The Christian left is a range of centre-left and left-wing Christian political and social movements that largely embrace social justice viewpoints and uphold a social gospel. Given the inherent diversity in international political thought, the term can have different meanings and applications in different countries. Although there is some overlap, the Christian left is distinct from liberal Christianity, meaning not all Christian leftists are liberal Christians, and vice versa. Some Christian leftists have socially conservative views on social issues but lean left on economic issues.
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As with any section within the left and right wings of a political spectrum, a label such as "Christian left" represents an approximation, including within it groups and persons holding many diverse viewpoints. The term left-wing might encompass a number of values, some of which may or may not be held by different Christian movements and individuals.
As the unofficial title of a loose association of believers, it does provide a clear distinction from the more commonly known "Christian right" or "religious right" and from its key leaders and political views.
The most common religious viewpoint that might be described as "left-wing" is social justice, or care for impoverished and oppressed groups. Supporters of this trend might encourage universal health care, welfare provisions, subsidized education, foreign aid, and affirmative action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. With values stemming from egalitarianism, adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed.
Some among the Christian left,as well as some non-religious socialists, find support for anarchism, communism and socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as "the first socialist"). The Christian left is a broad category that includes Christian socialism, while also including non-socialists as well.
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For much of the early history of anti-establishment leftist movements such as socialism and communism (which was highly anti-clerical in the 19th century), some established churches were led by clergy who saw revolution as a threat to their status and power. The church was sometimes seen as part of the establishment. Revolutions in America, France, Russia and (much later) Spain were in part directed against the established churches (or rather their leading clergy) and instituted a separation of church and state.
However, in the 19th century some writers and activists developed a school of thought, Christian socialism, a branch of Christian thought that was infused with socialism.
Early socialist thinkers such as Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon based their theories of socialism upon Christian principles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels reacted against these theories by formulating a secular theory of socialism in The Communist Manifesto .
Starting in the late 19th century and early 20th century,[ citation needed ] some began to take on the view that genuine Christianity had much in common with a leftist perspective. From St. Augustine of Hippo's City of God through St. Thomas More's Utopia , major Christian writers had expounded upon views that socialists found agreeable. Of major interest was the extremely strong thread of egalitarianism in the New Testament. Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, social justice, racial equality, human rights, and the rejection of excessive wealth are also expressed strongly in the Bible. In the late 19th century, the Social Gospel movement arose (particularly among some Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists in North America and Britain,) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity to produce a faith-based social activism, promoted by movements such as Christian socialism. In the United States during this period, Episcopalians and Congregationalists generally tended to be the most liberal, both in theological interpretation and in their adherence to the Social Gospel. In Canada, a coalition of liberal Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians founded the United Church of Canada, one of the first true Christian left denominations. Later in the 20th century, liberation theology was championed by such writers as Gustavo Gutierrez and Matthew Fox.
To a significant degree, the Christian left developed out of the experiences of clergy who went to do pastoral work among the working class, often beginning without any social philosophy but simply a pastoral and evangelistic concern for workers. This was particularly true among the Methodists and Anglo-Catholics in England, Father Adolph Kolping in Germany and Joseph Cardijn in Belgium.
Some Christian groups were closely associated with the peace movements against the Vietnam War as well as the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Religious leaders in many countries have also been on the forefront of criticizing any cuts to social welfare programs. In addition, many prominent civil rights activists (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.) were religious figures.
In the United States, members of the Christian Left come from a spectrum of denominations: Peace churches, elements of the Protestant mainline churches, Catholicism, and some evangelicals.
In the aftermath of the 2004 election in the United States, progressive Christian leaders started to form groups of their own to combat the religious right. Such groups include the Center for Progressive Christianity (founded 1996) and the Christian Alliance for Progress.
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The Christian left generally approaches homosexuality differently from other Christian political groups. This approach can be driven by focusing on issues differently despite holding similar religious views, or by holding different religious ideas. Those in the Christian left who have similar ideas as other Christian political groups but a different focus may view Christian teachings on certain issues, such as the Bible's prohibitions against killing or criticisms of concentrations of wealth, as far more politically important than Christian teachings on social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to homosexuality. Others in the Christian left have not only a different focus on issues from other Christian political groups, but different religious ideas as well.
For example, all members of the Christian left consider discrimination and bigotry against homosexuals to be immoral, but they differ on their views towards homosexual sex. Some believe homosexual sex to be immoral but largely unimportant when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex. Others affirm that some homosexual practices are compatible with the Christian life. Such members believe common biblical arguments used to condemn homosexuality are misinterpreted, and that biblical prohibitions of homosexual practices are actually against a specific type of homosexual sex act, i.e. pederasty, the sodomizing of young boys by older men. Thus, they hold biblical prohibitions to be irrelevant when considering modern same-sex relationships.
A related strain of thought is the (Catholic and progressive evangelical) consistent life ethic, which sees opposition to capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, abortion and the global unequal distribution of wealth as being related. It is an idea with certain concepts shared by Abrahamic religions as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and members of other religions. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago developed the idea for the consistent life ethic in 1983.Currently, Sojourners is particularly associated with this strand of thought. Adherents commonly criticize politicians who identify as pro-life while simultaneously oppose funding for pre-natal vitamins, child nutrition programs, or universal health care.
