Christianity has a long history in the United Kingdom and the United States (the reference for this text) of supporting/working for leftist movements. Christianity, a religion of empathy, shares the compassion that guides leftist ideals. Of course, organized religion used to control the masses by making them content to divert their attention from their exploitation. However, as seen in the U.K. and America Christians have been very influential in labor movements. In the modern era, churches are centers of the community, places free of bourgeoisie control where grievances are laid out, and actions directed. Where workers are routine, this provides an incredible opportunity to organize a portion of the community.
Christians have a long history of organizing and contributing to labor movements and organizations. One such Christian Socialist was Frederic O. MacCartney. From the start of his life, he was dedicated to the church, becoming a unitarian minister. During his time in divinity school, he read 'looking backward' by Edward Bellamy. This reading would open his eyes to socialist thought. MacCartney would later campaign with the Social Democratic Party of America (which would later transform into the Socialist Party) and was elected to the Massachusetts legislature for four terms. Another Christian Socialist was Thomas J. Hagerty. Hagerty was a Roman-Catholic priest and labor unionist and gave speeches across the country for the Socialist Party to Catholic workers encouraging them to unionize. Hagerty was also a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He often noted atheists and other religious groups belonged to the Socialist Party as it was not a religious issue. Both Christians were champions of the workers and worked to advance the socialist cause in the late 1800s through the early 1900s America.
The Christian view is to make a more empathetic society, leftist ideas are the most congruent with that view. Most Christians in the progressive era were split between private and public camps. The private party wanted to save individual souls and achieve salvation, the public camp however wished to build the kingdom of god on this earth as a path to the Kingdom of God. To achieve deliverance they would make a new system. The clergy saw socialism as this system and would work with atheistic leftists. Although it is important to note that during this time in Germany the social democratic party was avidly anti-theist. This attitude of cooperation would surprise German immigrants when they noticed the relationship between the American left and Christians. In this era, Christians "accept[ed] the full political program [socialism] without reserve and loyally support[ed] it" (1 Spargo).
Although these early Christian socialists demonstrate solidarity with the working class that is not the case in the modern era. Currently, most churches and Christians are 'fundamentalist Christians' and are intensely conservative socially. This idea originated in the 1900s while the theory of “theological modernism” which compensated for modern developments in science fundamentalists, however, reasserted the authority of the bible. Fundamentalists following the bible with a literal interpretation have led to obviously outdated views and given them a justification for their racist and homophobic views. This provided the reactionaries an opportunity, to infiltrate these socially conservative Christian spaces and turn them into a loyal base of support for capitalism and reactionary thought. This is the origin of the modern reactionary Christian base of support in America and around the world. This combination has led to 'Christian nationalism' an ideology that advocates for a theological reactionary state in America. Christians are indoctrinated with reactionary propaganda along with the belief that leftists will make Christianity illegal, an irrational fear but one commonly held by Christians.
The majority of Christians in America live along the 'bible belt’, an area in the southeastern United States of largely protestants. Demographics of these areas show that at least sixty percent of the population is religious the highest density of religious people is in Alabama at seventy-seven percent. Most of the people in the bible belt are poor and working class. To reinforce this point we need to look no further than Alabama. In the state, sixteen percent of the population lives in poverty. The median household income is fifty-seven thousand dollars while the estimated amount needed to live comfortably while saving for retirement is 61,000 dollars. The state lacks education, jobs, and basic infrastructure along with this the state is quite literally a dystopia. Recently a factory that made car parts was found to be using child labor from those as young as thirteen in dangerous positions. The state has the ninth-highest unemployment rate in the U.S. This all demonstrates the poor economic conditions that fellow working-class people who happen to be Christians endure.
The people in Alabama are extreme reactionaries, which presents a challenge for leftist organizers among the reactionary working-class folks. Nevertheless, it is vital for the leftist cause that these working people are informed. These workers have restricted access to an adequate education that must be where they are. They, like all working-class people, have a capacity for understanding leftist thought and contributing to leftist action. Leftists, however, must hide their more atheistic elements as this is one of the most definitive parts of their identities and the only reliable community poor Christians have ever had. Unfortunately, reactionaries have infiltrated the working Christians though this does not mean we can not educate them. To bypass red scare propaganda a more subtle approach should proceed, educating them on their exploitation and a better, more cooperative future. Among the workers in the state, African-Americans have a staggering ninety percent rate of being religious, as many say religion is a large part of their life. African-Americans are also impoverished and disadvantaged in America. Holding an understanding of their religious beliefs can also help with organizing with African-American workers.
The people in Alabama are extreme reactionaries, which presents a challenge for leftist organizers in the state among reactionary working-class folks. However, it is needed to complete the leftist cause. These people who are restricted from access to an adequate education need to be communicated to where they are intellectually. They, just like all working people, have a capacity for understanding leftist theory and contributing to leftist action, while at the current moment they are intellectually disadvantaged. Leftists, however, must hide their more atheistic ideas and opinions as this is one of the most definitive parts of their identities and the only reliable community poor Christians have ever had. Unfortunately, reactionaries have infiltrated the working Christians, although this does not mean we can not educate them. To bypass reactionary propaganda, a more subtle approach should be taken, focusing on educating them on their exploitation and a better, more cooperative future, never on their religion. Accompanying the workers in Alabama, African-Americans have a staggering ninety percent rate of being religious. Almost as many say that faith is a large part of their life. They are also staggeringly poor and disadvantaged in America. Understanding their religious beliefs is a tool in helping to organize African-American workers.
The most obvious place for communicating is the church, it's a center for community action. Historically churches have food drives or other forms of community action. Utilizing more leftist or left-aligned pastors or church members or simply talking with church members on religious grounds to inform them. When engaging with Christians, leftists need to acknowledge the dominant part religion plays in their communities and identity while not letting religion be an excuse for intolerant beliefs. Do not forget the reason for their reactionary ideology, conservatives, and leftists must be as persistent in informing as we are when engaging directly with the capitalist. Leftists must be tenacious in informing our fellow workers about their liberation and unwavering when faced with opposition.
Spargo, John “Christian socialism in America”, https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/211752 9/30/22
Bateman, Bradley W. “The Social Gospel and the Progressive Era.” Divining America, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center. 9/30/22 <http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/socgospel.htm>
Crosby, Ben “The Christian Case for Union Organizing” https://reflections.yale.edu/article/hard-times-gospel-values/christian-case-union-organizing 9/30/22
World population review 10/20/22
Benjamin W. is a high school student in Louisiana. Ben is an avid reader which led him towards theory. He is a Christian Marxist Leninist with a focus on Marxism in the modern world along with revolutionary movements in our era. Ben also writes about christianity and the empathy that Christ taught working with leftist movements not against them.
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