Today is the 145th Birthday of Walter Rauschenbusch.
I first heard of Rauschenbusch as an undergrad at Marshall in an American Intellectual History course taught by David Duke (not the lunatic Louisana politician). I stored the name away then heard about him again in a Philosophy of Religion course at BTSR. The class whetted my appetite so I checked out The Rauschebusch Reader, with an introductory essay by Fosdick. That wasn't enough. So I went to my theology prof. and asked to do an independent study but she wasnt all that interested/didnt think I was ready. So Chad and I went to Dr. Doug Ottati at UTS-PSCE across the street and asked if he would be interested, indeed he was. So for a semester we read all of Rauschenbusch's main works and discussed them at lunch and once over dinner. That was a great experience that changed my life.
But that class still didnt satisfy me. I wanted more. So I transferred to Colgate Rochester Divinity School (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School). There I went around town and found the home he grew up in, the home he lived in as an adult, I walked down East Ave (like he did) from his home to the original spot of Rochester Theological School, I worked in the American Baptist Historical Archives so I could browse his notebooks, sermons, articles, letters, pictures and all the other Rauschenbusch artifacts (all of this material will be moving to Mercer University). I also read for another independent study, more broadly on the Social Gospel movement with Dr. Chris Evans (the author of the latest and best Rauschenbusch biography).
Rauschenbusch for me at first was a saving grace, a reason to stay baptist. He was a bonafide theologian from the baptist tradition. He also fueled the desire for social justice.
Odd that now I not quite sure what to make of him. I still admire him and am thankful for his life and work. Now I admire him for his synthesis of thought and his ability to forge an indigenous American theology. That seems to be missing in today's stuff.
If you decided to pick up some Rauschenbusch's work you will find the clarity and relative ease it is to read. He wrote theology for a broad auidence and wanted folk to be able to read it.
His major works are:
The Righteousness of the Kingdom
Christianity and the Social Order
Christianizing the Social Order
A Theology for the Social Gospel
Prayers of the Social Awakening
Dare We Be Christians?
The Social Principles of Jesus
Why I am a Baptist (instructions for a $1 reprint)
Excellent Secondary Sources
The Kingdom Is Always but Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch by Chris Evans
A Gospel for the Social Awakening ed by Benjamin Mays
Walter Rauschenbusch: Selected Writings ed. by Winthrop Hudson
There are more but that is a good start.
Thank you brother Walter.
Interesting familial ties: WR is the grandfather of Richard Rorty. WR's ggrandson is Paul Rauschenbusch, chaplain at Princeton University.
Couple of Church Related Links:
Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries
Even Brian McLaren loves him