The American Journal of Sociology/Volume 01/Number 1/English and American Christian Socialism

790483The American Journal of Sociology, Volume 1, Number 1 — English and American Christian Socialism1895Paul Monroe


To what extent and in what particulars have the agitations of the English and American Christian socialists for improved social conditions been vitiated by defective social ideals?

The term "Christian Socialism" is of vague import, both as to doctrine and as to the personnel of its adherents. The term was first adopted in its English application by Frederick Denison Maurice to denote the doctrines of the group of social reformers led by himself. The leading spirits of this group were Maurice, Kingsley, Hughes, Neal, Ludlow and others; but though the term had a more definite implication than at any time since, even then its application was quite vague. The movement originated with the Owens communism on the one hand and with the Chartist agitation on the other. From the latter it derived its occasion, from the former its method. A formal organization was entered into and publications established: at first Politics for the People, and later The Christian Socialist. From lack of support neither continued long.

More recently the movement has revived under the name of the "Christian Social Union." The most flourishing society publishes a quarterly magazine, The Economic Review. Other less important publications are issued on both sides of the Atlantic. This movement finds its occasion in present social problems and is an attempt at a solution through the efforts of the church. Both of these formal organizations have been in the main identified with the established church, or rather with the adherents of this church; though there are numerous other writers and workers of other denominations who are frequently termed Christian socialists, for their aims are similar.

In America the term becomes more indefinite yet. The organization of Christian socialists is centered in New England and in sympathy at least is closely allied with the Nationalist movement. This school is more definitely socialistic than the others. But the term, vague also in its American application, applies to a large number of Christian ministers who are social agitators. Since these latter are individualistic in their work, no general characterization can be made.

This criticism is based in the main upon an examination of the three schools thus distinguished.


A second difficulty arises from the fact that neither of these three bodies has a distinct programme or code of ideals. It is true that each has made some declaration of principles and enunciated a body of doctrine more or less definite; but the term "Christian Socialism" itself signifies no such principles and no such programme. The term is frequently used in such catholic sense that, like Proudhon's definition of socialism—"every aspiration for the amelioration of society,"—it includes all of us. Maurice adopted the term as a protest against unchristian socialism and unsocial Christianity. With many the term signifies little else than Christianity, while with other extremists it is almost identical with the revolutionary socialism of the continent.

Another form of indefiniteness is still more confusing. It is that which arises from a lack of clear perception on the part of the Christian socialists of the reforms needed or of the methods to be employed. Having formed the opinion that things are not right, the present order is forthwith attacked without any idea of what should take its place or how the change should be brought about. This confusion is worse confounded by a twofold use of terms, or at least by use of terms in a very indefinite or even arbitrary sense. This vice is due to haziness of idea, though the agitators themselves sometimes seem to think that it is due to the impossibility of expressing new ideas in common language, or in words having a definite content. To a certain extent this of course is true. Thus Kaufmann, himself a Christian socialist, says: "To some extent the apparent incompleteness, especially in matters of detail, must be attributed to the vagueness of utterances of the Christian socialists themselves in this respect. This is only what we must expect in all theorizers. According to a natural division of labor, social philosophers propound theories without entering into minute details, which are left for practical politicians to deal with in their endeavor to give effect to the theories as far as circumstances will permit."[1] Another representative of an "applied Christianity," unique enough to be copyrighted, apologizes for his own oracular vagueness as follows: "But in order to be honest with you to whom I speak, I am obliged to say that I do not mean by this expression what most of you would think me to mean, or would yourselves mean, if I did not explain myself." And one of his defenders further remarks, "Yet the language of old Canaan is too good to lose, is the heritage of the line of promise, must therefore be used and misunderstood till illustration and sympathetic hearing can redeem it to intelligibility."[2]

How a social reformer can hope to reform by using language that is purposely unintelligible is indeed a question. But there are two distinct advantages thus gained for an unpopular innovation. Without charging duplicity we must observe first, that this form of doctrine always holds in mental reserve an alternative construction or a modifying opinion with which to condone each revolutionary utterance; and second, by this very vagueness the movement escapes many of the criticisms to which various social movements, especially socialism, are liable. A concrete ideal, especially of status, formulated in terms of the goods of today is certain to provoke objections.

