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Jesus for Workers

    Imagine the following:  Factories and plants begin springing up in a particular country.  The cause:  a rise in the economy and a thirst for new products.  Many people from the rural areas move to the cities in order to find work in the new factories and plants, thus hoping to better their lot in life.  They figure that life back on the farm isn’t getting them anywhere fast, so life in the bustling cities will be better.  Once they find work in the cities, though, they find it is low-paying with sorry working conditions.  But what can they do?  They have left their old life and so they are stuck.  Then it gets so bad that children have to work to help their parents make enough to pay the higher prices in the cities.  And forget about a day off, because they cannot afford it:  instead they work seven days a week.  Plus the owners of the factories and plants do not care, apparently, and so people are being injured and even killed while working on machines they are not properly trained for, or which frequently break down. 

    Where is this country?  Is it a Third World (old phrase) or developing country (new phrase)?  Probably, but it also describes the situation in America in the early 1900s.  Indeed, that was the state of our own country just one hundred years ago.  Many Americans were working in those conditions and were stuck in a downward economic and social spiral.

    Amid this morass, Christians were active in groups such as the YMCA and the Salvation Army.  Well, these groups had been founded decades earlier in order to combat just such working conditions in England, and then they both spread to America.  But American denominations did take notice as the problem spread. 

    Therefore, by 1908 the Methodist Episcopal Church [today known as the United Methodist Church] decided to act.  In that year they produced what was known officially as the “Social Creed.”  This Creed was a direct response to the millions of people who were trapped in often horrible working conditions.  The Creed reads in part as follows: 

“The Methodist Episcopal Church stands:

For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.

For the principles of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.

For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.

For the abolition of child labor.

For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.

For the suppression of the ‘sweating system.’

For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.

For a release for [from] employment one day in seven.

For a living wage in every industry.

For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.

For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.”

The Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908 wanted their church members to realize that Jesus came not only to bring people to God, but to better their living conditions while on earth. 

©2008 Mark Nickens

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