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A prophet in politics : a biography of J.S. Woodsworth

Woodsworth : a man to remember. MacInnis, Grace, Beyond the social gospel : a study of the intellectual foundations of radical protest politics in early twentieth century Canada. Staples, Janice, Microform , Toward socialism : selections from the writings of J. Woodsworth ; edited by Edith Fowke. Power : J. Woodsworth and W.

James Shaver Woodsworth

Mackenzie King : a play in two acts. Johannson, Robert, Book , Human welfare, rights, and social activism : rethinking the legacy of J. Fool for Christ : the political thought of J. Mills, Allen George, Book , Woodsworth--personal recollections. You're on page 1 2 Next page. Items that I can Irvine was also motivated by his Christian beliefs.

In the s and s the industrial working class was growing, but not as quickly as those employed in the tertiary sector, and there were still only , unionised workers in the s. The Social Gospel allowed candidates to openly defend their variety of democratic socialism from within a set of widely-held Christian moral values. The very name they chose, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, accentuated the ideals of Christian brotherhood and charity, rather than focusing on international revolution as the Communists were doing with limited success.

The Canadian Historical Review

In its literature, the CCF took pains to present its policy as being founded on the same Christian morality that had inspired the pontifical encyclicals. In French Canada, the CCF had to deal not only with a highly conservative clergy, but also with the reticence of French Canada generally in face of a political party that was considered as both Protestant and English-speaking.

French Canadians were concerned with the fight against assimilation — la politique de la survivance — and this defensive strategy was hardly compatible with the development of an open partnership whether it be based on politics or on ecumenism. The CCF recognised this weakness, of course, and strove to combat it. English and French workers are brothers in misery. However hard proponents of the Social Gospel within the CCF tried to combat the label of extremism, by insisting on their Christian credentials and focusing on areas of common ground between the social concerns in the encyclicals and their own tradition, the Catholic clergy of English Canada based its analysis on the works of Pope Leo XIII which had strongly condemned collective ownership.

CCF members could hardly deny that the nationalisation of banks and key industries was one of the central planks in their platform. Moreover, the Catholic clergy in English already had privileged access to Canadian political leaders from the two traditional parties, and preferred to talk about social reform from within olitical structure which had always served them well in the past. To quote directly from this document:. People are confused as to what a Socialist is, as to what he stands for and as to what he hopes to achieve.

Throughout the ages it has often been the fate of those who have sought to replace the evil-that-is with the good-that-ought-to-be to be misunderstood. The only gospel worthy of the attention of whole of humanity has been summed up for us by its greatest Exponent. Why should we be ashamed? We see the party espousing the same convictions made popular by the Social Gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch. Like Rauschenbusch, the CCF document presents the early Christians as social activists working to transform the world.

Like Rauschenbusch, the party presents the idea that working for social justice is a moral obligation for the true Christian. However, in the examples provided of the introduction of Old Age Pensions or of the abolition of slavery, we are clearly in the domain of social reform conducted from within the existing system.

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The CCF may well insist that they are not ashamed to be called socialists, but for them a true socialist works in the name of brotherly love, and refuses the radicalism of the Communists who not only rejected Christianity, but who also called into question the middle-class attachment to small-scale property rights. But even in the secular, intellectual circles of Central Canada, there had been a strong Social Gospel tradition among influential party officials. The discourse presented by the influential League for Social Reconstruction in the s is a case in point.

This was a group that had no official religious ties, but whose leadership included several United Church ministers, 21 and whose most famous spokesman and writer, Frank Scott,was the son of a clergyman. The program was presented as secular, but when it insisted on sharing wealth, it did so in a manner which opened the door to left-leaning Christians. The CCF hoped to put an end to class exploitation, but from within a framework that accepted private ownership, especially that of the individual family farm.

This type of policy was chosen, not only for the strategic reasons of building widespread support and maintaining the farmer-labour coalition but also because the Christian concept of a brotherhood of man permeated thinking and convinced members of the possibility of reforming the capitalist system without abandoning their faith, unlike their Communist counterparts. Not surprisingly, the marked presence of left-leaning Christians in the party leadership was translated into a political programme inspired by the Social Gospel tradition.