This vagueness is even more characteristic of the fundamental conceptions which these doctrines tacitly assume. This is seen in definitions purporting to tell definitely what Christian socialism is. Thus: "Christian socialism is the application to society of the way of Christ;"[3] and again, "Christian socialism is socialism springing from and lived in obedience to and dependence upon the life of God in man, as witnessed to and realized by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the natural Head and King of all Humanity."[4] These definitions are from pamphlets purporting to tell definitely what Christian socialism is.


This twofold indefiniteness is further complicated by the fact that many claiming this title fail on the one hand of being socialists, or on the other of being Christians in the common acceptance of those terms. Bierbower's "Socialism of Christ" is a good example of this latter extreme, and since it represents a class a brief presentation of his view is in place. It does not take an exegete to impeach his presentation, if the usual interpretation of Christ's mission is fairly correct. At the same time the impeachment need not deny that a prevalent conception of Christ's kingdom is also partially erroneous, representing the antithesis of Bierbower's idea. This latter is, briefly, that Christ came to establish a kingdom—"the kingdom of God"—that this kingdom was to be on this earth, and that it was to be a material kingdom, Christ's words being interpreted in a most literal sense. Now, while a too common interpretation puts the kingdom of God in a supermundane region having only a spiritual nexus with the present life, such interpretations as Bierbower's put a very strained construction of an opposite sort upon Christ's teachings. A spiritual interpretation is not necessarily a figurative one. According to Bierbower's view, Christianity was largely political and social to the exclusion of the spiritual: the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount are made the key to this interpretation. "In short," he says, "all the beatitudes were a group of promises to the people that the weaker, submissive and non-resisting element should arise to conquer and rule in society; that moral instead of physical and intellectual force should prevail: that women, children and invalids instead of strong men should be the enviable ones: and that martyrdom, tears and sorrows, instead of gratification and vitality, should be the future element of power."[5] Since the new kingdom was opposed to existing governments, that order of things must be superseded by force. For this a careful preparation must be made; this is the application of the parable of the man intending to build a castle. "The general destruction of life and property contemplated in the prosecution of these designs seemed to be ever present to the mind of Christ and trouble him."[6] Not only force but more questionable means are to be used. "Patronage in the future kingdom is offered for present work in it, just as is offered in France and Spain today where the Bonapartists and Carlists make all kinds of promises about what they will do when their cause is enthroned."[7] This is the interpretation of such passages as "Whoso confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father;" and "Many shall come hereafter"—(when the offices are all given out)—"and shall not be able to enter."[8] A radical change took place in the conception of the kingdom. "Jesus himself was at first strongly democratic and republican and this seemed to be his sincere conviction throughout. But subsequently, with the adulation of his followers and his complete mastery over them, he appears to have conceived ambitious projects—or at least to listen to others who did so for him. From being a champion and leader of the people, he came to be their master and ruler. To the astonishment of the people, he gradually commenced to speak as one having authority and was at last led, as was supposed, to contemplate a coup d'état, or the making of himself a king."[9] And, finally, the author says: "To explain the spiritual as well as the monarchical character of Christ's kingdom, we must suppose, as on inquiry we find to be the fact, that there was an important change in the policy of the early Christian movement, a change by which in the course of time the projectors came to abandon their early cause and to swerve around to a directly opposite position. Starting out as socialistic, the movement became religious; starting out as purely republican, it became monarchistic and theocratic; starting out as political it became moral. In general it was a change from radical to conservative; from a contemplated revolution to a moderate reform."[10] Upon such a conception of Christianity is based the argument of some for a return to the original conception of Christianity—a Christian socialism. This indeed is a defective ideal. But this is not the view of any one of the schools, but simply of many individuals writing and speaking as such without the sanction of any special organization.


