The social gospel played a specific and important role in two great periods of Canadian history: what I have called in Unearthing Canada's Hidden Past: a short history of adult education (2013) the periods of the great transformation (1880-1929) and the "crisis of democracy" (1929-1960).
The recent focus on the "Christian Right" in the US and Canada has obscured the close relationship between church members and left-wing political parties in Canadian history. Christians on the left were the driving force behind the creation of the Canadian Co-operative Federation (CCF) in 1933, the first viable social democratic party in Canada. Christian socialists played active and innovative roles in the League for Social Reconstruction and the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order (both primarily Protestant organizations) in the 1930s and 1940s.
A minority of Canadian Anglicans took strong left-wing stands through the organization called The Anglican Fellowship for Social Action, active in the 1940s, and animated by an incarnational and sacramental theology. Both Anglicans and Roman Catholics were deeply committed to a society viewed as a corporate unity within which all parts have a responsibility for the welfare of the other. This understanding of society as an organic unity set many conservative Anglo-Catholics against Liberal individualism and evangelical pietism.