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Economic Crisis, Economic Justice, and the Divine Commonwealth

Dorrien, Gary

It is a great privilege for me to address this remarkable gathering of ecumenical social justice advocates. I’ve been asked to speak about the economic crisis of our time and the involvement of Christian communities in struggles for social justice, and I’m going to begin by saying something about the tradition of ecumenical social ethics that we share. The idea that our faith calls us to create a just society is as old as the biblical message of letting justice flow like a river and pouring yourself out for the poor and vulnerable, as in the magnificent text from Isaiah 58 that underlies this conference. This scriptural idea was renewed in the early 1880s by the Social Gospel Movement, which created the field that I teach, social ethics. Long before the Social Gospel arose, there were Christian movements in this country that opposed slavery, war, economic oppression, male supremacism, and alcohol. But the Social Gospel introduced something new—the idea that salvation has to be personal and social to be saving. The Social Gospel Movement was the greatest surge of social justice activism ever waged by the mainline churches in this country. It was not a coincidence that the social gospel, social ethics, sociology, socialism, and the very ideas of social structure, social salvation, and social justice all arose at the same time; also corporate capitalism and the trade unions.

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Union Seminary Quarterly Review

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Union Theological Seminary
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September 16, 2015
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