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The Social Gospel

Pages :   [1]  ~   2  ~   3.


Luther's Betrayal of the Peasants of his day:

I suspect that Lutherís wisdom in those statements developed in his later years, for surely a more spiritually mature Luther would not have sided with the oppressors of the impoverished and oppressed peasants in "the Peasantís War" of 1525.
        In the years immediately prior to 1525, the peasants, inspired by Lutherís anti-church/anti-establishment revolutionary teachings, were finally rising up against their perennial oppressors: the ruling elite, the wealthy landowners and the authoritarian Catholic Church.
        Initially the peasants protested nonviolently. They submitted written demands that they be granted their human rights. Tragically, as is still happening in these modern times, the protest movement was brutally put down by the establishmentís obedient soldiers, and the peasants were compelled to resort to defensive violence, which ended badly for them (shades of the recent nonviolent protests in Egypt and Syria.)
        Luther shocked the peasants when he betrayed them and sided with the one percent ruling elite, whose well-armed soldiers slaughtered them in that brief war. Luther forever lost the support of the peasantry after he had actually called for their annihilation.
        The reality that the briefly optimistic peasants hadnít comprehended was that their oppressors were the very ones that had protected Luther from being hunted down and killed by the soldiers of the pope.

the Theology of the Social Gospel

Did you know that Liberal Christianity was as dominant in the United States in the early decades of the 20th century, as Conservative Christianity has been in its last decades? One of the best books on this subject is "A Theology for the Social Gospel", published in 1922 by one of its leading proponents, the Rev. Walter Raushenbusch (a progressive Baptist).
        There are many used copies of the paperback version still available on the internet, but for those who would like an easy to read digest, the following are excepts of what I considered the best parts:

"The argument of this book is built on the conviction that the social gospel, is a permanent addition to our spiritual outlook and that its arrival constitutes a stage in the development of the Christian religion.
        We need not waste words to prove that the social gospel is being preached.  It is no longer a prophetic and occasional note.  It is a novelty only in backward social or religious communities.  The social gospel has become orthodox . . .  Conservative denominations have formally committed themselves to the fundamental ideas of the social gospel and their practical application.  The plans of great interdenominational organizations are inspired by it.  It has become a constructive force in American politics. . . 
        This new orientation, which is observable in all parts of our religious life, is not simply a prudent adjustment of church methods to changed conditions. . . 
        For many ministers who have come under the influence of the social gospel in mature years, it has signified a religious crisis, and where it has been met successfully, it has brought fresh joy and power, and a distinct enlargement of mind.  It has taken the place of conventional religion in the lives of many outside the Church.  It constitutes the moral power in the propaganda of Socialism.
        All those social groups which distinctly face toward the future, clearly show their need and craving for a social interpretation and application of Christianity.  Whoever wants to hold audiences of working people must establish some connection between religion and their social feelings and experiences.   {p. 3}
        The social movement is the most important ethical and spiritual movement in the modern world, and the social gospel is the response of the Christian consciousness to it.  Therefore it had to be.  The social gospel registers the fact that for the first time in history the spirit of Christianity has had a chance to form a working partnership with real social and psychological science.  It is the religious reaction on the historic advent of democracy.  It seeks to put the democratic spirit, which the Church inherited from Jesus and the prophets, once more in control of the institutions and teachings of the Church.
        The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but enlarged and intensified.  The individualistic gospel has taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart and has inspired us with faith in the willingness and power of God to save every soul that comes to him.  But it has not given us an adequate understanding of the sinfulness of the social order and its share in the sins of all individuals within it.  It has not evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression and extortion.  Both our sense of sin and our faith in salvation have fallen short of the realities under its teaching.  The social gospel seeks to bring men under repentance for their collective sins and to create a more sensitive and more modern conscience.  It calls on us for the faith of the old prophets who believed in the salvation of nations.   (p 5&6}
        When the progress of humanity creates new tasks, such as world-wide missions, or new problems, such as the social problem, theology must connect these with the old fundamentals of our faith and make them Christian tasks and problems.

