Thursday, February 2, 2012

Social Responsibility: Walter Rauschenbusch

Walter Rauschenbusch

Social Responsibility

In Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907), Rauschenbusch wrote that "Whoever uncouples the religious and the social life has not understood Jesus. Whoever sets any bounds for the reconstructive power of the religious life over the social relations and institutions of men, to that extent denies the faith of the Master." The significance of this work is that it spoke of the individual's responsibility toward society.

In his Theology for the Social Gospel (1917), he wrote that for John the Baptist, the baptism was "not a ritual act of individual salvation but an act of dedication to a religious and social movement."

Concerning the social depth and breadth of Christ's atoning work, Rauschenbusch writes: "Jesus did not in any real sense bear the sin of some ancient Briton who beat up his wife in B. C. 56, or of some mountaineer in Tennessee who got drunk in A. D. 1917. But he did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins."

Rauschenbusch enumerates "six sins, all of a public nature, which combined to kill Jesus. He bore their crushing attack in his body and soul. He bore them, not by sympathy, but by direct experience. Insofar as the personal sins of men have contributed to the existence of these public sins, he came into collision with the totality of evil in mankind. It requires no legal fiction of imputation to explain that 'he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.' Solidarity explains it."

These six "social sins" which Jesus, according to Rauschenbusch, bore on the Cross:
"Religious bigotry, the combination of graft and political power, the corruption of justice, the mob spirit (being "the social group gone mad") and mob action, militarism, and class contempt-- "every student of history will recognize that these sum up constitutional forces in the Kingdom of Evil. Jesus bore these sins in no legal or artificial sense, but in their impact on his own body and soul. He had not contributed to them, as we have, and yet they were laid on him. They were not only the sins of Caiaphas, Pilate, or Judas, but the social sin of all mankind, to which all who ever lived have contributed, and under which all who ever lived have suffered."  (

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