At the other extreme, the agitators are numerous who would modify the present order of things but whose ideals, so far as they are formulated, would not necessitate any essential changes. These are socialists in the sense of Proudhon's definition—in the sense that we are all socialists. Indeed the original school of English Christian socialists formulated no definite condition of society as an ideal. They were primarily interested in concrete programmes of action for immediate social amelioration. Theirs was not at all a speculative interest and they constructed no vague general theories for ultimate conditions. Similarly there are many at the present time who, dissatisfied with the results of the extreme individualistic conception of Christianity, strive for a collective or social interpretation of Christian principles. Some of these are liable to the charge of mere sensationalism; others—"prophets of righteousness"—are so vague in their own ideas as to preclude any characterization of their ideals. They merit the term "prophet" simply because no one can interpret them. Still others merely repeat with variations the old copy book truism—"Be good and you will be happy." It may however be improper to test the ideals of Christian socialism by those of the socialists, for the primary conceptions of the latter are distinct, and as to priority in time the one school has almost as much right to the title as the other. Sprague gives this definition of socialism: "It is the effort of society to perfect its own life and accomplish its own destiny."[11] While this author has a more definite conception of socialism, yet this serves very well as a characterization of the socialism of a large portion of so-called Christian socialists.


This leads to a statement of the basal principle of Christian socialism, which at the same time affords a fundamental distinction between it and so-called "secular" socialism. The ideal of Christian socialism is a method; the ideal of socialism is a status. Socialism aims at an organization of society in which the state shall be the source of production of goods and the means and arbiter of distribution. Each shall contribute according to his abilities and receive according to his needs. The various more or less fantastic embodiments of this conception in socialistic Utopias are none of them essential to the fundamental idea. They are merely attempts of the imagination to make concrete an ideal not yet realizable to defective human nature. Christian socialism, however, formulates no ultimate status as an ideal, even if such a status is a sub-conscious assumption. Essentially concerned with conduct, its ideal is a method of social procedure; an attempted realization of some of the doctrines of Christ in an environment more or less unconformable with them. This ultimate social status, which is merely a sub-conscious speculation, may or may not be the ideal of socialism; and the like is true of the particular conception of social procedure, which is the ideal of Christian socialism. Perhaps if each were to clearly define its position concerning what to each is of secondary consideration, there would be practically an identity of status if not of procedure. But neither does this; for socialism emphasizes to the exclusion of all other considerations a status,—social or industrial democracy,—and Christian socialism emphasizes primarily a method,—social or industrial coöperation.

But socialism and Christian socialism are not opposites: the antithesis of both is found in individualism, which differs from the former in its ideal both of method and of status. Competition is the basal principle of individualism as a coöperation is of Christian socialism; private production and distribution is the ideal status of the former as industrial and social democracy is of the latter. It is evident that a circumstantial conception of an ideal status would be much more difficult to formulate than a similarly concrete conception of an ideal procedure. Hence the ideals of Christian socialism are less liable to criticism than the usual socialistic ideals. At the same time it is evident that a theoretic status may be less liable to specific criticisms than an ideal social procedure, for the former may be conceived out of immediate connection with the existing order and yet not be vitiated by logical contradictions. It is not to be assumed that the present order has called forth all human capabilities or developed in true proportion all human motives. A proposed social procedure on the other hand must offer points of connection with present order and in its details must make ample provision for continuity of social evolution. Hence an ideal status is theoretically less liable to criticism than an ideal procedure, yet when rendered concrete the opposite is true, and in each case the liability to error is proportionate to concreteness.

The original school of English Christian socialism was distinctly a coöperative movement. Its origin was partly due to the Owensite movement, from which it differed as to means rather than as to principle or ideal. The friends of this movement distinctly announced that "any one who recognizes the principle of coöperation as a stronger and truer principle than that of competition has a right to the honor or the disgrace of being called a socialist." This expressed their conception of socialism. The Christian Socialist stated its object as follows: "to diffuse the principle of cooperation by the practical application of Christianity to the purposes of trade and industry."[12] The alternative title of this publication was A Journal of Association, and this indeed was the more appropriate designation. To this movement is due most of the many successful cooperative experiments in England. The movement took its rise during the Chartist agitation, when indications seemed to foreshadow a revolution such as France had experienced. When this danger was happily averted the Christian socialists experienced a revulsion of feeling which accounts for the mild form of their social doctrines. In earlier stages they were certainly much more radical. This is clearly shown in the prefaces added and in the alterations made in Kingsley's Alton Locke. Their principle was not carried to a logical conclusion, for their conception as far as definitely advocated did not eliminate the competition between groups,—little less destructive than that between individuals.

