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Christianity ,

Social Revolutions, and

the way forward

By Josh Alexakos

N

o type of revolution has had a greater history of violence and redemptive victory than the social revolution. Social revolutions, defined by the anarchist Alexander Berkman as “the reorganization of the industrial, economic life of the country, and consequently also of the entire structure  of  society,” have greatly impacted our world and molded it into the shape it is today.i In Western history, no other religion has had as unique a relationship with social revolutions as Christianity. At times, Christianity and social revolutions have been viciously opposed to each other. At other times, the two have worked in such close tandem as to be indistinguishable. Therefore, while Karl Marx argues that Christianity is impotent for social change and irrelevant to social revolution, Christianity actually promotes social revolution and gives it a powerful and tangible methodology for peaceful social change. In fact, Christianity supplies both a narrative and the moral conviction needed to motivate social change. Christianity has definitely failed to fight injustice in certain instances throughout history, but has also acted as a catalyst for social change for much of history. Society, by extension, attributes much of its progress to Christianity. Marx, the German economist and philosopher and one of the fiercest critics of Christianity, attacked religion’s predictable maintenance of the status quo: The foundation of irreligious criticism is:  Man makes religion, religion does not make man… Man is  the world of man  – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an  inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an  inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world… It is the fantastic realization  of the human essence since

the human essence  has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion… Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.ii

Marx identifies that religion is nothing more than a product of man, the state, and society. By implication, religion is nothing more than a tool used by the state to conserve the state of affairs. According to Marx, religion acts as the outlet through which people can express their sufferings. However, this means that religion can never enlighten people to recognize the real cause of their problems - in the case of Marx, the state’s continued abuse of the working class in favor of the bourgeoisie. Marx’s critique, one levied by others in history, opposes any suggestion that any religion, including Christianity, could logically work side by side with social revolution. Marx’s denunciation of religion and its assurance of social stagnancy is appealing, but historically incorrect. On the contrary, throughout history, Christians, motivated by Christianity itself, have sought to cure social ills and even spark social revolutions to end some of history’s worst injustices. English Christians, such as William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, and Thomas Clarkson, felt compelled by their Christian faith to end slavery and succeeded in abolishing the slave trade in 1807 and slavery itself in 1834.iii Although Christianity in Europe had existed from the late 15th century all the way up until the mid-19th century alongside slavery, Christianity and slavery were not a peaceful pairing. In 1537, Pope Paul III forbade the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of America

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Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •

23

Apologia Spring 2016  

Volume 10, Issue 2

Apologia Spring 2016  

Volume 10, Issue 2

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