Before I begin this entry, I must mention that, while I was considering what to say, I passed an inmate on the telephone… teaching his child the Lord’s Prayer.
Today is 21 Dec, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar. Reflecting on the end of the world, I have chosen for today’s topic the so-called “social gospel”, and its close ally, “black liberation theology”. I have touched on this topic before, in discussing Barack Obama’s long-time membership in “reverend” Jeremiah Wright’s “church”. (I put these words in quotation marks because their use in conjunction with this man cannot be considered anything but fascetious.) This post is also inspired by the recent publication of two books: the so-called “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” and the offensively-titled (and written) “Queen James Bible”. I’m not going to bother calling out each of these sources individually in this post (although if you’d like to hear my thoughts on any of them, just let me know). Rather, I will deal with the “social gospel” eo ipso.
The “social gospel” is largely, and unfortunately, the child of the Roman Catholic Church. More unfortunately, it has a strong following in my own adopted Episcopal Communion. The reason that this is unfortunate is because I truly want to respect these two communities, but acceptance of the “social gospel” is predicated on a deep misunderstanding–or worse, abuse–of the actual Christian Scriptures. Christian salvation is not achieved by mundane works, nor can it be achieved by one person on behalf of another. Salvation is a purely personal experience of the individual and God. That is why Christianity, unlike Islam, cannot forcibly convert others.
One online commenter told me that I should “read a bit more of the Bible than just the letters of Paul. The minor prophets, the Magnificat of Mary, the sermon on the mount. God is not a corporate libertarian.” Notwithstanding the fact that God is also not not “a corporate libertarian”–or that “corporate libertarian” is actually gibberish–let us look at the sources claimed by this person in defense of the “social gospel”. “The minor prophets”, in toto, are too large to deal with in a blog entry. However, in the Magnificat (aka, “The Song of Mary”) we find:
“He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away”
I must assume that this verse is most representative of the “social gospel” adherents’ views. Note, however, that HE (that is, G-D) does these things. Even if this were somehow mangled into instructions for the supplicant to feed the hungry, there is no possible interpretation which includes taking wealth from its owner–especially when taken in consideration with the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), that we should not steal nor desire that which belongs to another. Desiring to give it to a third party is irrelevant; it is not ours to give. Nor can the passage about sending the rich empty away be interpreted as a command for Christians to confiscate the rich’s possessions, for similar reason. Socialism in all its forms, whether Fascist or Communist in nature, is inimical to Christianity (and Judaism) for similar reason: it is all about taking what someone else has earned, and is either motivated by, or motivates, the desire to take what other people have earned.
The reference to the Sermon on the Mount probably refers to another passage that I’ve had tossed my direction by supporter of the “social gospel”, from Matthew 6:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[v] consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[w] consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
While this is certainly direction for the supplicant to follow, the direction is for the supplicant not to keep a certain thing. There is no direction to take those things from others, which would again be a violation of the Commandments.
By coincidence, the best resource I have found on understanding the “social Gospel” and why it is inimical to Christianity (much more detailed than this post) is by the Church I left years ago: the Presbyterians. Here is a link their excellent article on the subject: