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"Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century"


August 20, 2007 | bpfna

This classic and inspirational book about Christian social justice has been augmented with new essays by today's leading theologians in an exciting, new 100th anniversary edition.

One hundred years ago Walter Rauschenbusch, a primary theologian of the Social Gospel movement, published CHRISTIANITY AND THE SOCIAL CRISIS IN THE 21ST CENTURY.  It's impact and influence was immediate and profound, and the book quickly outsold every other religious volume for three years running.  Its influence has continued to spread throughout the 20th Century.  PBS named Rauschenbusch one of the most influential American religious leaders in the last 100 years, and Christianity Today declared the book one of the top books of the century. Now, Rauschenbusch's great-grandson, Paul, has compiled a special 100th anniversary edition, CHRISTIANITY AND THE SOCIAL CRISIS IN THE 21ST CENTURY:  The Classic That Woke Up the Church (HarperOne hardcover; $27.95; August 7, 2007; ISBN 13: 978-0-06-089027-8).  Each chapter is accompanied by a responding essay from one of today's most thoughtful theologians, including Dr. Phyllis Trible, Dr. Tony Campolo, Sister Joan Chittister, Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, Dr. Cornel West, Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. and Rev. Jim Wallis.  Dr. Richard Rorty contributes the final essay coda.

Between 1886 and 1897, Walter Rauschenbusch was pastor of the Second German Baptist Church in the impoverished neighborhood of "Hell’s Kitchen" in New York City.  As he experienced the debilitating economic insecurity surrounding him, Rauschenbusch became convinced that Christianity must address the physical as well as the spiritual needs of humankind.  Seeing it as his duty as a minister and student of Christ to act with love by trying to improve the social conditions of his ministry, Rauschenbusch would eventually write his classic book, which would in turn inform the thinking and writing of succeeding generations of theologians world-wide, including Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr, Reverend Dr. King Martin Luther King Jr. (who later acknowledged it, recalling "In the early 50's I read Walter Rauschenbusch's Christianity and the Social Crisis — a book which left an indelible imprint in my thinking."), Mahatma Ghandi, and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Edited by Rauschenbush's great-grandson, Paul (the first in his family to return to the ministry), CHRISTIANITY AND THE SOCIAL CRISIS OF THE 21ST CENTURY is appearing in the present atmosphere of heightened debate and even antagonism between political and religious viewpoints.  "Just as Rauschenbusch awoke to the social message of the gospel through his direct experience of poverty," Paul Raushenbush writes in the book's Foreword, "Christians today must not be afraid to face the most pressing issues of our day—war, terrorism, poverty, globalization, religious fanaticism, AIDS, the rights of women—and to confront these challenges first hand."  As the disparity between the rich and the poor in America continues to widen, in the 21st century, "we must recognize that it is not enough to help the afflicted; we must influence the system that causes the affliction," warns Paul.  "It is not enough to help the assaulted man on the road to Jericho; we must stop the assaults.  We are called to dedicate ourselves to the task of doing the work that Jesus set us here to do:  love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves in concrete and practical ways."

This book inspired a national reform movement "that swept the nation over the next century, including the fight for child labor laws, a manageable work week with a minimum wage, FDR's New Deal, the Great Society, and the civil rights movement."  One hundred years later, CHRISTIANITY AND THE SOCIAL CRISIS IN THE 21st CENTURY continues to offers a relevant and impassioned message that speaks eloquently to our own troubled era.


Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) was the primary theologian of the Social Gospel movement whose mission was to meet social needs through the ministrations of the institutional church.

Paul Raushenbush, great-grandson of Walter Rauschenbusch, is associate dean of religious life at Princeton University.  He has served as an associate minister at Riverside Church in New York City and has been involved in ministry to street youth in Seattle and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

CHRISTIANITY AND THE SOCIAL CRISIS IN THE 21ST CENTURY is available in the BPFNA online catalogue.

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