Friday, December 10, 2010

Liberalism – The Social Gospel 99

The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially social justice, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, weak labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. Theologically, the Social Gospel leaders were overwhelmingly post-millennialist. That is because they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. Social Gospel leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing[clarification needed] of the Progressive Movement and most were theologically liberal, although they were typically conservative when it came to their views on social issues. Important leaders include Richard T. Ely, Washington Gladden, and Walter Rauschenbusch.

Although most scholars agree that the Social Gospel movement peaked in the early 20th century, there is disagreement over when the movement began to decline, with some asserting that the destruction and trauma caused by World War I left many disillusioned with the Social Gospel's ideals while others argue that World War I actually stimulated the Social Gospelers' reform efforts. Theories regarding the decline of the Social Gospel after World War I often cite the rise of neo-orthodoxy as a contributing factor in the movement's decline . Some believe that many of the Social Gospel's ideas reappeared in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. "Social Gospel" principles continue to inspire newer movements such as Christians Against Poverty.

This Wikipedia article lists as “major figures” the following: Francis of Assisi, Wilhelm E.F. von Ketteler, Pope Leo XIII, · Adolph Kolping, Edward Bellamy, Margaret Wedgwood Benn, Phillip Berryman, · James Hal Cone, Dorothy Day, Toni Negri, Leo Tolstoy, Óscar Romero, Gustavo Gutiérrez,· Abraham Kuyper, Daniel Berrigan, · Philip Berrigan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walter Rauschenbusch, Desmond Tutu  and· Tommy Douglas .

= = = = = = = = = =

The Social Gospel movement was an important part of the development of modern liberalism, but it wasn't the originator. Karl Marx probably was. And it didn't maintain its edge and growth after the first world war. The enthusiasm of the Protestant churches in Europe for the “Great War” left them in a state of decline from which they have never recovered (as Phillips states in American Theocracy).

I think it is important to point out the both the Christian Right and Social Gospel followers reject the separation of church and state that Magna Carta implemented to protect the Church from the king and his government. Instead, the “right” leader with a good heart will take it upon his government to be kind and order all public servants also to be compassionate. This mythical benevolent dictator has been sought since Plato and still hasn't been located anywhere.

Instead, I would remind Christians of all political persuasions that power is power and an outsider cannot induct accurately the character, let alone the compassion, of a leader. The Bible tells us so in Proverbs 25:3 when it notes, “The heart of kings is unsearchable.”

Many Christians, including the Christian right, oppose government social programs because the Bible says that the greatest gifts are in secret (Matthew 6:4). Personally, I agree with the Christian right on this point, in spite of the fact that I find the Social Gospel to be correct in the view that the Second Coming isn't right around the corner. However, I am stunned by the arrogance of the Social Gospel in suggesting that compassionate government programs will be effective and therefore conjure Jesus and his Second Coming.

Overall, there is a doctrine here called the Social Gospel which was important in the growth of modern liberalism, but it isn't the dominant root and it isn't growing in its influence.

Modern liberalism is predominantly secular and has become a civil religion which does not honor its philosophical founders nor, to a large extent, know who they are. Although the Social Gospelers provide us with a Biblically contradictory plank of modern liberalism, there is much more, and most of that is secular.

We'll have to look elsewhere for the majority of the values and moieties.

1 comment:

  1. Claudius, as far as Roman emperors go, was rather benevolent, but was also old enough and schooled enough to remember the Republic. On his deathbed he regretted being a benevolent emperor precisely because it led people to believe that tyranny could be good and was quite possibly the final chime in the death knell of the republic. He understood this too late. And many still don't believe him.

    Even the inhabitants of shangr-La were kidnapped and trapped. those two facts alone make it non-utopian.