Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America

Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America: A Critical Analysis

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Christian Ethics and Political Economy in North America
    Book Description:

    Kroeker argues that in trying to make their theological ethics relevant to economic policy Christian social ethicists have accepted assumptions that are incompatible with theological beliefs. Starting with the Social Gospel movement, he discusses the positions of theologian Walter Rauschenbusch and Canadian politician James Shaver Woodsworth. He then turns to Christian Realism and compares the views of Reinhold Niebuhr with those of Gregory Vlastos, the central figure in the Canadian Fellowship for a Christian Social Order. He also examines recent pastoral letters on the economy by the Canadian and US conferences of Roman Catholic bishops.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6519-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    The question of the relationship between religion and economics is currently the site of a raging ideological battle between proponents of democratic capitalism and democratic socialism, liberalism and communitarianism, and neo-conservative and leftist theologies. In attempting to negotiate this battleground of ideas and positions in order to clarify the issues at stake, one is often caught in a confusing crossfire of claims - some of which are religious, others economic or social scientific. Some claims appeal to revelation and tradition; others to empirical economic and social analysis. Sometimes the claims have a normative or prescriptive thrust; at other times they...

  5. 2 The Cooperative Commonwealth and the Kingdom of God: The Social Gospel Quest for a Public Morality
    (pp. 19-44)

    The social gospel movement in North America was born in the populist struggles against business power that emerged during the economic recession of the late nineteenth century.¹ Growing reaction against monopolistic corporations and industries by farmers and urban workers - through militant strikes and grassroots political alliances - contributed to widespread social conflict and the rise of class-based, reformist “social movements,” in which the social gospel was an important factor. The social gospel movement articulated a critical interpretation of and response to the “social crisis” in the form of a social ethic informed both by a religious vision of the...

  6. 3 Christian Realism: Reinhold Niebuhr and the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order
    (pp. 45-90)

    “Christian realism” was an offspring of the social gospel movement, and as is often the case, the most devastating and incisive critiques of a movement come “from within,” by family members sensitive to their progenitor’s weaknesses. Reinhold Niebuhr’s criticisms of the social gospel are widely known and frequently adduced,¹ but the family resemblances should also be recognized, for the prophetic power of Niebuhr’s work is heavily indebted to his social gospel background. His insistence that religion and theology must be related to and validated by human experience is, as we saw in chapter two, an important social gospel emphasis. And...

  7. 4 Human Dignity and Labour: The Catholic Bishops and Economic Policy
    (pp. 91-121)

    In recent years Roman Catholic bishops in North America have added their widely publicized voices to the growing choir of ethicists who seek to contribute to public debates on ethics and economics. This is both admirable and courageous, for although this choir boasts many skilled voices, there is little harmony among them. Given the breakdown of the postwar “Keynesian consensus” in the face of economic recessions and the simultaneous rise of inflation and unemployment, a variety of competing theoretical and ideological positions have arisen to interpret and address the situation. The bishops of Canada and the U.S. have entered this...

  8. 5 Conclusion: Toward a Moral Theology of Creation
    (pp. 122-144)

    That the issues and problems of political economy have taken centre stage in modern North American public life hardly needs argument. Political economy, as Sheldon Wolin remarks, is “a conception striving for totalization” in our public discourse and social relationships, the constitutive and generally unquestioned paradigm in making political judgments about public policy.¹ The context for understanding this development, elaborated in the introductory chapter, is the shift from religious cosmology to scientism as the orienting pattern for public order. The totalization of political economic discourse, I have argued, is a symptom of the spiritual crisis that results from such a...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 145-186)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-198)
  11. Index
    (pp. 199-201)