Social Gospel

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The Social Gospel movement seeks to apply Christian ethical teachings to issues of social justice such as economic inequality.

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  • He works for God who works for man.


  • The gospel has been very imperfectly heard by any one to whom it has brought no other tidings than that of personal salvation. For in truth the individual is saved only when he is put into right relations to the community in which he lives, and the establishment of these right relations among men is the very work that Christ came to do. The individual gospel and the social gospel are therefore vitally related, inseparably bound together no more come to the man apart from the community, than life can come to the branch when it is separated from the vine.


  • If one is truly devoted to the religion of Jesus he will seek to rid the earth of social evils. The gospel is social as well as personal.


  • James W. Fifield Jr. ... convinced the industrialists that clergymen could be the means of regaining the upper hand in their war with Roosevelt in the coming years. As men of God, they could give voice to the same conservative complaints as business leaders, but without any suspicion that they were motivated solely by self-interest. ... Conservative clergymen now used their ministerial authority to argue, quite explicitly, that New Dealers were the ones violating the Ten Commandments. ... They insisted that the welfare state was not a means to implement Christ's teaching about caring for the poor and the needy, but rather a perversion of Christian doctrine. In a forceful rejection of the public service themes of the Social Gospel, they argued that the central tenet of Christianity remained the salvation of the individual. If any political and economic system fit with the religious teachings of Christ, it would have to be rooted in a similarly individualistic ethos. Nothing better exemplified such values, they insisted, than the capitalist system of free enterprise.
    • Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (2015), p. 7


  • If, therefore, our personal religious life is likely to be sapped by our devotion to social work, it would be a calamity second to none. But is it really likely that this will happen? The great aim underlying to whole social movement is the creation of a free, just, and brotherly social order. This is the greatest moral task conceivable. Its accomplishment is the manifest will of God for this generation. Every Christian motive is calling us to do it. If it is left undone, millions of lives will be condemned to a deepening moral degradation and to spiritual starvation. Does it look probable that we will lose our contact with God if we plunge too deeply into this work? Does it stand to reason that we shall go astray from Jesus Christ if we engage in the unequal conflict with organized wrong? What kind of ‘spirituality’ is it which is likely to get hurt by being put to work for justice and our fellow-men?


  • It is correctly asserted that the apostles undertook no social propaganda. Paul held no antislavery meetings, and Peter made no public protest against the organized grafting in the Roman system of tax-farming. Of course they did not. Even the most ardent Christian socialist of our day would have stepped softly if he had been in their place. The right of public agitation was very limited in the Roman Empire. Any attempt to arouse the people against the oppression of the government or the special privileges of the possessing classes, would have been choked off with relentless promptness. If, for instance, any one had been known to sow discontent among the vast and ever threatening slave population, — which was not negro, but white, — he would have had short shrift. Society was tensely alert against any possible slave rising. If a slave killed his master, the law provided that every slave of that household should be killed, even if there was no trace of complicity. Upper-class philosophers might permit themselves very noble and liberal sentiments only because there was no connection between them and the masses, and their sentiments ended in perfumed smoke.
Under such circumstances any prudent man will husband his chances of life and usefulness, and drop the seeds of truth warily. If the convictions of William Lloyd Garrison had burned in Paul, we should probably not know that Paul had ever existed. There is no parallel between such a situation and our own in a country where we are ourselves the citizen kings, and where the right of moral agitation is almost unlimited.



  • That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.


  • I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, "Now is that political or social?" He said, "I feed you." Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.
    • Desmond Tutu, as quoted in God’s Mission in the World : An Ecumenical Christian Study Guide on Global Poverty and the Millennium Development Goals (2006)



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