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«Workers: A Missing Link in the Theology-Economics Debate Richard Gillett* Theology and economics: two different worlds? That is the question, supremely so ...»

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And we also have some precedents in our church’s recent history to inspire us. In the closing decades of the nineteenth century the robber barons and industrial elites of our country strengthened their dominance of the economy amid intense industrial strife, strikes, and the human suffering of communities and workers brutally marginalized in launch a congressional investigation. In August, a bill, HR 5967, was drafted and support is needed.

8 Laborem Exercens, Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II (1981); http://www.

vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp–ii_enc_14091981_ laborem-exercens_en.html.

760 Anglican Theological Review the process. Slowly the churches began to awaken to the injustices, and by 1886 Bishop Henry Potter of the Diocese of New York issued a pastoral letter which stated in part: “When capitalists and labor have forever dismissed the fallacy... that labor and the laborer are alike a commodity to be bought and sold... then, but not until then, may we hope to heal grave social divisions.”9 Bishop Potter was far from alone in that time. In 1891, Trinity Church, Wall Street celebrated Labor Sunday with delegates from the Knights of Labor in procession, as well as clergy coming from all over the city. Labor Day was in fact being widely observed by many religious denominations. It was the dawning of the era of the social gospel movement, which was to exert major moral influence upon the political progressivism of the early twentieth century.

It would seem, then, that to bring together the realms of theology and economics, we must have first, a theology drawing generously upon a theology of work—one boldly addressing the realities of global capitalism. Second, working from the other end, we need the direct and sustained involvement of the interfaith religious community in the primary struggles of working people everywhere.

The stakes for both the credibility of the church, and for the world itself, are huge. The widely respected European historian Tony Judt recently said it well: “The thin veneer of civilization rests upon what may well be an illusory faith in our common humanity.... We would do well to cling to it.”10 9 See Henry F.

May, Protestant Churches and Industrial America (New York:

Harper, 1949) for a fascinating and extensive treatment of this period.

10 Tony Judt, “Edge People,” The New York Review of Books (March 25, 2010): 15.



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