On Earth as It Is in Heaven: The Social Gospel 1

“The individualistic gospel has taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart,” wrote Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor serving in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. “But it has not given us an adequate understanding of the sinfulness of the social order and its share in the sins of all individuals within it.”

Rauschenbusch articulated a theological foundation for the new movement. He didn’t believe that Jesus, by dying, substituted his life for our sins. He understood that Christ died on the cross “to substitute love for selfishness as the basis of human society.”

The Social Gospel sought to establish, literally, Jesus’s promise in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It was not simply about getting souls into heaven, but about transforming life to reflect heaven here on Earth. It meant solving social problems such as income disparity, child labor, poor schooling, and a host of other injustices.

Rauschenbusch set much of the blame for social ills at the feet of religion. He observed how the “Church” had gradually replaced Christ’s “Kingdom.” It was a theme ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would return to often: over time, rituals, dogmas, and superstitions had created a man-made “imitation” of religion. For ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, building the Kingdom meant building a just and unified global society.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to New York City on Friday afternoon, May 17, and told the waiting friends about the conference.

The power of the Holy Spirit 3

Many friends came to visit Him and when their numbers increased, the Master went into the assembly room and gave a lengthy talk that began with a description of the Lake Mohonk conference. He said that the influence and practice of peace and the unity of nations could only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When He was tired during these days He would often go alone in the afternoon to the park near Riverside Drive. He explained: ‘When I sleep on the grass, I obtain relief from exhaustion and am freed from cares. If I am not alone, I will talk and perspire and will not become relaxed and free of cares.’ As always, people were continually coming and going both day and night. Everyone was anxious to see Him and He spoke to them continuously. It was impossible for Him to get any rest except when He went out alone.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “On Earth As It Is In Heaven: The Social Gospel.” 239 Days in America, May 17, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/17/on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven/. [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 69-70. [return]
  3. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section54. [return]