Tag Archives: Gilded Age

Is work irredeemably secular? – part IV


Continued from part III

The Methodist story gives us a vision for responsible work and broad social action, but we may still wonder today—and this is our third question—(3) how we can work faithfully while also while actively pushing back against those parts of our organizations and sectors that are unjust, or immoral—that is, that harm rather than hurt people? Where are the Christian resources that can help us act redemptively within unredeemed systems?

One Christian leader who armed others for such redemptive action was the late-Victorian American Congregational pastor Charles Sheldon.

It’s a Sunday morning near the end of the 1800s, in the comfortable upper-middle-class “First Church” in the town of Raymond, somewhere in the Midwest. Halfway through the service, a tired, sick homeless man walks into the church, up the aisle to the front, and begins to speak. He wonders aloud why there is so much trouble and misery in the cities when their well-off Christians sing so much about consecrating themselves entirely to God. “It seems to me,” he says, “there’s an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn’t exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out. I suppose I don’t understand.” Then he asks, in that now-familiar phrase: “But what would Jesus do?’”

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