WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH: American Reformer by Paul M. Minus


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A sympathetic, well-written biography of an American clergyman/reformer who greatly influenced progressive thinking during the late-19th and early 20th centuries but who was largely forgotten after his death in 1918. This story of his life and thought, the first to be published in forty years, should do much to restore his reputation. The son of a highly respected German Baptist clergyman father who was a leading figure at Rochester Theological Seminary, Walter Rauschenbusch followed his parent into the ministry--with a first assignment that took him to the poor on the edge of New York City's HeWs Kitchen. That experience shaped his thinking and led to his formulation of the Social Gospel movement--a fusion of religion, ethics, and economics that linked Christianity and social reform. The 1880's were the heyday of laissez-faire capitalism and Rauschenbusch loudly accused the exploiters of workers of un-Christlike behavior. His charismatic preaching attracted other notable critics of the American Scene--Henry George, Richard Ely, Jacob Riis--and eventually Rauschenbusch himself took over the leadership of the prestigious Rochester seminary. While his fame and influence spread, he was equally popular as teacher, lecturer, and author, and remained so until the outbreak of WW I--when his pacifist beliefs, coupled with a demand for ""fair play"" toward the German enemy, alienated many followers. His last years were marked by disillusion and loneliness. Though ignored by many, his tenets, despite some obvious blind spots (he was more-than-a-little racist) influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., and H. Richard Niebuhr. A welcome addition to the literature of American reform.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Macmillan