Source: Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A Religious History of the American People. New Haven and London: Yale University Press (reprint of original 1972 edition), 2004.
Excerpts: “[The Social Gospel movement] was a submovement within religious liberalism, with a certain view of man and history governing its rationale. It reflected and depended upon the singular spirit of confidence and hope that prevailed for only a few decades before the Great War and the Great Depression shattered the mood. Historians can record its rise and describe its aftermath, but efforts to see its persistence or revival during the 1930s involve serious distortions. Similarly, a single set of social problems stirred its passions: the urban dislocations occasioned by America’s unregulated industrial expansion. The Gilded Age was a prerequisite. In this context its moral message consisted almost exclusively in applications, mild or severe, of the idea that the doctrine of laissez faire required Christian modifications” (p. 786).
“On the other hand, the basic thrust of the Social Gospel was by no means radical. In 1912, for example, its adherents probably avoided the Socialist Debs overwhelmingly, splitting their vote between Wilson and Roosevelt. And therein lies the essential fact: they supported the liberal impulses of the times…In the interpretation of old social orthodoxies and in the storming of old conservative bastions, the Social Gospel movement simply took churchgoing America as its field of action and sought to convert the self-oriented Christian consciousness into one that was neighbor-oriented. In reaching this wide and influential audience the movement played an important national role” (p. 804).