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Christian Socialism.

1. Revolts of the masses in mid-19th c. Eur. and theories assoc. with these revolutions occasioned a religious response called Christian socialism. It appeared in different forms in various parts of W Eur. and N. Am.; it usually involved an effort to include many ideals of soc. reform in a framework of liberal Christian theol. and popular action. The movements have been described as attempts to socialize Christianity and Christianize socialism by making Christianity the religion of which socialism is the practice. Christian socialism gen. represented an attack on laissez-faire economics and the clerical status quo In the case of Bismarck's (1815–98) Christian socialism (or state socialism) the term was taken over for opposite purposes, namely to denote an attempt on the part of the govt. to provide for some of the needs of workers.

2. Christian socialism in Eng. was prefigured in the soc. program of R. Owen.* As a formal movement it was founded 1848 by J. M. F. Ludlow,* C. Kingsley,* T. Hughes,* and particularly by J. F. D. Maurice.* This group provoked hostility on the part of the est. forces of the ch. of Eng. and suffered from failure to rally secular socialist forces. A workingmen's coll. was est. in London 1854. But by 1858 the movement had spent most of its force. Several times since, the Brit. Isles have seen Christian socialism in action, e.g., the Guild of St. Matthew, beginning 1877, and the ch. Socialist League, founded 1906. In gen. these movements grew out of the High ch. party and were motivated by a proclamation of divine sovereignty over all realms of life, against a background of evolutionary optimism.

3. On the Continent Christian socialism included more varied emphases than in Eng., from Bismarck's inversion of its use to the Russ. (A. S. Khomyakov*; F. M. Dostoevski*) apocalyptic form, to O. Prohàszka's* program in Hungary in the 1920s, or E. Dollfuss'* partisan use of the term in Austria in the 1930s. The latter reflected RC emphasis sanctioned by some liberalizing soc. emphases of Leo XIII and Pius XI (who, however, called Christian socialism as a philos. a contradiction in terms).

4. Most consistent interest in Christian socialism has been shown in Germany. J. H. Wichern* and F. von Bodelschwingh* considered themselves Christian socialists, though their efforts for redress of soc. evils appeared in a conservative pol. framework. The Ritschlian school of theol. (see Ritschl, Albrecht), in the yrs. just before WW I, produced a number of Christian socialist tendencies, but the movement came under criticism by Karl Barth, who had earlier found it congenial but later considered it pervaded by humanism. Shortly after WW I, under P. Tillich* and others, the movement was revived, with increased interest in Marxist sources, under the name Religious Socialism; but it failed to win wide support of clergy or masses and disintegrated in the face of Hitler's National Socialism.

5. Some emphases of Christian socialism were assumed by the Life and Work branch of the Ecumenical* Movement through efforts of N. Söderblom* of Swed. and others. In the US the Social* Gospel of W. Rauschenbusch* and others provided a parallel to Eur. interests in seeing the Lordship of Christ asserted in various causes of soc. reform and revolution.

See also Stoecker, Adolf.

G. C. Binyon, The Christian Socialist Movement in England (London, 1931); C. E. Raven, Christian Socialism, 1848–1854 (London, 1920); P. Tillich, The Protestant Era, tr. J. L. Adams (Chicago, 1948).


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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