Rev. Scott's Letter, April 2
Delivered By
Rev. Tom Scott
Delivered On
April 2, 2020
Attached Document
april_2.pdf
Description

 

APRIL 2

At the risk of opening worm cans, I want to take notice of one of our current political buzz words—socialism. The word—generally undefined—gets chucked around as an insult and as a compliment, depending on your outlook.

When we hear the term, whether favorably or not, what’s meant is what might be called “secular socialism”. That is, free from any claim of spirituality or claim of a particular religion.

However...

There is a long tradition in our religious faith of what has been called, “Christian Socialism”, and it has been a huge force for good without necessarily being identified with a political party. The person we commemorate today on our Church calendar is one of the giants in that movement, Fredrick Denison Maurice (pronounced “Mahr-is”).

He had a powerful intellect and developed massive erudition. His written work alone fills shelves. He also succeeded in being quite a polarizing figure, for all that even his opponents found him charming and without guile. Many people thought his views were crystal clear and quite compelling. Others thought that trying to understand his reasoning was “like eating pea soup with a fork”.

His ideas were and are enormously influential. In his view, an essential ministry of the Church is to influence the working of society for the common good. So education and labor organizing and social reform and public improvements are public displays of Christian values in imitation of the great Summary of the Law—to love God and our neighbor. These are a solemn responsibility to be carried through in every aspect of the social order and our own behavior, not just on occasion, but always, (“seven whole days, not one in seven”, as George Herbert put it poetically). In FDM’s day and into the twentieth century, such a viewpoint was known as “the social gospel”. In Great Britain and the USA, social reform was often pursued by religious bodies, and the Episcopal Church—with a Maurician outlook—did its share and continues it.

Christian socialism was hardly a fringe movement. Archbishop William Temple, who was born about the time Maurice died, wrote a little book in the middle of WWII that still repays reading. “Christianity and the Social Order” is an explicit exposition of socialist ideas about organizing, operating, and owning industrial capacity, educational resources, and public welfare responsibilities, couched in a Christian view of the value and purpose of human beings and our common life.

Several of the prayers in our prayerbook are concerned with the themes and purpose of Christian socialism without being explicit about the ways in which the values and purposes of that movement are actually carried out. This is deliberate, of course, Christianity makes no claims to having an economic plan. But we do say with every fibre of our being as a religious body that work is good in itself, that our common life depends on people working in their own interest within the common good, that every person should enjoy the fruit of their labor, that fair and equitable return on investment along with the responsible pursuit of it is also a social good, and that our life together is better when we make life for each of us better. Hmm, put that way, doesn't sound so bad...

Our prayer for “Vocation in Daily Work” expresses this perspective deliberately as an expression of our faith.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.Amen

 
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