Christian Socialism

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Dyer D. Lum

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"Christian Socialism."

R. Heber Newton is appearing before the public in his grand act of equilibration of riding two horses. As a clergyman, ho feels obliged to insist upon Christ; divine authority and ail overruling providence are permanent factors in the problem to solve as presented to his mind. As a man, his feelings go out for the sufferings of his fellows; he sees the injustice of existing conditions, and would produce on earth the harmony he believes to exist in heaven. His heart protests against his head, and he would reconcile the two.

Can authority be accepted in principle into any form of logical socialism? We differ from Dr. Newton radically, though fully appreciating the kindness of heart which has called out his burning words. We object because authority is the tap-root of our social upas tree. Historically, Caesar preceded Christ; Rome and political unity made monogamy and Christian unity possible. Our civilization is Caesarian; God and Christ, Father and Anointed Sou, instead of being the sources of civilization, are but its effect. They are branches from the Caesarian trunk, and draw their vitality from its tap-root. Revealed truth may be diluted, — as in Dr. Newton's case, — but authority will reveal itself notwithstanding, like a drop of ink in water.

Authority, whether postulated on earth or in cloud-land, has no affinity with Liberty. Heretofore every advance of personal liberty has been accompanied by a decrease of divine authority. If progress is to continue, we can neither halt nor turn back. A priori argument that the two should not conflict does not alter the historical fact that thy ever have.

Dr. Newton, though unconsciously, is aiding the work of progress; for, as he brings Man more prominently forward, God recedes. He is less visible; dissolves into a metempirical entity. Our struggle is against Caesarism, and only against Christianism as a growth from it. We want neither the sanctified nor the unsanctified robber of human rights: neither Christ nor Barabbas.

So far, therefore, as Socialism is an advance toward Liberty, it cannot be Christian. We can imagine Christian Casarism, but not Caesarian Socialism. The words are as devoid of meaning thus yoked as " Self-government" in modern politics. Behind the figure of the Christ we discern the leer of the imperial Caesar. The shadow of the Cross cannot inclose the light of Liberty. Mail and God are antipodal ideas. The divine and the human are the nadir and zenith of thought; whoever tries the dangerous experiment of looking both ways at once must suffer from intellectual strabismus. Eighteen hundred years have been passed in endeavoring to unite the two characters, — the divine and the human nature in Jesus Christ. But the divine Christ has ever trampled upon the human Jesus; the Fatherhood of God has dwarfed the Brotherhood of Man. The path of progress is away from Caesarism and all of its offshoots. The hands of Time will not now turn backward.

Dyer D. Lum.


  • Dyer D. Lum, “Christian Socialism,” Liberty 3, no. 18 (November 28, 1885): 5.