The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Social Gospel principles continue to inspire newer movements such as Christians Against Poverty. The movement applies Christian principles to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, 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. For the most part, they rejected pre-millennialist theology (which was predominant in the Southern United States), according to which the Second Coming of Christ was imminent, and Christians should devote their energies to preparing for it rather than addressing the issue of social evils. Social Gospel leaders were predominantly liberal politically and theologically.
1889 “He works for God who works for man” Motto of Dawn, a monthly magazine published by Boston Episcopalian minister W. D. P. Bliss, a believer in the Social Gospel.
“The influence of the teachings of the Carpenter’s Son [will] counteract the influence of Mammon.”
“A day will come when] every man shall have according to his needs.”
Labor reformer George McNeill.
1894 “What would Jesus do?” Methodist minister Charles M. Sheldon of Topeka, Kansas, in his pamphlet, “In His Steps”.
c 1890 “Make the world more HOMELIKE” Goal of Frances Willard, founder of the 1 million-member Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
“We who know personal religion by experience know that there is nothing on earth to compare with the moral force exerted by it. It has demonstrated its social efficiency in our own lives....
“All social movements would gain immensely in enthusiasm, persuasiveness, and wisdom if the hearts of their advocates were cleansed and warmed by religious faith. Even those who know religious power only by observation will concede that.
“But will reënforcement work the other way, also? Religion strangthn the social spirit; will the social spirit strengthen personal religion? When a minister gets hot about child labor and wage slavery, is he not apt to get cold about prayer meetings and evangelistic efforts? When young women become interested in social work, do they not often lose their taste for the culture of the spiritual life and the peace of religious meditation?...
“If this is indeed the alternative, we are in a tragic situation, compelled to choose between social righteousness and communion with God.
“Personal religion has a supreme value for its own sake, not merely as a feeder of social morality, but as the highest unfolding of life itself, as the blossoming of our spiritual nature. Spiritual regeneration is the most important fact in any life history. A living experience of God is the crowning knowledge attainable to a human mind....
“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?
“Some of the anxiety about personal religion is due to a subtle lack of faith in religion. Men think it is a fragile thing that will break up and vanish when the customs and formulas which have hitherto encased and protected it are broken and cast aside. Most of us have known religion in one form, and we suppose it can have no other. But religion is the life of God in the soul of man, and is God really so fragile?...
“[P]ersonal religion collapses with some individuals, because in their case it had long been growing hollow and thin.... In reality there was little personal religion to lose, and that little would probably have been lost in some other way....
“A new factor enters the situation when we encounter the influence of ‘scientific socialism.’ It is true, the party platform declares that ‘religion is a private affair.’ The saving of souls is the only industry that socialism distinctly relegates to private enterprise....
“The socialism of continental Europe, taking it by and large, is actively hostile, not only to bad forms of organized religion, but to religion itself.”
Walter Rauschenbusch, from his book, Christianizing the Social Order.