The Social Gospel Part 6 -- By: Alan H. Hamilton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 109:436 (Oct 1952)
Article: The Social Gospel Part 6
Author: Alan H. Hamilton


The Social Gospel
Part 6

Alan H. Hamilton

(Continued from the July-September Number, 1952)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 88–101, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–24 respectively.}

III. Coming of Age, 1890-1900

Typical of the indifference, or even the active antagonism, of laboring classes to the church and of the church’s concern over the situation is an article by a Baptist minister in Chicago appearing in the American Journal of Sociology for 1899 under the title, “The Workingman’s Alienation from the Church.” This minister wrote to a number of representative labor leaders of the day, asking the reasons for the absence of the laboring class as a whole from the churches. Among the answers was the following by Samuel Gompers, then president of the American Federation of Labor:

“My associates have come to look upon the church and the ministry as the apologists and defenders of the wrong committed against the interests of the people, simply because the perpetrators are possessors of wealth…whose real god is the almighty dollar, and who contribute a few of their idols to suborn the intellect and eloquence of the divines, and make even their otherwise generous hearts callous to the sufferings of the poor and struggling workers, so that they may use their exalted positions to discourage and discountenance all practical efforts of the toilers to lift themselves out of the slough of despondency and despair.”1

This problem took the place of dominance in the crisis felt by the social gospel movement between 1890 and 1900, continuing on beyond into the new century. C. Bertrand Thompson, describing his own investigations in New England during 1909, states that not even 15% of the population were regular attendants at church and that “the people who are left in the churches are either the well-to-do and wealthy,

‘the hereditary rich, sheltered classes,’ or the young people from the shops and offices, the ‘soft-handed’ workers.”2 The same writes quotes President Theodore Roosevelt as saying that this situation “must be looked upon with discomfort and alarm.”3

Taking seriously this threat to its existence or at least to its usefulness, Christianity took two steps during the decade under consideration which are particularly worthy of note. One was to increase organizations given over to the study of social problems in the light of Christian principles. The Christian Social Uni...

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