More precise perceptions at this point have urged the present movement to a more advanced position. The movement is described to be in contradistinction on the one hand with the unsocial Christian—"the good and pious man who is keen eyed to the claims of faith on his own private life and that of other individuals, but is blind to its claims on the life of the community," and on the other hand with the unchristian socialist—"professed teacher or disciple of the secular socialist creeds, who unhappily fails to recognize the paramount authority of the Lord and King of all Christians."[13] Again its main object is said to be "to establish the kinship between the genius of Christianity and that 'passionate faith in the illimitable possibilities of human progress' which has been variously expressed in schemes put forward at different times by those social idealists who now go under the general name socialists."[14] This seems to possess the characteristic vagueness, but the writer continues and points out that Christian socialism aims to bring about a reconciliation of social classes and by the application of Christian ethics to reach ultimately a status of social peace.

Though the present movement expends most of its effort in the "practical application of Christianity to the purposes of trade and commerce," yet its fundamental conception is a much broader one. The perception is being reached that such efforts as coöperative societies, conciliation boards, and the many social amelioratives they advocate, are after all only expedients. In the developing conception socialism is conceived as a theory of life, not of economics only. But it is to be noted that this is still principle—not a status. Society is represented as an organism of mutually dependent parts, not as an aggregate of warring atoms. In contrast with individualism which regards man as laboring against man for private gain, it regards man as working with man for a common end. Individualism is based upon the theory that in the pursuit of private interests by each, the highest common good is produced: Christian socialism, as indeed all socialism, is based upon the theorv that in the status perceived to be best for the race or group, the individual will find the most complete development. This, however, is the subjective view to be presented later.

It is to be admitted that upon some such general principle many if not most Christian socialists accept indiscriminately any and all programmes for social amelioration which savor of the vox populi sentiment. The inconsistency of this does not need to be pointed out. Not only is it "unscientific," it lacks common sense. For example in a tract on "What Christian Socialism Is" the Christian socialist programme is outlined as follows: "It would aid the eight-hour movement;—would favor direct legislation, through the initiative, the referendum and proportionate legislation, purging our politics of corruption, breaking down the machine, and teaching the people self-government. It would emancipate woman as well as man. It would develop true municipalization as is being done in Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Berlin and other cities. It would have the city employ the unemployed in ways not to compete with present labor. It would have the cities obtain funds for doing this by conducting gas works, surface railroads, etc., for a profit for the city, instead of having them owned by rich capitalists favored by city franchises,—would have the nation own and manage railroads, the telegraph, expressage, etc." Finally it would favor the single tax and ultimately ihe state ownership of land. Now these are not per se the objects of Christian socialism. As is remarked in the same connection: "In every way it would replace competition by fraternal combination, and would press towards reform in all these ways. It is not one reform. It is many reforms on one principle."[15] This is the truer position. The previous enumeration awaits a Q. E. D., to establish each theorem implied in the programme, and only in so far as each specific count becomes a minor premise of the syllogism does it become a component part of the Christian socialist policy.

Some of the more prominent of the American group have become so influenced by the international socialism of Marx that they distinctly repudiate coöperation, in its more specific application, and differ very little in their views from that school of socialism. Of their position we may say in passing that it is consistent and justifiable to repudiate co-operation as an end but not as a method. Coöperation in the specific sense is only a half truth, and fails of solving any save the simplest of those problems which Christian socialism confronts. It is applicable only to certain industries and fails to eradicate the fundamental evils of the present system. But it was as a modus vivendi that it was seized upon by the earlier Christian socialists.


The difference between the ideals of socialism and those of Christian socialism as to method is only of slightly greater importance than the difference as to means. As to method the difference was chiefly between Christian socialism and individualism; as to means the contrast is between Christian socialism and socialism. As to means Christian socialists are largely individualists, and herein are less logical though perhaps more pyschological than the socialists. Again, as to means, Christian socialists are spiritualists while socialists are materialists. The following characterization by Kaufmann elucidates this distinction: "Christianity endeavors to work from within; socialism from without. The former would, if possible, persuade; the latter is ready to compel man to treat his neighbor as himself. Religion would make the love of Christ the spring of human effort; socialism makes the force of central authority the lever of social action. Religion aims at building up the social edifice on the model of the Christian household; socialism is destructive in its tendency to organize society on the principle of Rousseau's Social Contract. Religion aims at improving first the individual and thus eventually hopes to purify society. Socialism on the contrary demands radical changes in society to increase the sum of happiness in each individual. Socialism requires the use of the legal straight jacket to enforce comparative equality; religion prefers the constraining influence of Christ to draw together the members of Christian brotherhood."[16] Thus Christian socialism is seen to work by internal spiritual forces, while socialism employs external material forces as means. Christian socialism is primarily reformatory and hence reconstructive; socialism on the contrary is revolutionary and hence destructive. Kingsley had pointed out this general distinction in Politics for the People, the first organ of the English school. "God will reform society," he wrote, "on condition of our reforming every man his own self, while the devil is quite ready lo help us mend the laws and the parliament, earth and heaven, without even starting such an impertinent and personal request as that a man should mend himself."[17] This is what Kingsley meant by saying to the Chartists that the Charter did not go far enough.

