Walter Rauschenbusch


American Baptist Preacher, Theological Professor and Key Figure in the Social Gospel Movement

Author Quotes

History is never antiquated, because humanity is always fundamentally the same. It is always hungry for bread, sweaty with labor, struggling to wrest from nature and hostile men enough to feed its children. The welfare of the mass is always at odds with the selfish force of the strong.

Men are seizing on Jesus as the exponent of their own social convictions. They all claim him... But in truth Jesus was not a social reformer of the modern type... he approached these facts purely from the moral, and not from the economic or historical point of view.

The most important effects of Christianity went out from it without the intention of the Church, or even against its will.

To the more judicial and scientific temper of our day their invective would seem overdrawn and their sympathy would seem partisanship. In Jeremiah and in the prophetic psalms the poor as a class are made identical with the meek and godly, and "rich" and "wicked" are almost synonymous terms.

I can frankly affirm that I have written with malice toward none and with charity for all. ...I have tried?so far as erring human judgment permits?to lift the issues out of the plane of personal selfishness and hate, and to put them where the white light of the just and pitying spirit of Jesus can play upon them. If I have failed in that effort, it is my sin. If others in reading fail to respond in the same spirit, it is their sin.

Our modern religious horizon and our conception of the character of a religious leader and teacher are so different that it is not easy to understand men who saw the province of religion chiefly in the broad reaches of civic affairs and international relations.

The organization in which this movement was embodied, after three centuries of obscurity and oppression, rose triumphant to be the dominant power of the civilized world. Christian churches were scattered broadcast over the Roman Empire. ...Its churches were endowed with the ancient properties and rights of the temples. Its clergy were given immunity from the taxes and exactions which crushed all other classes. Its members filled the civil service. Its great bishops had the ear of the men in power.

Under the warm breath of religious faith all social institutions become plastic.

I have written this book to discharge a debt. For eleven years I was pastor among the working people on the West Side of New York City. ...I have never ceased to feel that I owe help to the plain people who were my friends. If this book in some far-off way helps to ease the pressure that bears them down and increases the forces that bear them up, I shall meet the Master of my life with better confidence.

Primitive Christianity cherished an ardent hope of a radically new era, and within its limits sought to realize a social life on a new moral basis. Thus Christianity as an historical movement was launched with all the purpose and hope, all the impetus and power, of a great revolutionary movement, pledged to change the world-as-it-is into the world-as-it-ought-to-be.

The position of woman has doubtless been elevated through the influence of Christianity, but... it is probably fair to say that most of the great Churches through their teaching and organization have exerted a conservative and retarding influence on the rise of woman to equality with man.

We are apt... to forget that the moral force of Christianity was usually only one factor in producing such a change as the abolition of slavery or piracy, and that over against the benign influences of the Church must be set the malign and divisive influences which she created by persecuting zeal, intellectual intolerance, or religious wars. In short, we must soberly face the fact that a good many deductions have to be made from the popular panegyrics, and that the Church has not accomplished all that is often claimed for her.

If the question of the distribution of wealth were solved for all society and all lived in average comfort and without urgent anxiety, the question would still be how many would be at peace with their own souls and have that enduring joy and contentment which alone can make the outward things fair and sweet and rise victorious over change.

Primitive religions consisted mainly in the worship of the powers of nature. ...the essential thing in religion was not morality, but the ceremonial method of placating the god, securing his gifts, and ascertaining his wishes. He might even be pleased best by immoral actions, by the immolation of human victims, by the sacrifice of woman's chastity, or by the burning of the first born.

The prophets were not religious individualists. ...they always dealt with Israel and Judah as organic totalities. They conceived of their people as a gigantic personality which sinned as one and ought to repent as one. was only when the national life of Israel was crushed by foreign invaders that the prophets began to address themselves to the individual life and lost the large horizon of public life.

We are to-day in the midst of a revolutionary epoch fully as thorough as that of the Renaissance and Reformation. It is accompanied by a reinterpretation of nature and of history. The social movement has helped to create the modern study of history. Where we used to see a panorama of wars and strutting kings and court harlots, we now see the struggle of the people to wrest a living from nature and to shake off their oppressors. The new present has created a new past. The French Revolution was the birth of modern democracy, and also of the modern school of history.

In a few years all our restless and angry hearts will be quiet in death, but those who come after us will live in the world which our sins have blighted or which our love of right has redeemed.

The Book of Isaiah begins with a description of the disasters which had overtaken the nation and then in impassioned words the prophet spurns the means taken to appease Jehovah's anger. "...Cease to do evil! Learn to do right! Seek justice! Relieve the oppressed! Secure justice for the orphaned and plead for the widow." (Isaiah I. 10-17.)

The prophets were the heralds of the fundamental truth that religion and ethics are inseparable, and that ethical conduct is the supreme and sufficient religious act. If that principle had been fully adopted in our religious life, it would have turned the full force of the religious impulse into the creation of right moral conduct and would have made the unchecked growth and accumulation of injustice impossible.

We shall confine this brief study of the Old Testament to the prophets, because they are the beating heart of the Old Testament.

In general, the Church has often rendered valuable aid by joining the advanced public conscience of any period in its protest against some single intolerable evil, but it has accepted as inevitable the general social system under which the world was living at the time, and has not undertaken any thoroughgoing social reconstruction in accordance with Christian principles.

The Christian movement began with John the Baptist? in his recorded teaching to the people there is not a word about the customary ritual of religion, about increased Sabbath observance, about stricter washings and sacrifices, or the ordinary exercises of piety. He spoke only of repentance, of ceasing from wrongdoing. He hailed the professional exponents of religion who came to hear him, as a brood of snakes wriggling away from the flames of the judgment... The way to prepare for the Messianic era and to escape the wrath of the Messiah was to institute a brotherly life and to equalize social inequalities.

The prophets... interpreted past history, shaped present history, and foretold future history on the basis of the conviction that God rules with righteousness in the affairs of nations, and that only what is just, and not what is expedient and profitable, shall endure.

Western civilization is passing through a social revolution unparalleled in history for scope and power. Its? coming was inevitable. ...By universal consent this social crisis is the overshadowing problem of our generation.

In so far as men believed that the traditional ceremonial was what God wanted of them, they would be indifferent to the reformation of social ethics. If the hydraulic force of religion could be turned toward conduct, there is nothing which it could not accomplish.

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American Baptist Preacher, Theological Professor and Key Figure in the Social Gospel Movement