Liberation theology is a theological tradition that emerged in the developing world, especially Latin America. Since the 1960s, Catholic thinkers have integrated left-wing thought and Catholicism, giving rise to Liberation Theology. It arose at a time when Catholic thinkers who opposed the despotic leaders in South and Central America allied themselves with the communist opposition. However, it developed independently of and roughly simultaneously with Black theology in the U.S. and should not be confused with it.The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decided that while liberation theology is partially compatible with Catholic social teaching, certain Marxist elements of it, such as the doctrine of perpetual class struggle, are against Church teachings.
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The medieval Lollards, particularly John Ball, took up many anti-establishment causes. During the English Civil War many of the more radical Parliamentarians, such as John Lilburne and the Levellers, based their belief in universal suffrage and proto-socialism on their reading of the Bible. Other people on the Christian left include:[ citation needed ]
A number of movements of the past had similarities to today's Christian left:
Liberation theology is a synthesis of Christian theology and socio-economic analyses, sometimes based in far-left politics, particularly Marxism, that emphasizes “social concern for the poor and political liberation for oppressed peoples”. In the 1950s and the 1960s, liberation theology was the political praxis of Latin American theologians, such as Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, Leonardo Boff of Brazil, Juan Luis Segundo of Uruguay, and Jon Sobrino of Spain, who popularized the phrase "Preferential option for the poor".
These are articles that list people of a particular religious or political belief or other worldview.
Christian socialism is a form of religious socialism based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Many Christian socialists believe capitalism to be idolatrous and rooted in greed, which some Christian denominations consider a mortal sin. Christian socialists identify the cause of inequality to be the greed that they associate with capitalism.
Christian democracy is a political ideology that emerged in 19th-century Europe under the influence of Catholic social teaching. Christian democratic political ideology advocates for a commitment to social market principles and qualified interventionism. It was conceived as a combination of modern democratic ideas and traditional Christian values, incorporating the social teachings espoused by the Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Pentecostal traditions in various parts of the world. After World War II, the Protestant and Catholic movements of the Social Gospel and Neo-Thomism, respectively, played a role in shaping Christian democracy. Christian democracy continues to be influential in Europe and Latin America, although it is also present in other parts of the world.
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (UTS) is a non-denominational Christian seminary in New York City. It is affiliated with neighboring Columbia University. Since 1928, the seminary has served as Columbia's constituent faculty of theology. In 1964, UTS also established an affiliation with the neighboring Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Liberal Christianity, also known as liberal theology, covers diverse philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century onward. Liberal does not refer to progressive Christianity or to political liberalism but to the philosophical and religious thought that developed and grew as a consequence of the Enlightenment.
Catholic Church and politics aims to cover subjects of where the Catholic Church and politics share common ground.
Vekoslav Grmič was a Slovenian Roman Catholic bishop and theologian, known for his sympathy towards socialist ideas.
This article gives an overview of socialism in the Netherlands, including communism and social democracy. It is limited to communist, socialist, and social-democratic parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ means a reference to another party in that scheme.
This article gives an overview of Christian democracy in the Netherlands, which is also called confessionalism, including political Catholicism and Protestantism. It is limited to Christian democratic parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ means a reference to another party in that scheme.
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism is a 1982 book by philosopher Michael Novak, in which Novak aims to understand and analyze the theological assumptions of democratic capitalism, its spirit, it values, and its intentions. Novak defines democratic capitalism as a pluralistic social system that contrasts with the unitary state of the traditional society and the modern socialist state. He analyzes it as a differentiation of society into three power centers: a political sector, an economic sector, and a moral-cultural sector. Each sector needs the others. Democracy needs the market economy and both need a pluralistic liberal culture. Against the continuing growth of democratic capitalism, modern socialism has contracted from a robust utopian program into vague “idealism about equality” and overwrought criticism of capitalism, most notably in the “liberation theology” of Latin America. Novak ends with the “beginnings of a theological perspective on democratic capitalism” illuminated by the journey from Marxism to realism of Reinhold Niebuhr.
Lebanese Greek Orthodox Christians refers to Lebanese people who are adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Lebanon, which is an autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and is the second largest Christian denomination in Lebanon after the Maronite Christians.
Edward Michael Harrington Jr. was an American democratic socialist, writer, author of The Other America, political activist, political theorist, professor of political science, radio commentator and founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Christians for Socialism was a worldwide political and cultural movement focused on social inequality and economic injustice, inspired by liberation theology. It was founded in 1971.
Monsignor Wilhelm Imkamp is a German Roman Catholic priest, theologian, and church historian. A member of the Papal household, he was appointed as a Prelate of Honour of His Holiness in 2006 and an Apostolic Protonotar in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Imkamp serves as a consultant for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, The German Association of the Holy Land, and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. He is a knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the Order of Parfaite Amitié.
The Christian Alliance for Progress. composed of individuals from various denominations and religious viewpoints, strives to emphasize the core beliefs and values of Christianity in response to the contemporary involvement of Christian groups in the search for political influence and power.
Young, Shawn David. Gray Sabbath: Jesus People USA, the Evangelical Left, and the Evolution of Christian Rock. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.