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What Has Happened to Post-Christian Canada?

  • John G. Stackhouse

A dozen years ago, I was sitting in a suburban Vancouver church on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for my young sons’ piano recital to start. I looked around the rented facility, new to me, and noticed an impressionistic painting of the crucifixion toward the front of the sanctuary.

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1 Noll, Mark A., “What Happened to Christian Canada?Church History 75 (June 2006): 245–73.

2 Martin, David, “Canada in Comparative Perspective,” in Rethinking Church, State, and Modernity: Canada between Europe and America, ed. Lyon, David and Van Die, Marguerite (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 2333.

3 Bibby, Reginald W., Resilient Gods: Being Pro-Religious, Low Religious, or No Religious in Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2017).

4 Bibby, Reginald W., Beyond the Gods & Back: Religion's Demise and Rise and Why It Matters (self-published, 2011).

5 Ibid., 7.

6 Ibid., 7–8.

7 Ibid., 17.

8 Ibid., 18.

9 Ibid., 20.

10 Ibid., 24.

11 Rieff, Philip, The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud (New York: Harper, 1965); Christian Smith with Denton, Melinda Dunquist, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

12 Bibby, Resilient Gods, 27.

13 Ibid., 33–34.

14 Ibid., 51.

15 Ibid., 74.

16 Ibid., 154.

17 Bellah, Robert et al. , Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

18 Clark, Brian and Macdonald, Stuart, Leaving Christianity: Changing Allegiances in Canada since 1945 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2017).

19 Ibid., 5–6.

20 Ibid., 141.

21 Ibid., 144.

22 Ibid., 149.

23 Ibid., 148.

24 Ibid., 163.

25 Ibid., 211.

26 Schweitzer, Don, ed., The United Church of Canada: A History (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012).

27 Ibid., xi.

28 Ibid., xiii.

29 Ibid., 282–283.

30 Airhart, Phyllis D., A Church with the Soul of a Nation: Making and Remaking the United Church of Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014).

31 Ibid., 256.

32 Ibid., 222.

33 Catherine Gidney traces a similar trajectory of liberal Protestantism slowly but surely losing its grip on elite society: A Long Eclipse: The Liberal Protestant Establishment and the Canadian University, 1920–1970 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004).

34 Kevin N. Flatt, After Evangelicalism: The Sixties and the United Church of Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press).

35 Ibid., 14.

37 Ibid., 15.

38 Ibid., 44.

39 Airhart, A Church with the Soul of a Nation, 169.

40 Ibid., 293.

41 Berton, Pierre, The Comfortable Pew (Toronto: Lippincott, 1965), 234. For recent research indicating that theology is an important independent variable in the growth of mainline churches, see the following: Haskell, David Millard, Burgoyne, Stephanie, and Flatt, Kevin N., “Factors Influencing Church Choice: An Exploration of Responses from New Attendees at Growing Canadian Mainline Churches,” Canadian Review of Sociology 53 (November 2016): 128; and Haskell, David Millard, Flatt, Kevin N., and Burgoyne, Stephanie, “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy,” Review of Religious Research 58 (May 2016): 515541.

42 Reimer, Sam and Wilkinson, Michael, A Culture of Faith: Evangelical Congregations in Canada (Montreal and Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014), 11.

43 Ibid., 12.

44 Ibid., 62.

45 Ibid., 13.

46 Ibid., 206.

47 Ibid., 52.

48 Ibid., 89.

49 Rayside, David, Sabin, Jerald, and Thomas, Paul E. J., Religion and Canadian Party Politics (Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2017).

50 Buckingham, Janet Epp, Fighting Over God: A Legal and Political History of Religious Freedom in Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014).

51 Ibid., 4.

52 Ibid., 202.

53 Ibid., 222, 175.

54 I confess to a vested interest in this subject, having first drawn attention to these institutions in my Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century: An Introduction to Its Character (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993). A recent exception is the industrious book by Callaway, Tim W., Training Disciplined Soldiers for Christ: The Influence of American Fundamentalism on Prairie Bible Institute (1922–1980) (Calgary: WestBow, 2013).

55 Bowen, Kurt, Christians in a Secular World: The Canadian Experience (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004).

56 Thiessen, Joel, The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2015).

57 Ibid., 153.

58 Ibid., 172.

59 For recent magisterial reflections on this theme, see Hurtado, Larry W., Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2016).

60 I borrow the term “Canada Fire” from Rawlyk, G. A., The Canada Fire: Radical Evangelicalism in British North America, 1775–1812 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994).

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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