In the Old Testament Micah 6:8 defines what is expected of God’s people: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God”. In the New Testament Jesus is quite clear when he tells us that we are to love God with our heart, soul, and mind and that we are “to love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mt 22: 37-39) The Catechism of the Episcopal Church states that it is our duty to our neighbors “to love them as ourselves, and to do to other people as we wish them to do to us;…to be kind to all the creatures of God; and to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people.”(BCP) Over the course of history man has acted in ways opposing the very foundations of these values by which we, as Christians, claim to live. Fortunately, though, eventually there come the voices of a few brave souls to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
As the eighteenth century drew to a close, the country would begin to experience the Second Great Awakening. This time period would reflect a greater commitment to Christian living and devotion. Because of this, society would show an increased interest in social justice and outreach. During the first few decades of the nineteenth century many believed that Christ would soon return, and therefore, Christians needed to prepare for his return by purifying society. Slavery was in full force, women were powerless, and the poor were ignored. Churches had begun to ignore their commitment to their fellow man in the quest for middle-class respectability. (RoR) It was the norm of the culture, but that did not make it right. Thankfully, some Christians spoke out for change. Charles Grandison Finney, a Presbyterian minister and educator was one such voice. Fostered in large part by the evangelical revival movement led by Finney, the church experienced expansive growth and rejuvenation across the denominations. His revival meetings cut across ethnic and gender lines and encouraged new innovations such as having women pray aloud at public meetings where men were present. He promoted equal education for both women and African Americans. He was a proponent of social reform, in particular abolitionism, and denounced slavery from the pulpit. Finney’s voice on abolition brought the issue to national attention. (AC, W, RoR)
During this same period, women would experience many positive changes. Women took an active role in leadership positions in mission work and in the volunteer societies that were forming both within the church and in society. These volunteer societies focused on societal problems such as prison reform and care for the homeless, handicapped, and mentally ill. An important female voice of the nineteenth century was that of Frances Willard. As one of the founders and long-time president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and Movement, she advocated for women’s right to vote and for temperance. Basing her beliefs on her feminist interpretation of the Bible, she taught that men and women were equal in marriage and that they should share decision making and leadership in the home. She argued that women should be equally educated and should participate equally in church and government. She spoke out for women’s rights and safety and believed that alcohol was the cause of much of the domestic violence directed at women and children. (RoR, AC)
The Civil War supposedly ended slavery in America, but in reality, African Americans were suppressed and used by the government of the white man. And then Rosa Parks refused to give a white man her seat on the bus. While many had refuted the ideas and practices of inequality of the races, their voices were never loud enough to be heeded across the world. That is until men like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young stepped up into the pulpit to deliver the message of Christian equality and brotherhood. Tired of seeing “the vast majority of (their) twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” (WWCW), King preached a message of peaceful confrontation. All they sought was the freedom to live according to the promises of the founding fathers of this nation. For too long they had been treated as subhuman, even as animals. The United States called itself a nation built on Christian principles and traditions, yet the government of this nation enabled the continued mistreatment of millions of its citizens. Citizens who were required to contribute to the economic fabric of this nation, but who were not allowed to enjoy any of the privileges promised by its constitution. Enough was enough. King and his followers peacefully demanded equality and with that the love and respect taught by Jesus. Some in the church did not stand up for this justice to be served. But there were many in the church who marched with Dr. King and their black brothers and sisters. It has taken time, but the church has opened its doors declaring that all are welcome, and all are equally deserving of the love of God and neighbor.
The political and social currents of the world have influenced Christianity over the years. The opposite is true as well because Christians have fought and continue to fight against political and social currents that deny freedom and justice for every individual. The church, or at least the Episcopal Church, is opening its doors in hospitality to all people no matter their sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability or any other discriminating factor. Are there some in the church who disagree? Of course, but they too, have a voice. The church is taking a stand for the equality and dignity of each and every individual by teaching and demonstrating that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. In the United States, living out our baptismal covenant through the recognition and appreciation of our differences is bringing us closer to the real truth of Jesus Christ.
A Proficient answer must satisfy the requirements of both criteria.
The answer exhibits accuracy and clear thought
logically develops an argument that explains how Christian ideas, leaders and/or movements challenged values and structures of dominant social and political establishments.
The essay is unclear
does not logically organize the material to respond to the question
offers confusing or inaccurate discussion of the examples cited.
At least two relevant historical examples of how Christian ideas, leaders and/or movements challenged values and structures of social and political establishment support the argument.
Historical examples are inaccurate or inappropriate
fewer than two relevant historical examples are offered to support the argument.