Back to the social gospel

Hillary Clinton cited her commitment to the “social gospel” in a speech to United Methodists.   That goes back to the 19th century when many Protestants said that instead of emphasizing the gospel of eternal salvation in Heaven through Christ, they should emphasize a gospel of building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

The social gospel, which inspired all kinds of social reforms and progressive political activism,  became the hallmark of liberal theology.   After World War II, even in liberal theological circles, neo-orthodoxy reacted against the utopianism of the social gospel, though in the 1960s it came back with liberation theology.  Conservative theologies, of course, rejected the social gospel, but today there is arguably a social gospel of the right. [Read more...]

Pulling back from the culture wars?

Church historian Martin Marty discusses how conservative Christians are pulling back from the culture wars.  He cites the leadership of Pope Francis for the Roman Catholics and Russell Moore for the Southern Baptists.  An additional factor is the increasing secularization of the conservative movement, citing the Tea Party’s general indifference to moral issues the church has been concerned with.  (He might have added the active atheism and hostility to Christianity of the hard-core libertarian followers of Ayn Rand.)

Read what Dr. Marty has to say–and what I have to say about what he says– after the jump.   [Read more...]

Prayer and Protest

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the civil rights protest that featured Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his eloquent “I Have a Dream” speech.  The Washington Post printed a number of accounts from people who were there.

Raymond S. Blanks tells about meeting at his Baptist congregation and holding a prayer service before getting on the bus to Washington.  He describes marchers singing hymns and listening to sermons. “Before noon,” he recalls, “the Mall was transformed into a place of prayer, protest and pride.” [Read more...]

From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority

Russell Moore–identified as one of those mythical “Lutheran Baptists“–is the new spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention on social issues. He is taking a different approach from the conventional political activist on the “Christian right.”  He says that Christians have lost the so-called “culture wars” and that the loss of Christian cultural dominance may actually be good for the church.  He says that Christians need to stop thinking of themselves as “the moral majority.”  Instead, they have to see themselves as the “prophetic minority.”

After the jump, excerpts from a Wall Street Journal piece on Dr. Moore by the outstanding Christian writer Naomi Schaefer Riley, who interviewed him for her story. [Read more...]

Letting churches endorse candidates?

A commission is recommending to Congress that churches and other  501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations be allowed to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-extemptions.  Here is the report.  Details after the jump.

I decry the politicization of churches.  And yet I also decry the federal government using the tax code to squelch political speech, which seems to me to deserve particular protection under the 1st Amendment.  Which also protects religious liberty, and some religions do emphasize political action, whether from the right or from the left.

What do you think about this? [Read more...]

When conservative Christians were politically liberal

My point was apparently not clear in yesterday’s post about “government as a force for secularization.”
I’m trying to think through the history of conservative Christian’s stance towards politics. There was indeed a time when many if not most conservative Christians were politically liberal.

I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt, as they say, in small town Oklahoma, where most people were Southern Baptists. (Not us, we belonged to a liberal denomination.) But virtually everyone was liberal politically. There was no Republican Party in the county where I grew up. They were liberal when it came to economic policy. We thrived on government pork barrel projects, with our long-ensconced representatives building dams and lakes and waterways and all kinds of stuff. If there was a problem, we wanted the government to take care of it. And the reason was not resentment of Abraham Lincoln or anything racial. It was fidelity to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. He brought us out of the depression, put us to work, started rural electrification, and on and on. None of our political heroes, from FDR to LBJ, did anything to challenge our Christian faith. It never occurred to them to do so.

Then came the Vietnam war. We were good LBJ Democrats, supporting him in his civil rights bill, the Great Society, and his crusade to bring Democracy to Vietnam. But then came another kind of liberal: The cultural liberal. The hippies and the yippies and the yahoos. Our boys volunteered to fight in Vietnam, but now these people are vilifying them. Then the Democrats started being on their side! Then we were getting things from our government like outlawing school prayer. Some of us saw the wisdom of that, but then the Supreme Court legalized abortion. The tide turned. As I heard people say, I didn’t leave the Democratic party; the Democratic party left me. We became Reagan Democrats. And now my county is solidly Republican.

Of course conservative Christians can be liberal politically. That was arguably the norm up until a few decades ago. But now things have changed. Most conservative Christians, not all, but most, are now alienated from their government, which in their eyes has become a force for secularization. Now they want a smaller government to minimize its power to threaten their way of life and their beliefs.

Could the Democrats win them back by focusing on economic and political liberalism, without the cultural liberalism? I suspect so. ButI don’t think that can happen now.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X