The answer, according Dr. C.F.W. Walther, is an emphatic Yes! As Dr. Walther will show in the following five posts, these political movements build their case on gross misuse of both sources of God's Divine Revelation to man – of both Special and General Revelation – and from such misuse hurl unfounded accusations against the Church directly, to weaken Christianity and draw Christians away from its pure teachings in order that they may be more open to considering and accepting the precepts of these movements. But this had always been the case; just because some political movement was attacking the Church had not at any time prior been sufficient reason to motivate Dr. Walther to speak against it. What prompted him to finally do so?
The second half of the 19th Century saw the appearance of solidarity movements among the laboring classes in America, giving rise to labor-unions. While a compelling case can always be made for the need of laborers to have their interests fairly represented and defended, the activities of labor-unions of the 19th Century were largely orchestrated by European socialists eager to use unfavorable working conditions as a pretext for establishing schools of communism and socialism among the laboring classes. The thought seems to have been to exploit envy against employers and the political establishment, and under the pretense of “equal happiness through common resources,” use the angst and power of united labor to force them to resign ownership and control of their own property. As a result, many of the German Lutherans in late 19th Century America, especially those in municipal areas who had access to the periodicals of the labor-unions which directly preached the crimes of Christianity and the virtues of Socialism in various ways, were thrown into confusion. In St. Louis, Dr. Walther acted by giving a series of four lectures on Communism and Socialism, concluding, No reasonable man, much less a Christian, can or should take part in the efforts of Communists and Socialists. Why? To quote from Walther's Third Lecture:
- To this question three answers are given:
- Because their efforts are contrary to reason, nature and experience;
- because these efforts are contrary to Christianity, and finally
- because the charges of communism against the Church and the Christian religion, that they rather hinder than promote the material welfare of man, are confounded and unjust.
This series of lectures is preserved for us in English under the title, Communism and Socialism: Minutes of the First German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, U.A.C. at St. Louis, Missouri. It is offered here, one lecture a day, over the next four days, in hopes that the reader may find it an edifying and welcome change from the absolutist notions that political ideals must always and under all circumstances be completely divorced from any religious convictions.
(NOTE: The reader may recognize the series of posts which follow from a series posted on The Finkelsteinery in 2009. We have obtained permission from that blog's owner to reprint his HTML rendering of Dr. Walther's lectures on Communism and Socialism).