The Federal Council of Churches'
"Social Creed" of 1908

        We deem it the duty of all Christian people to concern themselves directly with certain practical industrial problems. To us it seems that the churches must stand ó

  • For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
  • For the right of all men to the opportunity for self-maintenance, a right ever to be wisely and strongly safeguarded against encroachments of every kind.
  • For the right of workers to some protection against the hardships often resulting from the swift crises of industrial change.
  • For the principle of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.
  • For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational disease, injuries and mortality.
  • For the abolition of child labor.
  • For such regulation of the conditions of toil for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.
  • For the suppression of the "sweating system."
  • For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practicable point, and for that degree of leisure for all which is a condition of the highest human life.
  • For a release from employment one day in seven.
  • For a living wage as a minimum in every industry, and for the highest wage that each industry can afford.
  • For the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.
  • For suitable provision for the old age of the workers and for those incapacitated by injury.
  • For the abatement of poverty.

To the toilers of America and to those who by organized effort are seeking to lift the crushing burdens of the poor, and to reduce the hardships and uphold the dignity of labor, this Council sends the greeting of human brotherhood and the pledge of sympathy and of help in a cause which belongs to all who follow Christ.

The adjustment of the Christian message to the regeneration of the social order is plainly one of the most difficult tasks ever laid on the intellect of religious leaders.  The pioneers of the social gospel have had a hard time trying to consolidate their old faith and their new aim.  Some have lost their faith; others have come out of the struggle with crippled formulations of truth.  Does not our traditional theology deserve some of the blame for this spiritual wastage because it left these men without spiritual support and allowed them to become the vicarious victims of our theological inefficiency?  If our theology is silent on social salvation, we compel college men and women, workingmen, and theological students, to choose between an unsocial system of theology and an irreligious system of social salvation.  It is not hard to predict the outcome.  If we seek to keep Christian doctrine unchanged, we shall ensure its abandonment. Instead of being an aid in the development of the social gospel, systematic theology has often been a real clog.  When a minister speaks to his people about child labour or the exploitation of the lowly by the strong ; when he insists on adequate food, education, recreation, and a really human opportunity for all, there is response.  People are moved by plain human feeling and by the instinctive convictions which they have learned from Jesus Christ.  But at once there are doubting and dissenting voices.  We are told that environment has no saving power; regeneration is what men need ; we can not have a regenerate society without regenerate individuals ; we do not live for this world but for the life to come; it is not the function of the church to deal with economic questions ; any effort to change the social order before the coming of the Lord is foredoomed to failure.   {pp. 7–8}
        The social gospel does not need the aid of church authority to get hold of our hearts.  It gets hold in spite of such authority when necessary.  {p.  13 }
        Jesus and his followers were laymen.  The people felt that his teaching was different from the arguments of their theologians, less ponderous and more moving.  When Christianity worked its way from the lower to the higher classes, its social sympathies became less democratic and fraternal, its language less simple, and its ideas more speculative, elaborate and remote.  Origen felt he had to apologize for the homely Greek and the simple arguments of Jesus.  Theology became an affair of experts.  The first duty of the laymen was to believe with all their hearts what they could not possibly understand with all their heads.
        The practical result has been that laymen have always assented as they were told, but have made an unconscious private selection of the truths that seemed to contain marrow for them.  The working creed of the common man is usually very brief.  A man may tote a large load of theology and live on a small part of it.  If ministers periodically examined their church members as professors examine their classes, they would find that a man can be in the rain a long time and not become wetter under the skin.  Even in the Middle Ages, when all philosophy was theology and when religious doubt was rare, the laity seem to have had their own system of faith.  In the memoirs of statesmen and artists and merchants, in the songs of the common people, and in the secret symbolism of the masons and other gilds, we find a simple faith which guided their life.  They believed in God and his law, in immortality and retribution, in Christ and his mercy, in the abiding difference between righteousness and evil, and by this faith they tried to do their duty where God had given them their job in life.
        The social gospel approximates lay religion.  It deals with the ethical problems of the present life with which the common man is familiar and which press upon his conscience.  Yet it appeals to God, his will, his kingdom ; to Christ, his spirit, his law.  Audiences who are estranged from the Church and who would listen to theological terminology with frank scorn, will listen with absorbed interest to religious thought when it is linked with their own social problems.   {p. 15-17}