But all has not been said. Whether society is to be reformed only by reforming the individual units or whether the individuals are to be reformed by reforming their environment, may not be the only alternatives. The truth may lie in the reciprocal relation of these principles. In fact it is in the tacit recognition of this mutual harmonization of conflicting theories that Christian socialism has found its chief strength. If after all it is simply an individual matter, wherein does it differ from the more orthodox conceptions of Christianity and of society that give rise to the Christian socialist protest? Here is evidently the explanation of the fact that the ideal of the Christian socialists was not a status. If, as Kaufmann says, "Whatever may be said of different kinds of socialism, Christian socialism acknowledges only voluntary association. Servitude loses its sting when the service is perfect freedom;"[18] then a socialistic status including all cannot be hoped for this side of the millennium. The belief in the "illimitable perfectability of the human race" seems to be based on the slowness of the process. This disagreement seems irreconcilable. But perhaps it has never troubled the Christian socialists. For when theory has been pushed temporarily into the background means other than spiritual have been used. Nevertheless the greatest defect in their ideals appears in their failure to perceive more clearly the truth that the individual not only modifies but is modified by society, and in consequent failure to estimate the reciprocal influences justly. The real harmonization which the Christian socialist made is to be found in the subjective aspect of their ideals, especially as to the relation of personality and property.


The two ideals thus far discussed have been objective. Subjectively the Christian socialist ideals are less differentiated from those common to all socialists. In fact these ideals are really the developing ethical theories of the race and are mortgaged to no particular sect or party. The Christian socialists have not the honor of originating these; in fact they cannot be traced to any particular source more definite than the evolving forces of progress. The Christian socialists are not the only nor even the first ones who lay stress upon these. It is distinctly their merit to have emphasized them, to have contributed much to their dissemination, and to have attempted interpretations of them in terms of current social life. This is peculiarly the function of the Christian socialist of today, and it is a function whose value is not likely to be overestimated, though the value of any one attempted interpretation may be and is likely to be rated above its actual worth.


The first of these postulates,—the ethical basis of modern social movements,—is the solidarity of the race. It is no new thing to teach that "we are members one of another;" but any general working acceptance of this principle is still reserved for the future. Man is made by and for association with fellow man. Both the family and the nation are means to this fellowship; and though the solidarity of the race is a higher conception, yet both the family and the nation must be preserved in their integrity as means. So an integral family has been made by many the unit of society. This is one of the incidental though not unimportant, differences between socialism and Christian socialism. Upon this conception of solidarity was based the Christian socialists' advocacy of co-operation. If society is recognized as possessing an organic unity, it should work as such. Men are not merely individuals; they are parts of society. The whole influences the part more than the part influences the whole. This does not stifle individuality; it is a means to individualization. The organic cell possesses greater individuality than the inorganic atom. In this solidarity of the race is found the reconciliation of egoism and altruism. This is an application of the paradox, "He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."

This conception has stimulated a correlated idea,—the dignity of man as man. Even individualism, with so much to its credit, failed to achieve this dignifying of personality except within limited areas. The Reformation secured a measure of it in religious affairs, the eighteenth century evolutions conquered a place for it in political affairs; socialism,—or rather this conception of solidarity,—has yet to assure it in all social life—not merely in economic life. The individual is dignified in the common purpose of the race—in the life of the organism of which he is an integral part. With this perception we encounter the crux of the social question, the rock on which all forms of socialism threaten to split, the reality and the implications of human equality. It is unnecessary to enter this illimitable field of debate. The ideal of Christian socialism at least, that is, equality in title to privilege of development, does not involve equality of results, for individual capabilities are various although the race is one. Equality of opportunity, in the common application of the term, is not enough; equality of participation in all things would be no less unsatisfactory to the individuals concerned.

