The Christian left is a range of centre-left and left-wing Christian political and social movements that largely embrace social justice viewpoints and uphold a social gospel. Given the inherent diversity in international political thought, the term can have different meanings and applications in different countries. Although there is some overlap, the Christian left is distinct from liberal Christianity, meaning not all Christian leftists are liberal Christians, and vice versa. Some Christian leftists have socially conservative views on social issues but lean left on economic issues.
As with any section within the left and right wings of a political spectrum, a label such as "Christian left" represents an approximation, including within it groups and persons holding many diverse viewpoints. The term left-wing might encompass a number of values, some of which may or may not be held by different Christian movements and individuals.
As the unofficial title of a loose association of believers, it does provide a clear distinction from the more commonly known "Christian right" or "religious right" and from its key leaders and political views.
The most common religious viewpoint that might be described as "left-wing" is social justice, or care for impoverished and oppressed groups. Supporters of this trend might encourage universal health care, welfare provisions, subsidized education, foreign aid, and affirmative action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. With values stemming from egalitarianism, adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed. As nearly all major religions contain some kind of requirement to help others, various religions have cited social justice as a movement in line with their faith.
The Christian left holds that social justice, renunciation of power, humility, forgiveness, and private observation of prayer (as opposed to publicly mandated prayer), are mandated by the Gospel (Matthew 6:5-6). The Bible contains accounts of Jesus repeatedly advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy, powerful, and religious. The Christian left maintains that such a stance is relevant and important. Adhering to the standard of "turning the other cheek", which they believe supersedes the Old Testament law of "an eye for an eye", the Christian left often hearkens towards pacifism in opposition to policies advancing militarism.
Some among the Christian left, as well as some non-religious socialists, find support for socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as "the first socialist"). The Christian left is a broad category that includes Christian socialism, while also including non-socialists as well.
For much of the early history of anti-establishment leftist movements such as socialism and communism (which was highly anti-clerical in the 19th century), some established churches were led by clergy who saw revolution as a threat to their status and power. The church was sometimes seen as part of the establishment. Revolutions in America, France, Russia and (much later) Spain 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, Henri de Saint-Simon based their theories of socialism upon Christian principles. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels reacted against these theories by formulating a secular theory of socialism in The Communist Manifesto.
Starting in the late 19th century and early 20th century, some began to take on the view that genuine Christianity had much in common with a leftist perspective. From St. Augustine of Hippo's City of God through St. Thomas More's Utopia, major Christian writers had expounded upon views that socialists found agreeable. Of major interest was the extremely strong thread of egalitarianism in the New Testament. Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, social 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 Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists in North America and Britain,) which attempted to integrate progressive and socialist thought with Christianity to produce a faith-based social activism, promoted by movements such as Christian socialism. In the United States during this period, Episcopalians and Congregationalists generally tended to be the most liberal, both in theological interpretation and in their adherence to the Social Gospel. In Canada, a coalition of liberal Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians founded the United Church of Canada, one of the first true Christian left denominations. Later in the 20th century, liberation theology was championed by such writers as Gustavo Gutierrez and Matthew Fox.
To a significant degree, the Christian left developed out of the experiences of clergy who went to do pastoral work among the working class, often beginning without any social philosophy but simply a pastoral and evangelistic concern for workers. This was particularly true among the Methodists and Anglo-Catholics in England, Father Adolph Kolping in Germany and Joseph Cardijn in Belgium.
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.
In the aftermath of the 2004 election in the United States, progressive Christian leaders started to form groups of their own to combat the religious right. Such groups include the Center for Progressive Christianity (founded 1996) and the Christian Alliance for Progress.
The Christian left generally approaches homosexuality differently from other Christian political groups. This approach can be driven by focusing on issues differently despite holding similar religious views, or by holding different religious ideas. Those in the Christian left who have similar ideas as other Christian political groups but a different focus may view Christian teachings on certain issues, such as the Bible's prohibitions against killing or criticisms of concentrations of wealth, as far more politically important than Christian teachings on social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to homosexuality. Others in the Christian left have not only a different focus on issues from other Christian political groups, but different religious ideas as well.
