SOCIAL CHRISTIANITY: ITS PROPHETS AND NECESSITY
Christianity seems to have infiltrated every tenant of political ideology in existence. While it is heralded as the harbinger of social revolution by various idealists, the exact understanding of Christianity which is to cause social change has varied broadly across the world. Too often, churches conform to the social and political norms around them, guided by the teachings of Jesus which conform to the confines of the social constructs in one’s immediate area. However, this is not the biblical mandate that demands charity, love, and hope.
Social revolutions and great advancements in terms of equality and social justice have always been the products of the individual soul’s seeking to begin a movement of change. They are the products of idealists who seek the betterment of the human race and who desire to see all men prosper in their own respective ways. The most encompassing title that can be given to such forerunners of social movements is that of a prophet. “These prophetic minds,” says Walter Rauschenbusch, “condense the unconscious longings of the mass of men in concrete experience and thought. They become centers of new light and energy. They awaken and lead the rest because they utter clearly what others feel dimly.”
Prophets are blessed with a divine calling to go out into the world and manifest ideas and convictions of the masses into concise executions. Prophets are social reformers, who enter into the inherent universe and who command both civil and religious leaders get rid of corrupted social practices. Considering these requirements, it cannot be denied there are many who, in reality, are prophets waiting to be recognized as such. A few of such prophets from the preceding centuries are Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr., who called for the recognition and abolition of civil injustice and social inequality.
We would not possess a need for prophets and their divine cries for social justice if our society executed a Christian social ethic to begin with. In reality, however, Christianity appears to adapt to the culture around it, with the faith itself varying in practice depending on its geography. In the older European nations, Christianity saw its social implications flourish magnificently through a consistent uprising of prophets; however, most countries still experience a disturbing lack of the Christian message and its relation to social issues across the globe. Rauschenbusch phrases the issue he saw with the contemporary style of Christianity focused on theological confessions and resolutions:
Here is the problem for all religious minds: we need a great faith to serve as a spiritual basis for the tremendous social task before us, and the working creed of our religion, in the form in which it has come down to us, has none. Its theology is silent or stammers where most need a ringing and dogmatic message. It has no adequate answer to the fundamental moral questions of our day. It has manifestly furnished no sufficient religious motives to bring the unregenerate portions of our social order under the control of the Christian law.
Rauschenbusch understands that there must exist a powerful and mutually inclusive relationship between theology and action, between preaching and working, between study and charity. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders of denominations and communions are forced into scholasticism or rationalism to defend the Christian faith against the forces of post-Christian culture which the Church finds herself in today. While theology is important enough to have been coined as the queen of all sciences, James’s convicting words remind every theologian that, “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead,” (Jam. 2:17b NRSV). Likewise, Paul teaches that “the only thing that counts is faith working through love,” (Gal. 5:6b NRSV).
There is a great value in studying the Holy Bible; additionally, there is an invaluable deposit of the Christian faith which worth studying and contemplating. But the study of one’s faith should not replace one’s practice of it; rather, our practices should assist our faith in the same manner that our faith assists our practices. The study and practice of our faith are ontologically inseparable.
Christianity teaches that everything man does, he needs to do with it his eyes facing skyward towards heaven to remind himself of the inherent hope of God. Similarly, the body of Christ teaches that if one is unable to find Christ in the beggar by the church steps, then he or she will be unable to find Christ at the altar. Our Christian faith begins primarily with our relationship with God, but almost immediately thereafter it is molded and defined by our relationship with others. Therefore, the need for social Christianity and its prophets is equally valuable if not connected with the theological aspect of the body of Christ and its renowned theologians throughout the ages.
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What do you think is the role of the prophet in social Christianity?
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