        A correspondent wrote me whose husband, a man of national reputation, had bought stock in a great steel company.  She is a Jewess and a pacifist.  When the plant began to devote itself to the manufacture of shrapnel and bombs in 1915, she felt involved.  But what was her husband to do with the stock?  Would it make things better if he passed the war-stained property to another man?  I know a woman whose father, back in the nineties, took a fortune out of a certain dirty mill town.  She is now living on his fortune; but the children of the mill-hands are living on their misfortune.  No effort of hers can undo more than a fraction of the evil which was set in motion while that fortune was being accumulated.
        If these burdens of conscience were foolish or morbid, increased insight and a purer Christian teaching would lift them.  But it is increased insight and Christian feeling which created them.  An unawakened person does not inquire on whose life juices his big dividends are fattening.  Upper-class minds have been able to live parasitic lives without any fellow-feeling for the peasants or tenants whom they were draining to pay for their leisure.  Modern democracy brings these lower fellow men up to our field of vision.  Then if a man has drawn any real religious feeling from Christ, his participation in the systematized oppression of civilization will, at least at times, seem an intolerable burden and guilt.  Is this morbid?  Or is it morbid to live on without such realization?  Those who today are still without a consciousness of collective wrong must be classified as men of darkened mind. {p. 18-19 }
        In the Old Testament we have a number of accounts describing how men of the highest type of God-consciousness made their fundamental experience of God and received their prophetic mission.  In none of these cases did the prophet struggle for his personal salvation as later Christian saints have done.  His woe did not come through fear of personal damnation, but through his sense of solidarity with his people and through social feeling; his hope and comfort was not for himself alone but for his nation.  This form of religious experience is more distinctively Christian than any form which is caused by fear and which thinks only of self.  It contains larger possibilities of personal growth and religious power.  {p. 20 }
        . . .  the idea of the redemption of the social organism is nothing alien.  It is simply a proper part of the Christian faith in redemption from sin and evil.  As soon as the desire for salvation becomes strong and intelligent enough to look beyond the personal sins of the individual, and to discern how our personality in its intake and output is connected with the social groups to which we belong, the problem of social redemption is before us and we can never again forget it.  It lies like a larger concentric circle around a smaller one.  It is related to our intimate personal salvation like astronomy to physics.  Only spiritual and intellectual immaturity have kept us from seeing it clearly before.  The social gospel is not an alien element in theology.
        Neither is it novel.  The social gospel is, in fact, the oldest gospel of all.  It is 'built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.' Its substance is the Hebrew faith which Jesus himself held.  If the prophets ever talked about the ' plan of redemption,' they meant the social redemption of the nation.  So long as John the Baptist and Jesus were proclaiming the gospel, the Kingdom of God was its central word, and the ethical teaching of both, which was their practical commentary and definition of the Kingdom idea, looked toward a higher social order in which new ethical standards would become practicable.  To the first generation of disciples the hope of the Lord's return meant the hope of a Christian social order on earth under the personal rule of Jesus Christ, and they would have been amazed if they had learned that this hope was to be motioned out of theology and other ideas substituted.
        The social gospel is nothing alien or novel.  When it comes to a question of pedigree and birth-right, it may well turn on the dogmas on which the Catholic and Protestant theologies are based and inquire for their birth certificate.  They are neither dominant in the New Testament nor clearly defined in it.  The more our historical investigations are laying bare the roots of Catholic dogma, the more do we see them running back into alien Greek thought, and not into the substance of Christ's message nor into the Hebrew faith.  We shall not get away again from the central proposition of Harnack's History of Dogma, that the development of Catholic dogma was the process of the Hellenization of Christianity ; in other words, that alien influences streamed into the religion of Jesus Christ and created a theology which he never taught nor intended. {p. 24 }
. . . 
        It is important to realize that the story of the fall is incomparably more fundamental in later theology than it was in biblical thought. . . 
        The original purpose of the story was not to explain the origin of sin, but the origin of death and evil.  There are scarcely any allusions to the story in the Old Testament.  The prophets were deeply conscious of the sins of men, but they did not base their teachings on the doctrine of the fall.  Not till we reach post-biblical Jewish theology is there any general interest in the story of Adam's fall.  Even then the story of the fall of the angels in Genesis VI attracted more interest (than the fall of Adam & Eve).
        In the synoptic sayings of Jesus there is not even a reference to the fall of Adam.  In the fourth gospel there is one allusion, (John viii, 44).  Jesus, of course, had the clearest consciousness of the chasm between the will of God and the actual condition of mankind.  The universality of sin was a matter of course with him ; it was presupposed in all his teaching.  But he was concerned only with those sources of sin which he saw in active work about him : first, the evil heart of man from which all evil words and actions proceed; second, the social stumbling blocks of temptation which make the weak to fall ; and third, the power of the Kingdom of Evil.
        On the other hand the first origin of evil seems to have been so distant in his mind that it did not readily slip into any discussions of sin which are preserved to us.  His interest was practical and not speculative, religious and ethical and not philosophical.
        Not until we come to Paul do we find any full and serious use of the story of the fall in the Bible.  He twice (Romans v and I Corinthians xv) set over against each other the carnal humanity descended from Adam and characterized by sin and mortality, and the spiritual humanity descended from Christ and characterized by holiness and eternal life.  These passages belong to the theological portions of Paul's writings and were eagerly seized by the patristic writers as congenial raw material for their work.
        When once theology concentrated on the story it was expanded by exegetical inferences, by allegorical embellishments, and by typology, until it conveyed far more than it actually contained.  It comes as a shock to realize, for instance, that the story in Genesis itself does not indicate that the writer understood the serpent to be Satan, or Satan to be speaking through the serpent.  Moreover, we find so few traces of any belief in Satan in Hebrew thought before the Exile that it seems doubtful if contemporary readers would have understood him to be meant unless further indications made the reference clear.
        Here, then, we have two different methods of treating the story of the fall.  Theology has given it basic importance.  It has built its entire scheme of thought on the doctrine of the fall.  Jesus and the prophets paid little or no attention to it.  They were able to see sin clearly and to fight it with the highest energy without depending on the doctrine of the fall for a footing.  Only with Paul is the story clearly of religious importance, and even with him it is not as central as for instance the antagonism between spirit and flesh.  It offered him a wide spiritual perspective and a means of glorifying Christ.
        Two things seem to follow.  First, that the traditional doctrine of the fall is the product of speculative interest mainly, and that the most energetic consciousness of sin can exist without drawing strength from this doctrine.  Second, that if the substance of Scriptural thought, the constant and integral trend of biblical convictions is the authoritative element in the Bible, the doctrine of the fall does not seem to have as great an authority as it has long exercised. . .
        The social gospel is above all things practical.  It needs religious ideas which will release energy for heroic opposition against organized evil and for the building of a righteous social life.  It would find entire satisfaction in the attitude of Jesus and the prophets who dealt with sin as a present force and did not find it necessary to indoctrinate men on its first origin.  It would have no motive to be interested in a doctrine which diverts attention from the active factors of sin which can be influenced, and concentrates attention on a past event which no effort of ours can influence.
        Theology has made the catastrophe of the fall so complete that any later addition to the inheritance of sin seems slight and negligible.  What can be worse than a state of total depravity and active enmity against God and his will?  Consequently theology has had little to say about the contributions which our more recent forefathers have made to the sin and misery of mankind.  The social gospel would rather reserve some blame for them, for their vices have afflicted us with syphilis, their graft and their wars have loaded us with public debts, and their piety has perpetuated despotic churches and unbelievable creeds.  One of the greatest tasks in religious education reserved for the social gospel is to spread in society a sense of the solidarity of successive generations and a sense of responsibility for those who are to come after us and whom we are now outfitting with the fundamental conditions of existence.  This is one of the sincerest and most durable means of spiritual restraint.  It is hard to see how the thought of Adam and Eve can very directly influence young men and women who are to be the ancestors of new generations.  In so far as the doctrine of the fall has made all later actions of negligible importance by contrast, it blocks the way for an important advance in the consciousness of sin.
        The traditional doctrine of the fall has taught us to regard evil as a kind of unvarying racial endowment, which is active in every new life and which can be overcome only by the grace offered in the Gospel and ministered by the Church.  It would strengthen the appeal of the social gospel if evil could be regarded instead as a variable factor in the life of humanity, which it is our duty to diminish for every young life and for every new generation.   {p. 39–43 }
        We are equipped with powerful appetites.  We are often placed in difficult situations, which constitute overwhelming temptations.  We are all relatively ignorant, and while we experiment with life, we go astray.  Some of our instincts may become rampant and overgrown, and then trample on our inward freedom.  We are gifted with high ideals, with a wonderful range of possibilities, with aspiration and longing, and also weighted with inertia and moral incapacity to achieve.  We are keenly alive to the call of the senses and the pleasures of the moment, and only dimly and occasionally conscious of our own higher destiny, of the mystic value of personality in others, and of God.
