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  • Writer's picturercputz

What happened to Church Social Movements?

I was thinking about the Church in Europe and the US during the 30s,40s,50s, and early ’60s. A church that had a mantra and focuses on restorative justice, social programs, worker rights. We saw such movements that were collectively known as “Catholic Action” and involved more laypeople than a hierarchy to some extent in their day.

The organizations each in their way were subgroups under the umbrella of “Catholic Action” but, in many ways, were broader in their denominational appeal.

There were organizations such as youth groups, “The World Movement of Christian Workers,” “Young Christian Workers,” “Young Christian Students,” “The Christian Family Movement,” (the organization that Rev Louis Putz was instrumental as a chaplain) “Communities for Public Service,” and “Friendship House,” which influenced Thomas Merton.

We can look and see they exist today but not with the same influence and drive as they did, maybe in previous years? I ask myself, is this because of the political shit in religion? In the hierarchy? Have most of these organizations become too “controlled” by the politics of the day? Have these organizations in the world today become more reflective of the current political divides in our society?

The origins of most of these organizations were pre-Vatican II, and I often wonder how much the turning point of 1968 had on all of the change. I see 1968 as the point in time when the US, society, including religions, were entering a period of disorder, trying to work towards reordering. We saw the rise of leaders in government, the various denominations of churches, taking more and more positions, and drawing lines in the sand as to being either “conservative” or “progressive,” where organized religion was aligning with politics.

It was the beginning of doing theology in the age of political discontent and seeing new groups less involved in restorative justice but more involved in taking a political stance in the name of religion. Have these organizations today become a tad more social, more like a fraternal organization, and less action-orientated in light of what their origins may have suggested?

I think about this and the history as it relates to climate initiatives, health perspectives, and the struggles we see in the church globally, we see the political divide in denominational leadership.

To paraphrase Richard Rohr, Jesus of Nazareth started a movement. The movement became a culture in Europe. Did it become a “business’ when it arrived in the Americas?

And finally, I am asking myself will the emergence of autonomous technology recreate the need and desire for movements we have seen in the last century?

I just don’t know the answer to all my questions but I am thinking out loud.

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