Social Gospel ministers fought bitterly with labor leaders over who was better suited to lead the working classes. Christian Socialists upheld a radical Christ who defended unions. They defined a Christian republic through its cooperative ownership and management of industry. The Federal Council of Churches, and specifically the ministry of Rev. Charles Stelzle, identified this working-class Christianity as misguided. Stelzle upheld a politically neutral Christ and a network of American churches that refused to take sides in debates over the ownership of industries. Stelzle’s work within the Men and Religion Forward Movement of 1912 was not simply aimed at organizing by the AFL and neutralizing the appeal of socialism. Rather, through this movement and those that followed, Stelzle sought to undermine the appeal of radical, working-class churches and replace the moral authority of Christian workers with that of Protestant ministers and social services experts.
War for the Soul of the Christian Nation: Christian Socialists versus the Federal Council of Churches, 1901–1912
JANINE GIORDANO DRAKE is assistant professor of history at the University of Providence. She is currently completing her book manuscript, “War for the Soul of the Christian Nation: Socialism and the American Churches, 1880–1920.”
Janine Giordano Drake; War for the Soul of the Christian Nation: Christian Socialists versus the Federal Council of Churches, 1901–1912. Labor 1 September 2017; 14 (3): 55–80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-3921330
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