Today we commemorate the life and work of three prophetic witnesses. They are Walter Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden, and Jacob Riis. Below are excerpts from their biographies contained in Holy Women, Holy Men published by the Church Publishing of New York.
Walter Rauschenbusch was the son of a German minister who wrote Theology for the Social Gospel (1917). He believed that Jesus died on the cross so as to “substitute love for selfishness as the basis of human society.” In Theology… he enumerated the “social sins” which Jesus bore on the cross, , including the combination of greed and political power, militarism and class contempt. In 1892 he and some friends formed the Brotherhood of the Kingdom, a group whose mission was to open the eyes of the church to the reality of the kingdom of God on earth.
Washington Gladden was a clergyman who dedicated his ministry to the realization of the Kingdom of God in this world. Gladden was the acting religious editor of the New York Independent in which he exposed corruption in the New York Political system. Gladden was the first American clergyman to approve of and support labor unions, In his capacity as vice president of the New York Missionary Association he traveled to Atlanta where he met W.E.B. Dubois and he became an early opponent of segregation.
Riis was not a clergyman but a journalist whose “muckraker” journalism did much to awaken the nation to the plight of the urban poor. Born in Denmark in 1849 and emigrated to New York in 1870. He worked as a police reporter for the New York Tribune and his job took him yo the poorest, most crime ridden parts of the city. He taught himself photography and combined word and image to display the devastating effects of poverty and crime on so many in New York. His work led future President Theodore Roosevelt then City Police Commissioner to close down the police run poor houses in which Riis had struggled during the first months in New York,
We should pause and consider if we are putting into action what the lord Jesus has granted us through his death, Must we continue to treat each other like pawns in a chess game or are we granted a great opportunity to truly love one another as Christ loved us?