Readings: Oh, those Christian socialists!

Jesus redistributed the fishes and the loaves, right? Photo by Pixabay on

JSTOR Daily:

In response, Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor ministering to the poor on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, proposed an evangelical viewpoint that strongly embraced socialist ideals.

In the present-day United States, we tend to associate evangelical Christians with conservative politics. But at the turn of the twentieth century, American Christian evangelicals were at the forefront of socialism.

During an 1891 trip to Germany, Rauschenbusch began formulating his view of the Kingdom of God, a concept that Jesus in the Gospels regularly refers to. Often, Jesus’s teaching is seen as referring to the afterlife, but Rauschenbusch and other Social Gospel thinkers saw it as relevant to contemporary times. Rauschenbusch promoted the idea that Christians needed to transform society to favor the poor and the oppressed.

Rauschenbusch challenged Christians to look at the prophets of ancient Israel described in the Hebrew Bible as fierce supporters of the poor who condemned the rich and powerful, to see Jesus as part of that line of prophets who challenged the rich and the powerful, and to view the early Christian communities described in the Acts of the Apostles as socialist utopias where material needs were taken care of.

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