Saturday, July 2, 2016

For All the Saints: Walter Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden, Jacob Riis

Three prophetic witnesses are honored today on the Episcopal calendar. Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918) was a Christian theologian and author of Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907). Rauschenbusch believed that Christians spread God's kingdom through addressing social problems that lead to suffering. Instead of a gospel that gives people the way to heaven, the gospel must transform life in the world. His theology influenced later figures like Dr. Martin Luther King and archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as Rauschenbusch's own grandson, the philosopher Richard Rorty.  

Washington Gladden (1836-1918) was another Social Gospel leader. Gladden was pastor of Columbus, Ohio's First Congregational Church for nearly forty years and wrote many books and articles. Active in Progressive politics, he advocated for workplace unionization, supported municipal ownership of public works, and opposed racism and the treatment of Southern blacks. But he also supported the Spanish-American War.

Jacob August Riis (1849-1914) was a "muckraking" journalist and social reformer who used his skills in photography and journalism to document the living conditions of persons living in poverty. His influential work was How the Other Half Lives. Theodore Roosevelt was deeply inspired by Riis' work and sense of justice, and consulted with Riis during the years when he (Roosevelt) served as New York police board president.

As an aside, today is the birthday of two notable African American leaders: Thurgood Marshall (born 1908) and Medgar Evers (born 1925).

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