        This sensual equipment, this ignorance and inertia, out of which our moral delinquencies sprout, are part of our human nature.  We did not order it so.  Instead of increasing our guilt, our make-up seems to entitle us to the forbearing judgment of every onlooker, especially God.  Yet no doubt we are involved in objective wrong and evil; we frustrate our possibilities; we injure others; we disturb the divine harmonies.  We are unfree, unhappy, conscious of a burden which we are unable to lift or escape.
        Sin becomes guilt in the full sense in the degree in which intelligence and will enter.  We have the impulse to live our life, to exercise our freedom, to express and satisfy the limitless cravings in us, and we are impatient of restraint.  We know that our idleness or sensuality will cripple our higher self, yet we want what we want.  We set our desires against the rights of others, and disregard the claims of mercy, of gratitude, or of parental love.  Our self-love is wrought up to hot ill-will, hate, lying, slander, and malevolence.  Men press their covetousness to the injury of society.  They are willing to frustrate the cause of liberty and social justice in whole nations in order to hold their selfish social and economic privileges.  Men who were powerful enough to do so, have left broad trails of destruction and enslavement through history in order to satisfy their selfish caprice, avarice, and thirst for glory.   {pp. 45-46}
        Theology with remarkable unanimity has discerned that sin is essentially selfishness.  This is an ethical and social definition, and is proof of the unquenchable social spirit of Christianity.  It is more essentially Christian than the dualistic conception of the Greek Fathers, who thought of sin as fundamentally sensuousness and materiality, and saw the chief consequence of the fall in the present reign of death rather than in the reign of selfishness.
        The definition of sin as selfishness furnishes an excellent theological basis for a social conception of sin and salvation.  But the social gospel can contribute a good deal to socialize and vitalize it.
        Theology pictures the self-affirmation of the sinner as a sort of solitary duel of the will between him and God.  We get a mental image of God sitting on his throne in glory, holy and benevolent, and the sinner down below, sullenly shaking his fist at God while he repudiates the divine will and chooses his own.  Now, in actual life such titanic rebellion against the Almighty is rare.  Perhaps our Puritan forefathers knew more cases than we because their theological God was accustomed to issue arbitrary decrees which invited rebellion.  We do not rebel; we dodge and evade.  We kneel in lowly submission and kick our duty under the bed while God is not looking.
        The theological definitions of sin have too much the flavour of the monarchical institutions under the spiritual influence of which they were first formed.  In an absolute monarchy the first duty is to bow to the royal will.  A man may spear peasants or outrage their wives, but crossing the king is another matter.  When theological definitions speak of rebellion against God as the common characteristic of all sin, it reminds one of the readiness of despotic governments to treat every offence as treason.
        Sin is not a private transaction between the sinner and God.  Humanity always crowds the audience-room when God holds court.  We must democratize the conception of God; then the definition of sin will become more realistic.
        We love and serve God when we love and serve our fellows, whom he loves and in whom he lives.  We rebel against God and repudiate his will when we set our profit and ambition above the welfare of our fellows and above the Kingdom of God which binds them together.
        We rarely sin against God alone.  The decalogue gives a simple illustration of this.  Theology used to distinguish between the first and second table of the decalogue ; the first enumerated the sins against God and the second the sins against men.  Jesus took the Sabbath commandment off the first table and added it to the second ; he said the Sabbath is not a taboo day of God, but an institution for the good of man.  The command to honour our parents is also ethical.  There remain the first three commandments, against polytheism, image worship, and the misuse of the holy name.  The worship of various gods and the use of idols is no longer one of our dangers.  The misuse of the holy name has lost much of its religious significance since sorcery and magic have moved to the back-streets.  On the other hand, the commandments of the second table grow more important all the time.  Science supplies the means of killing, finance the methods of stealing, the newspapers have learned how to bear false witness artistically to a globe full of people daily, and covetousness is the moral basis of our civilization.
        God is not only the spiritual representative of humanity ; he is identified with it.  In him we live and move and have our being.  In us he lives and moves, though his being transcends ours.  He is the life and light in every man and the mystic bond that unites us all.  He is the spiritual power behind and beneath all our aspirations and achievements.  He works through humanity to realize his purposes, and our sins block and destroy the Reign of God in which he might fully reveal and realize himself.  Therefore our sins against the least of our fellow-men in the last resort concern God.  Therefore when we retard the progress of mankind, we retard the revelation of the glory of God.  Our universe is not a despotic monarchy, with God above the starry canopy and ourselves down here; it is a spiritual commonwealth with God in the midst of us.
        We are on Christian ground when we insist on putting humanity into the picture.  Jesus always deliberately and energetically bound man and God together. {p. 45-49 }
