Speaking of the H-word

Many Orthodox are fond of claiming that modernism or ecumenism is a heresy. While I sympathize with their stance, they’re playing fast and loose with definitions. Modernism is a poorly defined set of fashions, not an ideological or belief system, and ecumenism can mean any one of hundreds of different things. Both are undesirable. Neither, at least not without further detailed definition, is a heresy.

What I will call the “social gospel,” which could also be called Dorthy Day-ism in a Roman Catholic context, is definitely a heresy. Note that I am not saying we shouldn’t help others, or even challenge ourselves and others to do more to help others. But Christ did not incarnate to create a more “socially just” world; note that when others identified Christ as an earthly king and associated Him with “social justice,” they were rebuked. Christ came to save souls, and the salvation of souls is the church’s sole mission. Everything else is cursory.

The reason that the “social gospel” is heresy is that it invariably strips Christ and His reason for becoming man, then dying and resurrecting for mankind, from the church, and replaces Christ with an androgynous Jesus stand-in for Karl Marx or some reactionary figure. Always.

Talk to a liberal mainstream Protestant, and the conversation will be Christ-free. He will talk social issues, and run screaming from the divinity of Christ, or the salvation of souls. The same is true of your garden-variety liberal Catholic.

But it’s worse than a mere heresy. It’s a perversion of morality, as one can see with Catholics who support the “right” of a woman to murder her innocent child, but are “morally” outraged by the execution of murderers. Those who subscribe to the “social gospel” heresy have no moral compass.

The liberal Catholic has perverted the teaching of his church and twisted it into its gruesome twin. The church calls us to help others. The liberal Catholic distorts this into “social programs.” This is not only heresy; it is blatantly immoral. Welfare programs violate two of the Ten Commandments (thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not covet), and they are immoral because liberals support them so they can feel good about having helped others without actually having lifted a finger or spent a dime to help anyone. That’s why they want to “help others” with other peoples’ money. See the recent story about that great liberal Catholic Biden, and what an embarrassingly tiny amount of his money he has used to help others, then contrast it with how much President Bush and Vice President Cheney gave of their income to help others.

But the “social gospel” heresy isn’t confined to the left. Many in the so-called Religious Right have succumbed to it as well, and have forsaken Christ for the latest fashionable right-wing issue du jour. They invoke Bible passages just as their leftist counterparts do, using God as nothing more than a cudgel with which they beat their political opponents.

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with volunteering at the soup kitchen, or praying at an abortion clinic. Neither comes close to heresy. But replacing Christianity with a social agenda, left or right, is nothing but heresy, and should be condemned as such. 

And that, my friends, is about as strictly conservative as a Christian stance can get. People who have fallen prey to the “social gospel” heresy can be called many things, but Christian is not one of them.


4 Responses to Speaking of the H-word

  1. chironomo says:

    “There is a beauty to being consistent and steadfast that cannot be matched by conforming to the fashion of the day.”

    I have often objected to the term “Cafeteria Catholic”…the implication being that one can pick and choose and still be Catholic. It is a political posture that is incompatible with faith. I suppose one can be a “Pro-Military” Democrat since the party is not defined by adherence to a specific set of beliefs (I don’t think one could be a “pro-military Liberal however, since that is an ideology defined by it’s beliefs). The problem is when people, either through ignorance or malice, apply that same reasoning to a strictly defined identity such as Catholicism. The result is the Pro-Choice Catholic, or the Feminist Catholic, or the Catholic who doesn’t believe in the real presence…on and on. There are no such things. One either IS catholic, or one ISN’T Catholic. I am a strong believer in the “latæ sententiæ” excommunication…

  2. Sunday morning links…

    100th Daygasm: Michelle
    What’s going on with Mr. Sun?
    What happened to the H-word?
    Good brief summary of Frederic Bastiat and the negative railroad
    From the UK: Obama is confused about who the enemies are. I know other people who think that w…

  3. Joe says:

    I was discussing this with the wife at post-Mass breakfast this AM. Liberalism is fine but what the liberation theologists (and their watered-down-marxism-espousing fellow travelers) have not really addressed is that modern leftism – whether of the Marxian, neo-Marxian or Maost variety – starts with a denial of one of Christ’s primary messages to us, which is that the individual matters. All leftist thought starts with the denial of the importance of the individual. This fails because God didn’t call “hey, that group standing over there – c’mere.” Instead He calls to each person individually – and each individual has the gift of free will to exercise in making the choice to hear (or ignore) the call. The notion that the individual matters is at the heart of our faith, natural law theory, and the enlightenment (before it was seized upon by the Diggers and Levellers now commanding the heights in our culture).

    It bears noting that the Diggers and the Levellers were apocalyptic, millenarian cults that earlier ages of Christendom had the good sense to laugh at, and then suppress whenever they started causing too much mischief. The Middle Ages and Renaissance eras were dark in some senses, but one benefit of living in a much harsher time was that people had the sense and the courage to recognize and name horse puckey when they saw it.

  4. […] are narcissism and the social gospel. I have dealt some with the meta-heresy of the social gospel in this article. Unfortunately, it has a far more insidious hold than narcissism, and the two will destroy what […]

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