Does History Repeat Itself? The Social Gospel of the 1920s and Current Social Justice Advocacy

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In an article in World Magazine, Scott Allen examines what he thinks is a repeat of the social gospel movement in the 1920s. He argues that the underlying assumptions in 1920 are very similar to those being utilized today. He concludes his article by saying,

"One that understands that evil is rooted in fallen human hearts, and not in capitalism, white supremacy, or the patriarchy. One that sees people as free, responsible, accountable moral agents and not as victims or oppressors." 

Scott Allen attempts to navigate between the underlying assumptions of the social gospel movement of the 1920s and current social justice advocary with a quote from Horace Greely which states:

“The heart of man is not depraved … his passions do not prompt to wrong doing, and do not therefore by their actions, produce evil. Evil flows only from social [inequality]. Give [people] full scope, free play, a perfect and complete development, and universal happiness must be the result. … Create a new form of Society in which this shall be possible … then you will have the perfect Society; then you will have the Kingdom of Heaven.”

He then goes on to examine what he fears could be a dualistic reaction by the authors of "The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel."

In his concluding paragraphs Allen pleads for ways and means for the church to engage the social justice issues of the day underpinned by Biblical assumptions and he looks back to the likes of William Wilberforce whose theological underpinnings drove his actions. He concludes by stating:

Our confusion over justice needs to be replaced by a careful discernment of the fundamental differences between Biblical justice and this new social justice pseudo-religion. If we continue to allow the yeast of social justice to contaminate our theology, we’ll be greatly hindered at a time when the culture desperately needs to see true, Biblical justice advocated and lived out.

A challenging article, but I still wonder if Allen has clearly identified the "core business" of the church—to use language of the business world for thinking about focus.

How might all of this apply to the CRCNA?

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