        It would be unfair to blame theology for the fact that our race is still submerged under despotic government, under war and militarism, under landlordism, and under predatory industry and finance.  But we can justly blame it for the fact that the Christian Church even now has hardly any realization that these things are large-scale sins.  We can blame it in part for the fact that when a Christian minister in our country speaks of these sins he is charged with forgetting the simple gospel of sin and salvation, and is in danger of losing his position.  This comes of shelving the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, or juggling feeble substitutes into its place.  Theology has not been a faithful steward of the truth entrusted to it.  The social gospel is its accusing conscience. {p. 53 }
        Governments were, of course, anxious to suppress the disgusting drunkenness of the labouring classes, which interfered with their working efficiency, but the taming of the liquor trade was hard to secure as long as men high up in Parliament, the established Church, and Society considered investments in breweries, distilleries, and public houses a perfectly honourable source of income.  {p. 63-4}
        While these pages are being written, our nation is arming itself to invade another continent for the purpose of overthrowing the German government, on the ground that the existence of autocratic governments is a menace to the peace of the world and the freedom of its peoples.  This momentous declaration of President Wilson recognizes the fact that the Governments of Great States too may be super-personal powers of sin; that they may in reality be only groups of men using their fellow-men as pawns and tools ; that such governments have in the past waged war for dynastic and class interests without consulting the people; and that in their diplomacy they have cunningly contrived plans of deception and aggression, working them out through generations behind the guarded confidences of a narrow and privileged class.
(Footnote: These ideas and phrases are drawn from the President's Address to Congress on April 2nd, 1917.}
        There is no doubt that these charges justly characterize the German government.  There is no doubt that they characterize all governments of past history with few exceptions, and that even the democratic governments of today are not able to show clean hands on these points.  The governments even of free States like the Dutch Republic, the city republics of Italy, and the British Empire have been based on a relatively narrow group who determined the real policies and decisions of the nation.  How often have we been told that in our own country we have one government on paper and another in fact?  Genuine political democracy will evidence its existence by the social, economic, and educational condition of the people.  Generally speaking, city slums, a spiritless and drunken peasantry, and a large emigration are corollaries of class government.  If the people were free, they would stop exploitation.  If they can not stop exploitation, the parasitic interests are presumably in control of legislation, the courts, and the powers of coercion.  Parasitic government is sin on a high scale. . .
        The social gospel realizes the importance and power of the super-personal forces in the community.  It has succeeded in awakening the social conscience of the nation to the danger of allowing such forces to become parasitic and oppressive.  A realization of the spiritual power and value of these composite personalities must get into theology, otherwise theology will not deal adequately with the problem of sin and of redemption, and will be unrelated to some of the most important work of salvation which the coming generations will have to do.  {pp. 74-75 }
[ should # 1 have been included here? ]         2.  Since an active sense of failure and sin is produced by contrast with the corresponding ideal of righteousness, theology, by obscuring and forgetting the Kingdom of God, has kept the Christian world out of a full realization of the social sins which frustrate the Kingdom.  The social gospel needs above all a restoration of religious faith in the Reign of God in order to create an adequate sense of guilt for public sins, and it must look to theology to furnish the doctrinal basis of it.
        3.  The doctrine of original sin has directed attention to the biological channels for the transmission of general sinfulness from generation to generation, but has neglected and diverted attention from the transmission and perpetuation of specific evils through the channels of social tradition.
        4.  Theology has not given adequate attention to the social idealizations of evil, which falsify the ethical standards for the individual by the authority of his group or community, deaden the voice of the Holy Spirit to the conscience of individuals and communities, and perpetuate antiquated wrongs in society.  These social idealizations are the real heretical doctrines from the point of view of the Kingdom of God. (pp. 77–78}
        The entomologist Fabre investigated the army caterpillar, which marches in dense thousands, apparently under some leadership which all obey.  But Fabre found there is no leadership.  Each simply keeps in touch with the caterpillar just ahead of it and follows, follows on.  The one article of faith is to follow the leaders, though none of the leaders knows whither they are going.  The experimenter led the column to march in a circle by getting the front rank in touch with the rear, and now they milled around helplessly like lost souls in Dante's hell. {p. 80}
        Popular superstition, systematized and reinforced by theology, and inculcated by all the teaching authority of the mediaeval Church, built up an overwhelming impression of the power of evil.  The Christian spirit was thrown into an attitude of defence only.  The best that could be done was to hold the powers of darkness at bay by the sign of the cross, by holy water, by sacred amulets, by prayer, by naming holy names.  The church buildings and church yards were places of refuge from which the evil spirits were banned.  The gargoyles of Gothic architecture are the evil spirits escaping from the church buildings because the spiritual power within is unbearable to them.  {p. 83}

