Gospelling Socially

My thoughts were stirred toward the Social Gospel movement by a fantastic guest lecturer in my Philosophy of Religion class this morning.  So, I thought I might post a little from my old historical friend, Walter Rauschenbusch, an early twentieth century Baptist minister whose work I discovered while living in western North Carolina.  He taught at Rochester Divinty School in upstate New York.  It just so happens to be the place where I took my ordination exams for the PC(USA).  What Rauschenbusch had to say in the second decade of the twentieth century continues to ring eerily true in the second decade of the twenty-first, especially in light of the recent frustrations exposed by the convulsions of Occupy Wall Street:

The natural resources of the country are passing into the control of a minority.  An ever increasing number of people are henceforth to live in a land owned by an ever decreasing number.  The means of traffic are the arteries of the social body; every freight car is a blood corpuscle charged with life.  We have allowed private persons to put their thumb where they can constrict the life blood of the nation at will.  The common people have financed the industry of the country with their savings, but the control of the industry has passed out of their hands almost completely.  The profits of our common work are absorbed by a limited group; the mass of the people are permanently reduced to wage-earning positions.  The cost of living has been raised by unseen hands until several millions of our nation are unable to earn even the bare minimum which social science declares necessary for health and decency, and all families living on a fixed income have felt a mysterious and suffocating pressure.

All this was the necessary outcome of our economic system, but it was a sore surprise to most of us when the process began to culminate and we saw the end of our own doings…

…Sin is the greatest preacher of repentance.  Give it time, and it will cool our lust in shame.  When God wants to halt a proud man who is going wrong, he lets him go the full length and find out the latter end for himself.  That is what he has done with our nation in its headlong ride on the road of covetousness.  Mammonism stands convicted by its own works.  It was time for us to turn.

We are turning…

…Were you ever converted to God?  Do you remember the change in your attitude to all the world?  Is not this the new life which is running through our people the same great change on a national scale?  This is religious energy, rising from the depth of that infinite spiritual life in which we all live and move and have our being.  This is God.

Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianizing the Social Order, 1916

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918)

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