This solidarity is to be achieved through religion, through Christianity. Here is a radical difference with other forms of socialism. The kingdom of God is defined as "that transfiguration of human society which corresponds to the resurrection of the individual." This kingdom is spiritual,—"the kingdom of God is within you;" but it can be embodied only in a secular form. That embodiment is to be here and now. In a popular form this is the characterization of the movement. The extravagant interpretation of this idea was criticised above, but its error is not in the location of the kingdom of God as to time and space. This is the significance of the religious element,—the call to the individual to form this kingdom. The essence of the difference between the two forms of socialism upon this point is that socialism exalts natural law, while Christian socialism exalts moral law. Laveleye says on this point, "It is impossible to understand by what strange blindness socialists adopt Darwinian theories (meaning materialistic philosophy) which condemn their claims of equality, while at the same time they reject Christianity, whence those claims have issued and where their justification may be found." Some of these moral conceptions are that all have common rights, that each owes to all common duties, that there should be no right without duties, and that duties should be proportioned to capabilities.


Correlated with the postulate which places moral law above physical is the conception that personality is of more worth than property. Upon this is likewise based the idea of the kingdom of God upon earth. This preserves the individuality in the unity of the organism. This is a basis for demands for a health producing, or at least for condemnations of a health-destroying environment, that have made so large a part of this movement. This ideal furnished the inspiration for the stinging indictment in Kingsley's "Cheap Clothes and Nasty." This furnishes the motive impulse for sweating crusades, for the demand for shorter hours, for higher wages, for juster laws as to corporations, etc. Whatever may be the extravagances of many social reformers, this their major premise cannot be vacated.

Some forms of socialism, especially communistic types, are based on things; Christian socialism is based on personality. Kingsley said, "Man after all is the most precious and useful thing on the earth, and no cost spent in the development of human beings can possibly be thrown away." It is upon this point that Ruskin's socialism and Christian socialism are one, though Ruskin presents this truth with a fervor unequaled even by the righteous indignation of many Christian agitators. How poorly this harmonizes with current industrial axioms does not need exposition. Prevalent socialistic demands have stultified themselves by an insistence upon economic dues to the exclusion of less material needs. "Christian socialism is not merely a question of the stomach; it is also a question about equitable distribution of ideal goods, the means of higher culture as the results of a progressive civilization."[19] While this is also true of socialism, it has lost through neglect some of its strongest arguments.

Though Christian socialism has no Ruskin or Morris, yet the æsthetic demands of human nature have not been overlooked. Kingsley was essentially a poet and dwelt upon the artistic satisfaction of human desires. But this conception of personality insists above all upon the truth that labor is not a commodity: labor is a service, not only of individual to individual but of individual to society also Labor is thus regarded as a social function and should be so estimated. This is the conception which the trite phrase, "the dignity of labor," endeavors to express, though this perception is a very vague one. Man is not only estimated as a man—the dignity of man,—but is also estimated as a functionary of society,—the dignity of labor. Hence the incongruity of the wage system in the present form at least, and the impossibility of constructing a stable society upon the industrial principle of competition without a counterbalancing principle of human valuation. The iron law of wages must be nullified by a change in the conditions which put it into operation. Property is considered no less "sacred," but its sacredness is found to exist only in the sacredness of the personality back of the property.


A third element of ideal is found in the denial of the paramount importance of economic ends and the insistence upon a juster valuation of various social ends. The economic motive is essentially individualistic. No other ruling motive depends so little upon social relations for its satisfaction. It has been necessary for socialism in general, in defending the various forms of an ideal status, to demonstrate the sufficiency of these other motives. Whether this has been done beyond question may be doubted; but it is certain that a juster relative estimate has been reached. Whether this or that motive will actually produce this or that result under certain unrealized conditions is speculation. But such discussions have brought to light much concerning human motive forces that has long remained unnoticed or undervalued. Whether motives in abeyance can be stimulated to a given intensity may not be determinable, but we no longer deal with the equation of societary relations upon the assumption that the only significant term is economic.

