Understand—the Canadian is no more religious than the American or the Britisher. He drinks as much whisky as they do light wines and beer. He “cusses” in the same unholy vernacular, only more vigorously. He strikes back as quickly. He hits as hard. He gives his enemy one cheek and then the other, and then both feet and fists; but the Canadian goes to church. One of the most amazing sights of the new frontier cities is to see a church debouching of a Sunday night. The people come out in black floods. In one foreign church in Winnipeg is a membership of four thousand. I think of a little industrial city of Ontario where there is a church—one of three—with a larger membership than any single church in the city of New York.
Canadians not only go to church but they dig down in their pockets for the church. In little frontier cities of the West more is being spent on magnificent temples of worship than has been spent on some European cathedrals. Granted the effects are sometimes garish and squarish and dollar-loud. This is not an age when artisans spend a lifetime carving a single door or a single facade; but when a little place—of say seventeen thousand people—spends one hundred thousand dollars on a church, somebody has laid down the cash; and the Canadian is not a man who spends his cash for no worth. That cash represents something for which he cares almightily in Canadian life. What is it? Frankly I do not know, but I think it is that the church visualizes Canada’s ideal in a vision. We love and lose and reach forward to the last. Where? We toil and strive and attain. To what end? Our successes fail, and our failures succeed. Why? And love lights the daily path. But where to? Religion helps to visualize the answers to those questions for Canada.
Another characteristic about religion in Canada, which is very remarkable in an era of decadence in belief, is that the church is a man’s job. Unless in some of the little semi-deserted hamlets in the far East, you will find in Canada churches as many men as women. In the West you will find more men than women. The church is not relegated to “the dear sisters.” Shoulder to shoulder men and women carry the burden joyfully together, which, perhaps, accounts for the support the church receives from young men. An episode concerning “the dear sisters” will long be remembered of one synod in Montreal. A poor little English curate had come out as a missionary to the Indians of the Northwest. Such misfits are pitiable,