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HomeNewsA Resurgence of the Social Gospel is Sweeping Across America 

A Resurgence of the Social Gospel is Sweeping Across America 

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At the head of a recent social struggle that saw three big Automakers bow to workers’ demand was Shawn Fain. Fain is by no means the prime mover of the United Auto Workers; however, he is their president and flint head.

One interesting thing about Fain is that, like Martin Luther King and some other previous union leaders, he wields ideologies of the Social Gospel. 

Chronicles of the Social Gospel Movement 

Though it was not called that at the time, traces of the Social Gospel sipped into the cracks of American society in the late 19th century. Largely, this Christian movement was triggered by the prevalence of poverty in American society, with a few industrialists possessing huge amounts of wealth. 

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Basically, the movement adopted religion as a beacon for industrialists by calling out their capitalistic obsessions. 

Then Its Smoke Went Up

The Social Gospel has lost traction since the disruption of union activities during the World Wars. The audacity of present labour unions pales greatly in the face of what applied before the World Wars. 

However, the movement was notably revived during the UAW strike. Fain quoted from the Scriptures many times and used it to justify workers’ insistence on commensurate pay. 

UAW Vs. The Big Three

The UAW has successfully made the revival of the Social Gospel public knowledge. How? After steering up Auto workers with ideologies steeped in Christian teachings, the UAW became one and resolute in their cause. 

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Eventually, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler’s Stellantis bowed to pressure, agreeing to a monumental increase in their workers’ pay. Like the UAW, other unions are catching on. 

Social Engineering Using Religion

So far, the Social Gospel has been adopted as a tool for instigating social, political and economic reforms. It may surprise you to know that the common “What Would Jesus Do?” stickers, bracelets, and pins of today don’t have their roots in religion. 

It was a slogan from the late 19th century popularised by Social Gospel leaders. 

Torch Bearers of Social Gospel

Across America, White Christian nationalism is a bit more familiar. However, thought leaders have noticed how the unique brand of religion portrayed by Social Gospel is influencing American society. 

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Besides Fain, leaders like the Rev. Liz Theoharis, Cornel West, the Rev. William Barber II, Sen. Raphael Warnock, and Matthew Desmond are proudly bearing torches of the Social Gospel. 

Making Americans Socially Aware

Social Gospel leaders like Pulitzer Prize winner Matthew Desmond and the few others mentioned are influencing major decisions around them by making policymakers and capitalists see reason in the Bible. 

While many are not active proponents of these ideologies, most do agree with what it stands for. The average American agrees that Big Tech companies should not swim in ever-rising profits while their workers cower under the burden of inflation. 

Social Gospel History on Repeat

Going by Christopher H. Evans’ description of the Social Gospel in the book “The Social Gospel in American Religion: A History,” Fain’s speeches during the recent UAW campaigns reeked of its ideologies. 

It was full of rhetorics, anecdotes and quotations which pretty much say Jesus stands for the labourer. Evans notes that Fain’s words aligned perfectly with the 19th-century Social Gospel narrative, which calls out the rich who ignore the labouring poor. 

Social Gospel and Politics

During discussions revolving around the poor, civil rights campaigners are often vocal about social welfare. So, Social Gospel-ers like Sen. Raphael Warnock would go out on a limb to quote Matthew 25 when making a case for Medicaid. 

In effect, Warnock wants the poor to be given priority on federal welfare schemes, even in situations where the state governors are not earnest about it. 

Scripturally Calling Out Climate Deniers

Likewise, the Rev. Barber is the pioneer director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at the Yale Divinity School. 

Whenever he speaks to social issues like immigration, climate change or voter suppression, his speeches are heavily interlaced with Christian parallels. The Rev. Barber encourages Americans to be their brother’s keeper by welcoming the destitute asylum seeker. 

The Pastor’s Son Becomes a Professor 

Like the other notable proponents of the Social Gospel, Matthew Desmond furthers the cause of the poor. In his award-winning book, Desmond has suggested that the existence of poverty in American society is systemic and intentional. 

Despite being a Professor, Desmond’s works point his audience’s attention to the wrath of God on the unjust. Mostly, this refers to how the poor and improvised are treated in society. 

What’s the Future Like for Social Gospel? 

Fain and the UAW have brought the Social Gospel movement back to the table, though it lingered for a while in the background. 

The UAW’s victory against the Big Three is a herald for the widespread revival of the movement. For example, seeing the vigour of the UAW, other major unions have gotten bold at asking for their members’ rights, and may end up following the Social Gospel playbook. 

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