If the medical profession can have guarded for so many centuries the principle that every discovery affecting man's welfare belongs to the race and not to the finder, and yet have suffered no detriment, why may not the like be possible in commerce, in mechanics, and in all the arts affecting man's social well being? It is not an unquestioned assumption that greatness comes from conditions necessitating a struggle for existence. Competency rather than poverty has been its origin. In either case it is seldom if ever the economic motive, but rather a complex of social motives, both egoistic and altruistic, that is the occasion of the effort that brings the social reward—"greatness." It is not necessary to substitute a mastery over persons for a mastery over things in order to preserve inducements to exertion; the highest master, that over self, is not without motive power. Praise, honor, fame, leadership are aims that exert strong attractions; but the pleasures of doing, of achieving, of serving are no less powerful and are capable of much higher development. The highest character is produced by social rather than by egoistic, especially economic motives. This is universally' recognized. Leaving out of consideration the loftiest, viz., the moral motives, evidences are not wanting to sustain the claim that other motives than the economic have decided the ascendancy of higher civilizations over lower. Political motives produced the Roman nation, æsthetic motives certain stages of Grecian civilization and the Renaissance period of the Italian cities. Intellectual aspirations have been sufficient incentives to greatness of character, and that even to entire groups. Colleges and universities are examples on a small scale and afford illustrations of greatest endeavor and ideal community life called forth by motives other than economic. Christian socialists have emphasized this general truth.

To recapitulate: considering only essentials, the ideals of Christian socialism are, objectively, a method of social cooperation effective through spiritual forces to realize a status of social life that will fulfill the conditions of organic existence and progress; and, subjectively, the brotherhood of the race, the preeminence of personality over all material conditions, and the effectiveness of other than economic motives. Greater stress has been laid upon the moral and social requirements of human life than has been the case with other forms of socialism, though as with the latter the fundamental importance of the material condition—health and material possessions—is emphasized. Sometimes too much emphasis and again too little has been placed upon physical goods. The errors of the Christian socialists' ideals are therefore those of proportion rather than of omission.

The relation between the individual and society as an organism has not been harmonized by the Christian socialists, though their perception is nearer the truth of this mutual relation than either individualism or other socialism. The various schools and individual reformers have been biased to the one extreme or the other, usually the individualistic. The common belief—tacit if not avowed—that Christ's teachings are wholly formal or even figurative has been repudiated, and the belief has been insisted upon that they are impossible of literal application in the present form of society, with the corollary that the present order should be changed until such application is practicable.

After all, the greatest merit of the Christian socialists, though it may have appeared a defect, is that with them socialism is a means not an end: that the end is the full development of the inherent capabilities of the individual, and that society is a means to this development. They have derived this perception from Christianity, and though the idea has been but vaguely conceived, it is taking shape as the highest ethical perception of the race. Because of the Christian socialists' failure to enunciate this distinctly their ideal of status has remained indefinite. Though this is sometimes opposed as a too materialistic view of Christianity, it is steadily gaining ground. Christian socialism is nevertheless only one form among many through which this development is going forward. As yet it is hardly truer of others than of the Christian socialists that the content of the epoch-making perception to which we refer is incomplete, somewhat ill-proportioned, and usually very indefinite.

The University of Chicago.

  1. Christian Socialism, p. 33.
  2. Our Day, The Altruistic Review, Vol. 14, p. 275.
  3. What Christian Socialism Is, by W. D. P. Bliss, p. 3.
  4. Objections to Christian Socialism, by W. D. P. Bliss, p. 1.
  5. Socialism of Christ, pp. 18-19.
  6. Ibid., p. 49.
  7. Ibid., p. 55.
  8. Ibid., p. 69.
  9. Ibid., 153.
  10. Ibid., p. 195.
  11. Christian Socialism, What and Why, p. 16.
  12. Christian Socialist, Vol. I., No. I.
  13. Economic Review, January 1893. The Christian Social Union.
  14. Kaufmann's Christian Socialism, p. xiii.
  15. Kaufmann's Christian Socialism, p. xiii.
  16. Christian Socialism, p. xvi.
  17. Charles Kingsley: Letters and Memories of His Life, Vol. I., p. 169.
  18. Christian Socialism, p. 26.
  19. Christian Socialism, p. 201.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

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