The Canadian Commonwealth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 231 pages of information about The Canadian Commonwealth.

III

What part does religion play in Canada?  In marked distinction to the United Kingdom and the United States, Canada is a church-going nation.  You hear a great deal of the orthodoxy of the Britisher; but if you go to England and go to his church, even to a festal service such as Christmas, you will find that he leaves the orthodoxy mostly to the clergy and the women.  I have again and again seen the pews of the most famous churches in England with barely a scattering of auditors in them.  Of churches where the hard-working manual toiler may be found side by side with the cultured and the idle and the leisured—­there is none.  You also hear a great deal about the heterodoxy of the American; but if you go to his church—­with the exception of the Catholic—­you find that he, too, is leaving his heterodoxy to the clergy and the women.  A few years ago it was almost impossible to gain entrance to a metropolitan church in the United States, where the preacher happened to be a man of ability or fame.  Try it to-day!  Though church music has been improved almost to the excellence of oratorios or grand opera, unless it be a festal service like Easter or Christmas, the pews are only sparsely filled.  I do not think I am exaggerating when I say this is as true of the country districts as of the city.  All through New England are countless country churches that have had to be permanently closed for lack of attendance.  But between the churches of the United Kingdom and the United States is a marked difference—­it is the air of the preacher.  The Englishman is positively sublime in his unconsciousness of the fact that he had lost a grip of his people.  The American knows and does not blink the fact and is frantically endeavoring by social service, by popular lectures, by music, by current topics, by vehement eloquence to regain the grip of his people; and it must cut a live manly man to the quick to know that his best efforts on salvation are too often expended on dear old saintly ladies, who could not be damned if they tried.

Now the curious thing about Canada, which I don’t attempt in the least to explain, is this:  whether the preacher pules, or whines, or moons, or shouts to the rafters, or is gifted with the eloquence to touch “the quick and the dead”; whether the music be a symphony or a dolorous horror of discords; whether there be social service or old-fashioned theology; whether, in fact, the preacher be some raw ignorant stripling from the theological seminary, or a man of divine inspiration and power—­whatever is or is not, if the church is a church, from Halifax to Vancouver, you find it full.  I have no explanation of this fact.  I set it down.  Canadians are a vigorously virile people in their church-going.  They do it with all their might.  I sometimes think that the church does for Canada what music does for continental nations, what dollar-chasing and amusement

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The Canadian Commonwealth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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