THE SOCIAL GOSPEL OF JESUS: DEEP HUMAN HISTORY
This course is about social ethics, as found in religious scripture and in human lives. Social ethics is here understood as conceptions of how we ought and ought not to behave, think, and feel. So construed, social ethics are a vital part of human social behavior every where and when
Our touchstone will be The Social Gospel of Jesus, an ethical text which has been foundational for Christianity and is widely received as one of the most important ethical texts of all scriptural religions. We’ll plan to proceed as follows
1) Familiarize ourselves with the contents of the ethics of the Social Gospel, from the presentation of The Gospel in the New Testament
This is The Gospel in scripture…….. the disembodied Gospel, if you will.
But so also, and especially for our purposes, the ethical contents of The Gospel are enacted in lives, albeit variably so. We’ll plan to spend most of our time together looking at case materials drawn from two cultures which illustrate this variability
2) For the first 90 – 95% of human history, all humans lived just in foraging(hunting and gathering)cultures……… whose socialities of course were grounded in social ethics. Our forager ancestors, to be sure, had no knowledge of Jesus and The Social Gospel which He propounded. However, to what extent and in what ways did the contents of forager social ethics resemble the contents of the social ethics that comprise the heart of The Social Gospel of Jesus? For forager social ethics, we’ll rely heavily here on Richard Katz’ ethnographic study of a 20th century foraging people of SW Africa, the Kung.
3) The large majority of contemporary Americans self define as Christian. How is The Social Gospel of Jesus enacted in lives of today’s American Christians? Of course, contemporary American Christianity comes in almost innumerable flavors and textures, we cannot come within leagues of covering the water front. Rather, we will look in some depth at two American cases
A) The biography of an American from early childhood into the full flower of her adulthood……. a deeply religious American, the centerpiece of whose religiousness has been striving to enact The Social Gospel of Jesus as her changing understandings of same led her to do (‘Sarah’s Story. A Case Study of Religious Conversion’. Ms. authored by yours truly)
B) Many memberts of the Senior College self define as Christians. Those who do not so self define live their lives in a culture heavily stamped by Christian emphases and surrounded by self defined Christians. The social ethics of virtually all of us bear a heavy Christian imprint. And of course the social behavior of most(perhaps all) of us is heavily ethically informed. Let us, then, as we may feel disposed to do so, share our own individual ethical views…….. and about same, ask……. in what ways, to what extents, do our own ethical conceptions compare to The Social Gospel of Jesus? I expect that we can see that this is the same question we are asking about the social ethics of the Kung
Proceeding thusly, I won’t be surprised if we find ourselves attending to the following questions: Do the ethical systems of the innumerable human cultres, present and past, share content? If so, of what does it consist? Should they do so? Can they do so? And………. re religion, as a universal and vital part of the human career……… what kinds of relationships obtain between the contents of religious scripture and how everyday life is actually understood and experienced and enacted, from the native’s point of view?