        The popular superstitious beliefs in demonic agencies have largely been drained off by education.  The conception of Satan has paled.  He has become a theological devil, and that is an attenuated and precarious mode of existence.  At the same time belief in original sin is also waning.  These two doctrines combined,the hereditary racial unity of sin, and the supernatural power of evil behind all sinful human action,-created a solidaristic consciousness of sin and evil, which I think is necessary for the religious mind.  Take away these two doctrines, and both our sense of sin and our sense of the need of redemption will become much more superficial and will be mainly concerned with the transient acts and vices of individuals.
. . .         The doctrine of original sin was meant to bring us all under the sense of guilt.  Theology in the past has labored to show that we are in some sense partakers of Adam's guilt.  But the conscience of mankind has never been convinced.  Partakers in his wretchedness we might well be by our family coherence, but guilt belongs only to personality, and requires will and freedom.  On the other hand an enlightened conscience can not help feeling a growing sense of responsibility and guilt for the common sins under which humanity is bound and to which we all contribute.  Who of us can say that he has never by word or look contributed to the atmospheric pressure of lubricious sex stimulation which bears down on young and old, and the effect of which after the war no man can predict without sickening?  Whose hand has never been stained with income for which no equivalent had been given in service?  How many businessmen have promoted the advance of democracy in their own industrial kingdom when autocracy seemed safer and more efficient?  What nation has never been drunk with a sense of its glory and importance, and which has never seized colonial possessions or developed its little imperialism when the temptation came its way?  The sin of all is in each of us, and every one of us has scattered seeds of evil, the final multiplied harvest of which no man knows.
        At the close of his great invective against the religious leaders of his nation (Matt. 13), Jesus has a solidaristic vision of the spiritual unity of the generations.  He warns his contemporaries that by doing over again the acts of their forefathers, they will bring upon them not only the blood they shed themselves, but the righteous blood shed long before.  By solidarity of action and spirit we enter into solidarity of guilt.  This applies to our spiritual unity with our contemporaries.  If in the most restricted sphere of life we act on the same sinful principles of greed and tyranny on which the great exploiters and despots act, we share their guilt.  If we consent to the working principles of the Kingdom of Evil, and do not counteract it with all our strength, but perhaps even fail to see its ruinous evil, then we are part of it and the salvation of Christ has not yet set us free."  {p. 90-2)

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