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Christianity and the Social Crisis of the 21st Century: The Classic That Woke Up the Church Hardcover – August 7, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A book which left an indelible imprint on my thinking.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Republication in this form is a forceful intervention in contemporary debates in American religion and politics. (Commonweal)

Many of the societal concerns and questions of 1907, e.g., his alarm over iner-city poverty, societal injustice, crime, and ineffectual government, are just as relevant today. (Library Journal)

“Skillfully fashioned and perfectly timed, [Rauschenbusch’s] book was a supercharger for a movement . . . and set a new standard for political theology. Rightly viewed from the beginning as the greatest statement of the social gospel movement.” (Christian Century)

In a 100th-anniversary edition, Paul Raushenbush, the author’s great-grandson, has reprinted the text with essays by Cornel West, the Rev. Jim Wallis and others to prove that one can be a dedicated Christian and a social reformer at the same time. (The New York Times Book Review)

Rightly viewed from the beginning as the greatest statement of the social gospel movement . . . and set a new standard for political theology. (Christian Century)

From the Back Cover

In the wake of the success of God’s Politics, comes an anniversary edition of Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis, a book which outsold every other religious volume for three years and which has become a classic and mainstay for any Christian seriously interested in social justice. PBS has named Rauschenbusch one of the most influential American religious leaders in the last 100 years, and Christianity Today named this book one of the top books of the century that have shaped contemporary religious thought. So it seems fitting on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Christianity and the Social Crisis that Rauschenbush’s great-grandson should bring this classic back into print, adding a response to each chapter by a well-known contemporary author such as Jim Wallis, Tony Camplo, Cornel West, Richard Rorty, Stanley Hauerwas, and others. Between 1886 and 1897, he was pastor of the Second German Baptist Church in the “Hell’s Kitchen” area of New York City, an area of extreme poverty. As he witnessed massive economic insecurity, he began to believe that Christianity must address the physical as well as the spiritual needs of humankind. Rauschenbusch saw it as his duty as a minister and student of Christ to act with love by trying to improve social conditions.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060890274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060890278
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As an progressive Rauschenbusch does the unusual service of taking the time to describe how the past of Christianity, even though often sordid in the details, has set the stage for meeting the needs of the present. Such generous clarity does not appear to have won him much credit.

It would seem from some of the contemporary reflections that accompany each chapter that being "soft on sin" (i.e. the centrality of personal redemption) remains the mote in the eye of several commentators. For myself I observe that Rauschenbusch is very hard on the forms of sin that each of us encounters every day. There are no free passes in this book. I find no sense of instant liberation from the nasty inheritence of past shortcomings nor from the moral consequences if we shy from the magnitude of the work undone. I'm dumbfounded that anyone could read Rauschenbusch's critique of greedy capital accumulation as anything other than a description of evil incarnate.

Ultimately the power of this book for me is that page after page, in stunning elegence, it challenges the status quo from every angle I can imagine and then some. Time and again I am brought to chuckle at the incisiveness of his metaphors and their aptness at age 100 for our present day. If you believe that Christianity is an inescapably social enterprise, grounded in the world as we experience it directly, this is a highly recommended read.

Bill Mullins
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Format: Hardcover
This book presents the Social Gospel, which is similar to Richard Horsley (the Context Group), N.T. Wright's recent book Paul: In Fresh Perspective, and Liberation Theology. The Social Gospel is that Jesus' plan and gospel wasn't about individuals going to heaven rather than hell after they die, by individual belief and individual moral conduct, nor about theology and religious ritual practice, but rather, about social revolution to bring the kingdom of God into being on earth.

The first half of the book covers the original meaning of the Jewish Bible, particularly the prophets, and the New Testament. The second half applies that driving Biblical principle -- religion as moral social revolution toward egalitarianism -- to modern social problems (of 1907). Similarly, books using the Context Group or Liberation Theology approach sometimes explain the New Testament as social revolution in the context of the Roman Imperial system and then apply the same type of critique to Global Empire today. Some recent books using this layout are Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther; and Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, by Richard Horsley.

Per Rauschenbusch, mystical conceptions of Christianity, and purely religious doctrines of personal salvation, err in putting all attention on spiritual regeneration of the individual, and being blind to the social-political revolution that's the major concern of New Testament Christianity. A recent example of this partial view is Timothy Freke's book Jesus and the Goddess.

Rauschenbusch's book was definitive in presenting the Social Gospel.
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Format: Hardcover
Over the years, Walter Rauschenbusch has been a compelling voice, inspiring and motivating me, as a young pastor, to see Christianity as "a great revolutionary movement, pledged to change the world-as-it-is into the world-as-it-ought-to-be."

And now, Paul Raushenbush has imparted a precious gift to a new generation of ministers and Christians. He invited some of the most compelling voices of Christian thought--pastors, theologians, scholars, and activists--into the pages to discuss this classic text. With careful reflection and necessary correction, they give the words of Rauschenbusch new life, at just the right moment. It was wonderful to read this rich prose again, and to hear how they echo through the generations, renewing our purpose and hope.

Carol Howard Merritt
author of Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Content Summary: Walter Rauschenbusch, a Protestant Minister who worked in the hard circumstance of New York City at the turn of the 19-20th century, makes the case that Christianity should address the social crisis of his day. That crisis he saw was inequality and industrial capitalism. The competitive spirit of capitalism he saw an un-Christian, and wanted a more cooperative, socialist ideal. Writing before the time of Communism in Russia (and its obvious stigma), Rauschenbusch frequently uses "Communism" and Marxist analysis to get what he is really driving at: a more egalitarian, fraternal order, a closer approximation of the Kingdom of God, which he sees as part of Jesus' central message.

Analytical Review: What I appreciate most in Rauschenbusch is his desire for greater equality, and to make the Christian religion matter socially and politically. I too favor a more just and equal society, but I see that as possible by working in and reforming a free-market society. Rauschenbusch oversimplifies - he dichotomizes social impulses as "competition is bad and evil" and "cooperation is good" (and therefore Christian). This is a gross oversimplification. Rauschenbusch didn't fully understand capitalism or its primary defenders. He mentions Adam Smith only once, and shows no real immersion or criticism of the classical defenders of the capitalist system, which leads me to suspect he did not read them or read them only superficially. He certainly had read Marx. If Rauschenbusch better understood, instead of morally demonized, all business and competitive instinct, I think it would have given this book a more lasting and permanent impact.
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