Social and Religious Transformations of an Image, 1890–1940
4. Social Campaigner 105
105 4. Social Campaigner From the late nineteenth century, changing social structures led to widespread concerns about social problems and to the emergence of sociological analysis. Proposals for reform were debated in New Zealand as elsewhere, and Jesus was frequently invoked in these deliberations. This chapter assesses three main contexts in which this occurred. It begins by considering the place of Jesus in social Christianity from the 1890s to about 1920, before addressing discourses of labour, unionism and socialism, and reaction to these over the same timeframe. A third context concerns the Protestant social gospel of the interwar years. The Jesus of social campaigning reflected the pressures that different constituencies felt amid widespread upheaval within society. Social disharmony threatened church leaders’ visions of a Christian society, while some also feared the competing influence of labour. The labour movement’s own position was far from assured, however, and attempts to enlist Jesus to the labour cause reflected its need of internal stability. A socialist Jesus provided a retort to conservative critics. He was also attractive to religious workers. While appropriation of him in these debates did not always amount to Jesus-centred religiosity, it did cohere with the religious tone in society. In general, Jesus was enlisted as a moral symbol, particularly through discourses of brotherhood, ethics and righteous opposition. Jesus lent moral strength to competing social ideals, and was a prime cultural reference in the contest of values. Social Christianity Attempts to Christianise the social order incorporated a range of strategies. Social...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.