The Cross, The Fall, and The Resurrection: The Social Gospel and the Democratic Party

Christopher Lee Cronin, University of Massachusetts - Amherst


This project uses convention documents to explore the relationship between a progressive religious movement and America’s progressive political party. The Social Gospel Movement rose in the early twentieth century as a response to modern industrial realities. It sought the Kingdom of Heaven on earth through progressive policy and church action. It supported the national progressive party of its era, the Republican Party. As the Democratic Party became America’s national progressive party, following the New Deal era, it failed to integrate the Social Gospel into its midst and has since experienced difficulty mobilizing religious voters and defining the sacred. Contemporary Democrats, religious scholars, and clergymen call on the Democratic Party to connect either with a revitalized Social Gospel or some similar religious tradition. These calls make sense in the context of the competing Republican Party’s successes relating to traditional and conservative Protestant voters. However, through an examination of convention speeches, party platforms, and politician-clergy relations, this project attempts to explain the historical inability of the Democratic Party to connect meaningfully with a religious movement- even one seemingly tailor-made like the Social Gospel Movement.