Rauschenbusch: A Man Ahead of His Time “Theology is the esoteric thought of the Church.” (WR 15) What is meant by this is that theology is a part of the Church that is very mysterious and confusing to most laymen. Rauschenbusch has introduced many new ideas into the theological point of view. Rauschenbusch tries to explain that the social gospel is here to help people pull more from theology than just jargon that they don’t understand. One of Rauschenbuch’s main points throughout his book A Theology for the Social Gospel is that man uses the thought of Adam being responsible for original sin and therefore everyone is born into sin. Jonathan Kozol, the author of Amazing Grace, went to the impoverished city of Mott Haven to observe the motivation of the citizens amidst a town where sin is around every street corner. He examined the meaning of life and the little opportunity the citizens of Mott Haven had to escape their unfortunate circumstances.
Through Walter Rauschenbusch’s A Theology for the Social Gospel one can find the answers to the questions of sin and the heavy presence of sin. The excuse of using Adam as a reason to rid men of their responsibilities is one of the biggest mistakes theologians make, but Rauschenbusch has tried to set things straight by pointing out that those sinful behaviors are learned through your lifestyle and surroundings. Rauschenbusch has introduced many new ideas into the theological point of view. He still uses many of the same ideas of the “old theology”, but has just made some important changes to add his own thoughts on what theology should be about and how it should be used to influence people’s daily lives throughout the world. Rauschenbusch says,” Theology is not superior to the gospel. It exists to aid the preaching of salvation.
Its business is to make the essential facts and principles of Christianity so simple and clear… that all who preach or teach the gospel… can draw on its stores and deliver a complete and unclouded Christian message. When the progress of humanity creates new tasks… or new problems… theology must connect these old fundamentals of our faith and make them Christian tasks and problems.” (WR 6) He is saying that basically the social gospel is an aid to help people understand what their salvation is and how to achieve salvation, but while doing this not using complicated jargon to confuse the laymen.
Rauschenbusch thinks that even laymen should be able to read and understand the social gospel well enough to speak about it in a clear and concise manner. It is meant to get everyone interested in the gospel by using people’s own social problems to solve all of their modern religious needs. “The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but enlarged and intensified.” (WR 5) The social gospel is here to show us the old way of salvation One of Rauschenbuch’s main points throughout his book A Theology for the Social Gospel is that man uses the thought of Adam being responsible for original sin and therefore everyone is born into sin. The “old theology” says that all human sin is inherited down genetically from the original sin of Adam. Rauschenbusch, somewhat, disagrees with this idea because he thinks that many of the evil habits and ideas that men have are also learned socially.
“The evil habits of boyhood, -lying, stealing, cigarette smoking, profane and obscene talk, self-pollution, -are usually set up in boys by the example and social suasion of boys just one stage older than they, young enough to be trusted companions, and old enough to exercise authority. One generation corrupts the next.” (WR 60) Rauschenbusch uses a great example of the relationships that young adults have with one another, and how the pressures of adolescence sway them. Much of our culture is very influential on the young adults, and how they will “turn out” when they become part of the major adult society in the real world. The youth is very limited in what they are exposed to until the age of about sixteen, when they first become able to transport themselves around and explore and find out things for themselves. Until that time they are influenced by how the adults around them act and how the adults react to certain situations. The only other groups of people that the children are exposed to are other young people around their similar age or grade in school.
These other kids are the most influential of all, because they spend several days during the week around all the these kids and school and then they come home and imitate what they have learned what them. Rauschenbusch still has a tendency to conform to what the “old theology” says about sin. He says that, even though people learn sin through social situations when they are young, people also inherit sin from Adam. Adam’s original sin is one of the biggest excuses used to transfer responsibility for your actions to someone else. Rauschenbusch says that using Adam as and excuse for all your sins is not the right thing to do. Adam, and his original sin, is used way to often by men to excuse horrendous behavior and then just use the excuse of Adam to redeem themselves.
Rauschenbusch thinks that we need to blame no one but ourselves for our actions and to ask forgiveness from God as a redeeming power. Jonathon Kozol realized some of these ideas during his visit to Mott Haven, a small extremely poor district in the Bronx. He saw the affects that the surroundings of a person can have on them. Kozol saw how it was not just a genetically passed on thing, but it was a learned behavior from being around others who did the wrong things themselves.
An example of this would be the drug problem in that part of New York. People that are around the drugs problems in that part of town have a higher likelihood of doing those drugs or selling them due to the fact that they are exposed to them on a daily basis on the time. The fact that these people live in such poverty will make them envy what those people have and willing to do anything to achieve that status in life, even if they have to sell drugs that kill their friends to do it. The drugs in turn cause other problems, such as whoring and begging.
The whores are addicted to the drugs, and the only way they can afford the drugs is to be a whore. It is a vicious cycle of horror in Mott Haven. Also, another problem with seeing other people in town with a lot of material wealth would be affecting their attitudes toward theft, and what those material things really mean in the end. Their situation in life is affecting their thoughts upon what is right and wrong within their society and not basing it upon what the mainstream society says. Rauschenbusch has made many important changes to today’s theology, but he still maintains much of what the “old theology” says. The social gospel is there to help clear up how confusing theology can be by explaining things in laymen’s terms.
Rauschenbusch also says that Adam is an extremely overused excuse for people to rid themselves of responsibility for their own actions. People learn many of the behaviors from their surroundings and from socializing. Jonathon Kozol realized this when he went to Mott Haven and saw what terrible things went on there and how it was a cycle in that community.