Christian socialism

Christian socialism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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). The term also pertains to such earlier figures as the nineteenth century writers Frederick Denison Maurice (The Kingdom of Christ, 1838), Charles Kingsley (The 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).



[edit] History

In Catholicism, 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. Despite the introduction of social thought as an object of religious thought, Rerum Novarum explicitly rejects what it calls "the main tenet of socialism":

"Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonwealth. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property." Rerum Novarum, paragraph 16

The encyclical promotes a kind of corporatism based on social solidarity among the classes with respects for the needs and rights of all. Despite the explicit rejection of Socialism, 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 the 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. This phenomenon was most common among 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.

[edit] Religious criticisms

Socialism was strongly criticized in the 1878 papal encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris by Pope Leo XIII. It was again denounced in the 1931 letter Quadragesimo Anno. Socialists were accused of attempting to overthrow all existing civil society, and Christian socialism was deemed to be an oxymoron because of this. Pius XI famously wrote at the time that "no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist".[1]

Other Christian critics, such as Doug Bandow, have alleged that the government compulsion necessary for Socialism contradicts the Apostle Paul's advice: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7) Bandow continues: "Most important, the Christian faith recognizes that all human institutions are flawed, and that sinful men are likely to misuse their power....Is capitalism Christian? No. It neither advances existing human virtues nor corrects ingrained personal vices; it merely reflects them. But socialism is less consistent with several Biblical tenets for it exacerbates the worst of men’s flaws. By divorcing effort from reward, stirring up covetousness and envy, and destroying the freedom that is a necessary precondition for virtue, it tears at the just social fabric that Christians should seek to establish."[2]

[edit] Christian socialist parties

Non-socialist, conservative parties:

[edit] Prominent Christian socialists

The British Labour Party and Australian Labor Party have both been influenced by Christian socialism, and some 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[3] although his adherence to Christian Socialist ideals are highly disputed, as he is much further to the right than most "socialists".[4]

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd identified himself as an "old-fashioned Christian socialist" in a 2003 interview with the Australian Financial Review,[5] later writing in 2006: "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."[6] 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."[7]

[edit] 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? John Ball[8]

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." 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–who I think was the first socialist–only socialism can really create a genuine society. Hugo Chávez[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Socialism & the Vatican Time magazine, July 8, 1957.
  2. ^ Doug Bandow: God and the Economy: Is Capitalism Moral? Freedom Daily, May 2000.
  3. ^ UK: Tony Blair's pact with God
  4. ^ Poplarism, Christianity and Socialism, July 14, 2007.
  5. ^ Samantha Maiden and Verity Edwards: Rudd backtracks on socialism The Australian, December 15, 2006.
  6. ^ Kevin Rudd: Faith in Politics The Monthly, October 2006.
  7. ^ Michael Gordon and Michelle Grattan: Rudd rejects socialism The Age, December 14, 2006.
  8. ^ John Richard Green, History of the English People. Accessed 2007-07-22.
  9. ^ Tim Padgett: Chavez: "Bush Has Called Me Worse Things" Time magazine, September 22, 2006. Accessed 2007-07-22.

[edit] Further reading

Primary sources

  • Gray, John. The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice: Chiefly Told in His Own Letters (1885) online edition
  • Kingsley, Charles. The Works of Charles Kingsley (1899) online edition
  • Kingsley, Frances Eliza Grenfell. Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life (1877) online edition
  • Leno, John Bedford. The Aftermath with Autobiography of the Author, Reeves & Turner, London 1892

Secondary sources

  • Bissett, Jim. Agrarian socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920 University of Oklahoma Press, 1999
  • Boyer, John. Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna: Christian Socialism in Power, 1897-1918 (1995)
  • Cort, John C. Christian Socialism: An Informal History (1988)
  • Hopkins, Charles Howard. The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865-1915 (1940) (Chap. X "Christian Socialism")
  • Phillips, Paul T. A Kingdom on Earth: Anglo-American Social Christianity, 1880-1940. (1996)

[edit] External links

Faith (for Content):