Beyond the Noise of Solemn Assemblies

The Protestant Ethic and the Quest for Social Justice in Canada

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Richard Allen
McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion
  • Montreal, Quebec: 
    McGill-Queen's University Press
    , January
     344 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Bill Blaikie forthcoming.


Since the 1970s Richard Allen's scholarship on the social gospel has broken new ground in the field of Canadian social and religious history by recovering key aspects of the tradition and its contribution to reform movements and politics. Beyond the Noise of Solemn Assemblies collects and extends many of his classic works to present a comprehensive overview of a major thread in the fabric of the country. 

Observing the mutual foundations of political and religious traditions in myth and arguing that the sacred and the secular belong together in discussions of public affairs, Allen contests the view that religion is personal and isolated from the public square. He discusses a range of topics: the transition from providential to progressive thought in nineteenth-century Canada; the new spirituality of social solidarity articulated by Winnipeg college students in the 1890s; the role of the social gospel in pioneering urban reform; farmers and workers finding in radical Christianity legitimation for political revolt; Christian intellectuals in the 1930s framing a revolutionary prospectus for Depression-era Canada; the significance of Norman Bethune's religious upbringing for his life and work; strategically focused post-war ecumenical coalitions like Project North and the Latin American Working Group; and the prospects for democratic socialism at the end of the Cold War. 

Opening with a chapter relating the author's upbringing in a ministerial household dedicated to the Protestant ethic as the spirit of socialism, Beyond the Noise of Solemn Assemblies represents a significant contribution to understanding the social Christian movement in Canada.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Richard Allen is Adjunct Professor of History at McMaster University, where he was Senior Professor of Canadian History from 1974 to 1988. Elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1982, he served as a cabinet minister from 1990 to 1995. Upon retirement, he became Chair of the Board of Wesley Urban Ministries in Hamilton, Ontario.

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