In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, increasing numbers of
Americans began to challenge Social Darwinistic views of wealth and poverty
and Gilded Age assumptions about the proper role of government in society.
Many such individuals believed reforms were necessary to alleviate the
negative effects of industrialization. Walter Rauschenbusch and Jane Addams
were two such reformers.
Jane Addams founded Hull House, a settlement house designed to uplift the poor and redress the effects of urban poverty. According to Addams, what is the purpose of a settlement house? How does Addamsí metaphor of the chorus further her argument for settlement houses?
In the thousand voices signing the Hallelujah Chorus of Handelís "Messiah," it is possible to distinguish the leading voices, but the differences of training and cultivation between them and the voices of the chorus, are lost in the unity of purpose and in the fact that they are all human voices lifted by a high motive. This... an illustration of what a Settlement attempts to do.... [It aims] to develop whatever social life its neighborhood may afford, to focus and give form to that life, to bring to bear upon it the results of cultivation and training; but it receives in exchange for the music of isolated voices the volume and strength of the chorus....
The Settlement, then, is an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city. It insists that these problems are not confined to any one portion of a city. It is an attempt to relieve, at the same time, the overaccumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the other....
[The best] philosophy sets forth the solidarity of the human race....
The highest moralists have taught that without the advance and improvement
of the whole, no man can hope for any lasting improvement in his own moral
or material individual condition; and that the subjective necessity for
Social Settlements is therefore identical with that necessity, which urges
us on to social and individual salvation.
A Baptist clergyman who worked among German immigrants in New York City, Walter Rauschenbusch was a proponent of the social gospel a moral-religious critique of the free market and its effect on poor Americans. As you read, consider how Rauschenbusch depicts the responsibility a good Christian has towards others. How does Rauschenbusch challenge the prevailing attitudes of the Gilded Age?
The chief purpose of the Christian Church in the past has been the salvation of individuals. But the most pressing task of the present is not individualistic. Our business is to make over an antiquated and immoral economic system.... To create just and brotherly relations between great groups and classes of society; and thus to lay a social foundation on which modern men individually can live and work in a fashion that will not outrage all the better elements in them....
The Christian Church in the past has taught us to work with our eyes fixed on another world and a life to come. But the business before us is concerned with refashioning the present world....
Twenty-five years ago the social wealth of the Bible was almost undiscovered to most of us.... Today [Jesus] has resumed the spiritual leadership of social Christianity, of which he was the founder....
With true Christian instinct men have turned to the Christian law of
love as the key to the situation. If we all loved our neighbor, we
should "treat him right," pay him a living wage, give sixteen ounces to
the pound, and not charge so much for beef. But this appeal assumes
that we are still living in the simple personal relations of the good old
times, and that every man can do the right thing when he wants to do it.
But suppose a business man would be glad indeed to pay his young women
the $12 a week which they need for a decent living, but all his competitors
are paying from $7 down to $5. Shall he love himself into bankruptcy?....
The old advice of love breaks down before the hugeness of modern relations....
It is indeed love that we want, but it is socialized love. Blessed
be the love that holds a cup of water to thirsty lips.... What we most
need today is not the love that will break its back drawing water for a
growing factory town from a well that was meant to supply a village, but
a love so large and intelligent that it will persuade an ignorant people
to build a system of waterworks up in the hills....
[Back to the Unit Seven Summary]