Christian Socialism Resources

Resources I’ve found helpful on the topic of Christian socialism

 

Video transcript:

RICHARD
Here’s where I talk about resources I’ve found helpful on the topic of Christian socialism. Hopefully you’ve watched the other videos in this series and you want to learn more.  

First up: The Enchantments of Mammon. How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity by Eugene McCarraher. The book is ENORMOUS but it kind of has to be. It’s part historical narrative, part critique of modernity’s worship of the god Money. What’s most striking is how McCarraher exposes the notion that we live in some sort of a post–religious, enlightened, progressive era as a complete lie. We are, he says, more religiously (read slavishly) devoted than ever, but the objects of our worship are the market, so–called improvement, and unrestrained consumption. And our devotion to wealth is quite literally destroying the world, because we’re taking more from it than it can sustain.

One thing I thought was interesting is how he traces the origin of this false religion back to some very upstanding and religious people: believe it or not, the people in funny hats who came over on the Mayflower, the Puritans. There’s really not much good to say about them unfortunately.

For folks who want some shorter reads from a contemporary writer, check out the essays of David Bentley Hart – What Lies Beyond Capitalism in the Plough Quarterly and Are Christians Supposed to be Communists in the New York Times among others. Going back a century, I’m going to mention Herman Kutter again even though he’s a little obscure. His book They Must is available for free on the Internet Archive and in it he’s not shy about bringing the heat to conventional Christianity. For example, “the Bible is diametrically opposed to our Christianity” and “When you Christians say “Christ alone,” tell me, how do you show it? If Christ and Christ alone is important, why do you find it so difficult to start practicing his gospel, which overthrows Mammon?”

After Kutter, it’s time to read John Ruskin. (More about him in McCarraher’s tome.)  Ruskin’s series of four essays Unto This Last is also worthwhile. One thing I didn’t realize was how formative these writings were for Mahatma Ghandi. And you can see why: One of Ruskin’s central points is that wealth is not a neutral force. He compares it to a power like electricity that only acts through inequalities or negations -- and he points out that it’s simply untrue that everyone can have riches in a capitalist economy because wealth implies power over other people’s labor. What is really desired in the name of riches is power over other people. Without this power, large material possessions are useless because a person only needs so much to survive. He writes, “Consider whether, even supposing it guiltless, luxury would be desired by any of us if we saw clearly at our sides the suffering which accompanies it in the world.”

Then here’s a Bruderhof favorite: Christoph Blumhardt and His Message by R. Lejeune. Blumhardt was a German Lutheran theologian who influenced Karl Barth among many others. One of the founders of Christian Socialism in Germany and Switzerland, Blumhardt believed that democratic socialism, for all its faults, embodied a divine truth. He saw God even in the so–called godless. “The social movement is like a fiery sign in the sky announcing judgment. When Christian society sees itself confronted with this judgment, it should not be obstinate but consider the truth that is being revealed.”  This book contains a summary of his life followed by nineteen of his sermons. And it’s available as a free download on plough.com.

Final recommendation, something shorter and close to home (for us anyway): Bruderhof founder Eberhard Arnold gave a speech in October 1924, five years after the German revolution, to a working class audience where he talks about the nature of the antigod (mammon) as “work without soul, business without love, machinery without spirit, and lust instead of joy…It is a god of the present age, an interim god.” The speech has been condensed into an article – The Interim God.

Hope you find these resources useful. Thanks for watching and please subscribe to the channel to see what comes next!