Christian left

From Academic Kids

The Christian Left encompasses those who hold a strong Christian belief and share left-wing or socialist ideals. Many such people assert that their left-wing views derive directly from their Christian faith, and some cite Jesus as "the first socialist". Adherents hold that the early Church practiced socialism, or even something resembling communism ("The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common." - Acts 4:32) and that Jesus often seemed to advocate pacifism, while being opposed to the wealthy elite of his day.



Early Christianity as anti-establishment movement


  • Early Christian anti-materialism
  • Opposition to Rome


A number of movements of the past had similarities to today's Christian Left:

Unitartarian Universalism

Early antagonism between the Left and Christianity

For much of the early history of anti-establishment leftist movements such as socialism and liberalism (which was highly anti-clerical in the 19th century), established churches were led by a reactionary clergy who saw progress as a threat to their status and power. Most people viewed the church as part of the establishment. Revolutions in America, France and Russia were in part directed against the established churches (or rather their leading clergy) and instituted a separation of church and state.

Early socialist thinkers such as Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and the Duc de Saint-Simon based their theories of socialism upon Christian principles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels reacted against these theories by formulating an atheistic theory of socialism in The Communist Manifesto.

Alliance of the Left and Christianity

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, some began to take on the view that Christianity had much in common with a Leftist perspective, pointing out that there is an extremely strong thread of egalitarianism in the New Testament. Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, justice, racial equality, human rights, and the rejection of excessive wealth are also expressed strongly in the Bible. In the late 19th century, the Social Gospel movement arose (particularly among some Baptists and Methodists in North America and Britain,) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity and produce social activism. Later, in the 20th century, Mikhail Gorbachev famously said that "Christ was the first socialist".

Christian Left and campaigns for peace and human rights

Some Christian groups were closely associated with the peace movements against the Vietnam War as well as the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Religious leaders in many countries have also been on the forefront of criticizing any cuts to social welfare programs. In addition, many prominent civil rights activists (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.) were religious figures.

Christian Left in the United States

In the United States, members of the Christian Left come from a spectrum of denominations: peace churches, elements of the Protestant Mainstream, and Roman Catholicism.

The Christian Left has sometimes been viewed as a counterpart to the Christian Right, but in fact it is very different. While the Christian Right is almost uniquely American, the Christian Left is more global and diverse.

However, the Christian Left does not seem to be as well-organized or publicized as its right-wing counterpart. Opponents state that this is because it is less numerous; supporters contend that it is actually more numerous but composed predominantly of persons less willing to voice political views in as boisterous a manner as the Christian Right.

Liberation Theology

One of the most important strains of Christian Left thinking has been in the developing world, especially Latin America. Since the 1960s, Catholic thinkers have integrated left-wing thought and Catholicism, giving rise to Liberation Theology. It arose at a time when Catholic thinkers who opposed the despotic leaders in South and Central America allied themselves with the communist opposition. However, the Vatican decided that, while Liberation Theology is partially compatible with Catholic social teaching, certain Marxist elements of it (such as the doctrine of perpetual class struggle) are against Church teachings.

Christian Left and Homosexuality

The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues such as homosexuality. This is usually not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus -- viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to homosexuality.

The Consistent Life Ethic

A related strain of thought is the Consistent Life Ethic, which sees opposition to capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, abortion and the global maldistribution of wealth as being related. It is not specifically Christian (being subscribed to by Buddhists, Hindus, and members of other religions), but uses arguments broadly similar to those used by Christian leftists.

Notable Christian leftists



El Salvador





New Zealand




United States

United Kingdom

Parties of the Christian left

See also

External links

See: Christian politics (index) for articles related to this subject.

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