The change in name was of symbolic importance at a time when the CCF leadership was attempting to strengthen its ties with the Canadian Labour Congress. The new party was to be seen as a true alliance between organised labour and the CCF, rather than simply a left-wing party that shared some of the objectives of the union movement. However, even in , the party took care not to abandon references to its Social Gospel heritage. This decision to maintain a visible link to the Christian brotherhood message that had been so important to the previous generation of party faithful has proved to be electorally viable.

In fact, the NDP has continued to find fertile ground in Canada for its left-wing reformist discourse compatible with Christian social theology, and, contrary to the short-lived Progressive Party or to the marginalised Communist Party, it has become a permanent feature of the Canadian political landscape. These results reveal that a form of social democracy compatible with Christian values has been electorally viable in Canada.

But, this theological current has also had a wide impact on Canadian political culture generally. Studies reveal that Canadians are schematically less individualistic than Americans and more inclined to show confidence in government to find collective solutions to societal concerns. While Canadian religious history is marked by the domination of a few hierarchically organised national churches that have reinforced a collectivist vision of society, the American congregationalist tradition has accentuated a more individualist political discourse.

Canada developed respecting established churches: Anglican, Catholic and more recently, the United Church which was founded with the specific objective of creating a national church for Canada along the lines of those in Europe. Traditionally the great majority of Canadian Christians have belonged to one of these three hierarchically organised churches which conceive of the community of the faithful at the national, or even international level, distinguishing themselves clearly from the small Protestant sect tradition south of the border for whom the community of Christians represents primarily the small group of faithful belonging to a local church.

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This difference has been crucial to the development of more collectivist attitudes in Canada in contrast to the American model of rugged individualism. The collectivist approach to Christianity has made Canadians traditionally responsive to left-of-centre political appeals which echo social messages from the pulpit. Indeed, the debate on how the country should deal with the thorny issue of abortion is particularly revealing. While in the United States it has been manipulated by the Republican Party to maximize support, in Canada the situation is the reverse.

On the northern side of the continental border, therefore, the abortion issue has been deliberately used to discourage pro-choice citizens from voting Conservative. However, in contemporary Canada, as elsewhere, the Social Gospel influence is on the wane. Two trends are at work: rising levels of secularisation and a conservative Evangelical wave coming up from the South.

The former seems to represent the most serious threat to the political influence of the Social Gospel tradition. The high degree of secularisation is certainly of particular importance in the contemporary study of religion and politics in Canada. Support in Central Canada is now structured around sections of the population who would not likely respond favourably to the openly Christian rhetoric which was so effective for the CCF.

For one thing, adopting an overtly Christian discourse would not mesh well with the contemporary policy of multiculturalism which is particularly popular with the younger, highly urbanised, secular voters who support the NDP today. As for the rise of more conservative evangelical forms of Christianity, the jury is still out as to the extent of their influence in contemporary Canada.

Reginald Bibby suggests that Canada is in the early stages of a religious revival, but the lack of sufficient historical distance makes his thesis appear at this stage to be more of an intuition than a documented reality. The rise in religious activity is therefore not likely to allow Canadian political culture to renew with its Social Gospel tradition.

Instead, the growing evangelical and charismatic focus on individual salvation will tend to reinforce right-wing political parties proposing a less pervasive role for the state and more conservative positions on social issues, thereby bringing Canada a little closer to its southern neighbour. Woodsworth , Toronto: University of Toronto Press, As a faculty member at Wesley College in Brandon, Manitoba, Bland had great influence on a new generation of church ministers, inspiring young clergy to take their theological training into the social and political realms.

The two movements certainly share some common features, notably of which the most important are that both were middle-class and reformist rather than revolutionary. However, their political and social environments were notably different distinctive political traditions on the two sides of the border, and important differences in their religious make-up.

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Chronologically the two movements were also slightly out of synch: the Canadian term designates a short-lived political party formed in , while the American usage typically refers not only to a party, but to an era of reform running from the s into the s. The party was led by William Aberhardt between and and then by Ernest Manning until ; both were fundamentalist Christians. The best analysis of Social Credit can be found in C. Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta. The name, which refers to a group that stimulates or enlivens the main body, illustrates the philosophy at work.

Woodsworth , Toronto: University of Toronto Press, , Files, National Library and Archives of Canada. In , due to his political radicalism and his unorthodox positions on church doctrine, he found himself accused of heresy by a church elder in his first congregation in Ontario.