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Religion History

The Uncomfortable Pew

Christianity and the New Left in Toronto

by (author) Bruce Douville

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
May 2021
History, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2021
    List Price

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In The Uncomfortable Pew Bruce Douville explores the relationship between Christianity and the New Left in English Canada from 1959 to 1975. Focusing primarily on Toronto, he examines the impact that left-wing student radicalism had on Canada's largest Christian denominations, and the role that Christianity played in shaping Canada’s New Left.

Based on extensive archival research and oral interviews, this study reconstructs the social and intellectual worlds of young radicals who saw themselves as part of both the church and the revolution. Douville looks at major communities of faith and action, including the Student Christian Movement, Kairos, and the Latin American Working Group, and explains what made these and other groups effective incubators for left-wing student activism. He also sheds light on Canada's Roman Catholic, Anglican, and United churches and the ways that progressive older Christians engaged with radical youth and the issues that concerned them, including the Vietnam War, anti-imperialism around the globe, women’s liberation, and gay liberation.

Challenging the idea that the New Left was atheistic and secular, The Uncomfortable Pew reveals that many young activists began their careers in student Christian organizations, and these religious and social movements deeply influenced each other. While the era was one of crisis and decline for leading Canadian churches, Douville shows how Christianity retained an important measure of influence during a period of radical social change.

About the author

Bruce Douville is a sessional instructor in history at Algoma University.

Bruce Douville's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The Uncomfortable Pew develops the notion of the 'irony' of secular theology, which is key to understanding the liberal wings of Canadian churches and the 1960s heritage. Douville’s conclusions are sophisticated and nuanced. This is an important and intriguing book." Sandra Beardsall, St Andrew’s College, University of Saskatchewan