The Social Gospel movement gained steam during the 1900s.

Pete Buttigieg, the presidential hopeful from the Democratic party, has scooped up media attention in recent times. This happened partly due to him being the first presidential candidate in United States history who is openly gay. He is also a Christian who says his religious beliefs are guiding his politics.

Buttigieg says the Christian faith could lead those who follow it towards a “progressive direction.” His stance echoes with the Social Gospel movement which once shaped American politics during the earlier years of the 1900s. Indiana and other Midwestern states were once the pivots of this movement. This movement linked the Christian religion with progressive politics. The Democratic political contender has argued that a belief in Christian ideals leads to skepticism of the powerful, the established, and the wealthy. He also expressed his concern that “concentrated wealth has begun to turn into concentrated power.”

The Social Gospel movement had similar thoughts on the same issue. The proponents of the movement urged the requirement to improve this world and not focus on the betterment of the next. Francis J. McConnell, a Methodist clergyman from Ohio, championed such ideas and even published a book on this subject. The tome pushed arguments remarkably similar to Buttigieg’s belief of faith giving impetus to social action. According to McConnell, “The moral impulse calls for the betterment of all the conditions of human living.” Historians credit McConnell with participation in the promotion of the evolving welfare state.

The Social Gospel’s well thought out criticism of big business found resonance in several communities scattered all over the Midwest. The movement was a reaction to the rise of substantial national corporations which came into existence during the latter part of the 19th century. These business enterprises swiftly consolidated power and wealth within cities located geographically distant from the Midwestern communities. The cities also went through an upheaval as workers demanded a social safety net which will offer a “living wage” to all workers. They also recommended the government to have more say on corporations which many believed have grown too big. Many churches agreed on this issue, with McConnell even comparing the CEOs of those companies with the absolute monarchs who ruled during ancient times. Midwesterners of that time viewed Christianity as an antidote to an unseen, probably malevolent and distant corporate power.

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