COMMENTARY: Labor Day and the unions’ forgotten religious roots

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Socialist and labor union demonstration, Union Square, New York City (1914)

Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Socialist and labor union demonstration, Union Square, New York City (1914)

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(RNS) Overlooked in the decline of organized labor is what religion-and-economics expert Lew Daly calls “arguably the deepest, most serious problem” in unions today: “the corrosion wrought by secularism” in both unions and society at large.

  • John McGrath

    With such a name, Uriah Stephens sounds like an American Baptist, not Southern Baptists. American Baptists wer ealways liberal, and anti-slavery. The Knights welcomed black members, an advanced stance for its time.

    Mainstream Protestantism (including American Baptists) have always had a Gospel theology, focused on the words of Christ which clearly preach a combination of love and justice and do not favor the wealthy or mean spirited attitudes to the weak or poor (example: The Parable of the Prodigal Son). Catholic theology, at least, specifies that good works are required as a mark of faith, or that anyone with true faith will do good works, especially on the part of the less fortunate.

    But what of Southern Baptists, the ruling religion in the areas where Labor is constantly under attack? Their emphasis on faith alone, the Rapture (just around the corner), hatred of science (the Bible as science text book) and other self-centered concerns seems to make them enemies of labor unions. But is this impression I have accurate?

    The alliance of the Catholic church with the Republican Party has also helped to weaken the labor movement. All the Catholics I am familiar with whose parents or grandparents benefited from unions now hate unions. Those whom I know were raised raised Catholic but have left that church favor unions even though they are on the quite prosperous side (and are aware of how their parents or grandparents benefited from unions and want minority workers to enjoy the same benefits).

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  • Bill

    Your opinion of Southern Baptists does not seem accurate: I don’t think of Southern Baptists as anti science or self centered.

    As far as enemies of labor unions, so what? Most Americans support right to work laws: voluntary Union membership: and resent Union Mob tactics as seen in Wisconsin and Michigan.