Christian socialism

Christian socialism

Christian socialism, term used in Great Britain and the United States for a kind of socialism growing out of the clash between Christian ideals and the effects of competitive business. In Europe, it usually refers to a party or trade union directed by religious leaders in contrast to socialist unions and parties. The movement was begun in England in 1848, after the failure of Chartism. Influenced by Carlyle, Southey, Coleridge, and the Fourierists, rather than by Marx, such men as John Ludlow, Frederick Denison Maurice, and Charles Kingsley sought to encourage the laboring masses and the church to cooperate against capitalism. They published periodicals and tracts, promoted workingmen's associations, founded (1854) a workingmen's college, and helped achieve some general reforms. Though their experiments in producers' cooperation failed, their traditions were carried on by the Fabian Society, by adherents of guild socialism, and by several Roman Catholic groups. The movement in the United States was organized with the formation (1889) of the Society of Christian Socialists, although there had been earlier activity by Washington Gladden, Richard Theodore Ely, and others.

See C. E. Raven, Christian Socialism, 1848-1854 (1920, repr. 1968); J. C. Cort, Christian Socialism (1988).

Christian socialism generally refers to those on the Christian left whose politics are both Christian and socialist and who see these two philosophies as being interrelated. This category can include Liberation theology and the doctrine of the social gospel. The term "Christian Socialism" is used in this sense by organizations such as the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM), a specifically Christian grouping affiliated with the British Labour Party. The term also pertains to such earlier figures as the nineteenth century writers Frederick Denison Maurice (The Kingdom of Christ, 1838), Charles Kingsley (Water-Babies, 1863), Thomas Hughes (Tom Brown's Schooldays, 1857), Frederick James Furnivall (co-creator of the Oxford English Dictionary), Adin Ballou (Practical Christian Socialism, 1854), and Francis Bellamy (a Baptist minister and the author of the United States' Pledge of Allegiance).

On the Catholic side, the Rerum Novarum encyclical letter of Leo XIII (1891) was the starting point of a Teaching on social questions that was expanded and updated all through the 20th century. Though avoiding the word Socialism (as the Socialist movements of the day were anti-religious) the encyclical promotes a kind of corporatism based on social solidarity among the classes with respects for the needs and rights of all. In the more Catholic countries of Europe the encyclical's teaching was the inspiration that led to the formation of new Christian-inspired Socialist parties.

A number of Christian socialist movements and political parties throughout the world group themselves into the International League of Religious Socialists. It has member organizations in 21 countries representing 200,000 members.

Christian socialists draw parallels between what some have characterized as the egalitarian and anti-establishment message of Jesus, who according to Christian Gospel spoke against the religious authorities of his time, and the egalitarian, anti-establishment, and sometimes anti-clerical message of most contemporary socialisms. Some Christian Socialists have gone as far as to become active Communists (see Christian communism). This phenomenon was most common among Christian missionaries in China, the most notable being James Gareth Endicott, who became supportive of the struggle of the Communist Party of China in the 1930s and 1940s.

Christian socialism is not to be confused with certain parties with "Christian Social" in their names which are found in the German-speaking world, such as the contemporary Christian Social Union in Bavaria or the Christian Social Party in Austria-Hungary circa 1900. Such parties do not claim to be socialist, nor are they considered socialist by others. The term Christian Democrat is more appropriately applied to the contemporary parties.

Christian socialist parties

Prominent Christian socialists

The British Labour Party and Australian Labor Party have both been influenced by Christian socialism, and many figures from both parties could be considered to be Christian socialists, depending on the definition of 'socialism' used.

Former British Labour leader Tony Blair is a member of the Christian Socialist Movement although his adherence to Christian Socialist ideals are highly disputed.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wrote in 2006 that "A Christian perspective, informed by a social gospel or Christian socialist tradition, should not be rejected contemptuously by secular politicians as if these views are an unwelcome intrusion into the political sphere. However he also described socialism as an "arcane, 19th century" doctrine and stated that "I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I never will be a socialist.

Quotes

If we all came of the same father and mother, of Adam and Eve, how can they say or prove that they are better than we, if it be not that they make us gain for them by our toil what they spend in their pride?|4=John Ball

Socialism which means love, cooperation and brotherhood in every department of human affairs, is the only outward expression of a Christian's faith. I am firmly convinced that whether they know it or not, all who approve and accept competition and struggle against each other as the means whereby we gain our daily bread, do indeed betray and make of no effect the "will of God."|4=George Lansbury

Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation. If you really want to look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ

He [Jesus] accompanied me in difficult times, in crucial moments. So Jesus Christ is no doubt a historical figure— he was someone who rebelled, an anti-imperialist guy. He confronted the Roman Empire. Because who might think that Jesus was a capitalist? No. Judas was the capitalist, for taking the coins! Christ was a revolutionary. He confronted the religious hierarchies. He confronted the economic power of the time. He preferred death in the defense of his humanistic ideals, who fostered change. He is our Jesus Christ.|4=Hugo Chávez

See also

References

  • Agrarian socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
  • The Aftermath with Autobiography of the Author (John Bedford Leno published By Reeves & Turner, London 1892)

External links

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