THE POWER OF SOCIAL CHRISTIANITY

Christianity is a social powerhouse. The actions and institutions ushered into the social landscape of the world in Jesus’ name are verified throughout the historical religious world. Even today, the Christian Church continues to be the largest benefactor of social care in the world. The ethical worldview of the Church has given rise to countless hospitals, orphanages, and homeless shelters. This suggests that the power of Christianity in the social landscape—global or local—is unparalleled in its duration and efficiency. The Lord prophesied such exemplification when he commanded, “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42 ESV).

            Organized labor has changed the world, not necessarily for the better or worse. The change caused by the rise of industrialism and commercialism has given Christianity a context. Inter-personal relationships in the areas of charity and care have slowly diminished, while large corporate entities have taken their place. Rather than physically going to one’s neighbor and helping him, one can send a care package to an impoverished child over the internet. This aspect of social change flies in the face of the personal nature of the social gospel Jesus preached; however, the powerful forces of such corporate entities cannot be denied.

Christian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have, for a long time, contributed to the alleviation of global suffering by expressing compassion and sympathy in action. The World Council of Churches and Caritas Internationalis spend over a billion dollars a year in aid and development. After World War II, 90% of assistance provided to needy families was from similar Christian NGOs. A study conducted concerning Catholic Relief Services showed that one-third of AIDS victims in the world are treated and cared for by the Catholic Church. As an institutional organism, the Christian Church has definitely succeeded in addressing social issues.

Walter Rauschenbusch offers a fair criticism of the modern industrial context by claiming that, “Industry ought to exist for the support of life; actually, it exists to make money, and it is in constant danger of sacrificing the life of the many to the profits of the few.” Love does exist in society, but, Rauschenbusch continues says, “Alongside of great sympathy for single cases of suffering runs an astounding indifference to suffering and death in the mass. We strain out the gnat of football accidents and swallow the camel of Pittsburg steel industries without winking.”

Who among us is not moved when we watch a slideshow of pictures of impoverished people on a screen in church in order to try and save them? Certainly, a particular love exists in the hearts of men in such situations. But do we concern ourselves with such singular, individual cases and not sympathize with the whole world over the many social issues hounding it? Like what Rauschenbusch says, everybody is aware of the danger that comes with playing football, head trauma being the most common. But who is aware of the countless limbs industrial workers lose annually, or the danger faced by workers who earn far less than a typical football player? Such awareness is next to non-existence in the social landscape today. Rauschenbusch, who wrote an entire century ago, depicts a figure of those injured in American work accidents as much as half a million on an annual basis.

The Church needs to be aware of these things. The Church needs to care and to show sincere compassion towards those suffering from lesser-known social crises. Otherwise, we turn a blind eye to our neighbor—intentional or not—and fail to uphold Christ’s commission that we love the struggling. Jesus was never apathetic to the sufferings of those around Him. His message has historically been accompanied by the social tenderness and sympathy which Jesus himself breathed into the Christian community.

 

Studying the Word of God is about equipping yourself to live out in practical ways the standard of the Bible. Archbishop Jordan’s book, Prophet in the Marketplace is now available exclusively via the Book of the Month Club.

 

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