For example, all members of the Christian left consider discrimination and bigotry against homosexuals to be immoral, but they differ on their views towards homosexual sex. Some believe homosexual sex to be immoral but largely unimportant when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex. Others affirm that some homosexual practices are compatible with the Christian life. Such members believe common biblical arguments used to condemn homosexuality are misinterpreted, and that biblical prohibitions of homosexual practices are actually against a specific type of homosexual sex act, i.e. pederasty, the sodomizing of young boys by older men. Thus, they hold biblical prohibitions to be irrelevant when considering modern same-sex relationships.
A related strain of thought is the (Catholic and progressive evangelical) consistent life ethic, which sees opposition to capital punishment, militarism, euthanasia, abortion and the global unequal distribution of wealth as being related. It is an idea with certain concepts shared by Abrahamic religions as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and members of other religions. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago developed the idea for the consistent life ethic in 1983. Currently, Sojourners is particularly associated with this strand of thought. Adherents commonly criticize politicians who identify as pro-life while simultaneously oppose funding for pre-natal vitamins, child nutrition programs, or universal health care.
Liberation theology is a theological tradition that emerged 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, it developed independently of and roughly simultaneously with Black theology in the U.S. and should not be confused with it. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 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.
The medieval Lollards, particularly John Ball, took up many anti-establishment causes. During the English Civil War many of the more radical Parliamentarians, such as John Lilburne and the Levellers, based their belief in universal suffrage and proto-socialism on their reading of the Bible. Other people on the Christian left include:
A number of movements of the past had similarities to today's Christian left:
The Christian Alliance for Progress. composed of individuals from various denominations and religious viewpoints, strives to emphasize the core beliefs and values of Christianity in response to the contemporary involvement of Christian groups in the search for political influence and power.
Young, Shawn David. Gray Sabbath: Jesus People USA, the Evangelical Left, and the Evolution of Christian Rock. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.
Elections to the Swiss Federal Assembly, the federal parliament of Switzerland, were held on Sunday, 21 October 2007. In a few cantons, a second round of the elections to the Council of States was held on 11 November, 18 November, and 25 November 2007. For the 48th legislative term of the federal parliament (2007–2011), voters in 26 cantons elected all 200 members of the National Council as well as 43 out of 46 members of the Council of States. The other three members of the Council of States for that term of service were elected at an earlier date.On 12 December 2007, the newly elected legislature elected the Swiss federal government, the Swiss Federal Council, for a four-year-term.
The results reflected yet another rise in support for the strongest party, the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party, at 29% of the popular vote, and the growth of the Green and Green Liberal parties at the expense of the Social Democrats.Centre-left politics
Centre-left politics or center-left politics (American English), also referred to as moderate-left politics, are political views that lean to the left-wing on the left–right political spectrum, but closer to the centre than other left-wing politics. Those on the centre-left believe in working within the established systems to improve social justice. The centre-left promotes a degree of social equality that it believes is achievable through promoting equal opportunity. The centre-left has promoted luck egalitarianism, which emphasizes the achievement of equality requires personal responsibility in areas in control by the individual person through their abilities and talents as well as social responsibility in areas outside control by the individual person in their abilities or talents.The centre-left opposes a wide gap between the rich and the poor and supports moderate measures to reduce the economic gap, such as a progressive income tax, laws prohibiting child labour, minimum wage laws, laws regulating working conditions, limits on working hours and laws to ensure the workers' right to organize. The centre-left typically claims that complete equality of outcome is not possible, but instead that equal opportunity improves a degree of equality of outcome in society.In Europe, the centre-left includes social democrats, progressives and also some democratic socialists, greens and the Christian left. Some social liberals are described as centre-left, but many social liberals are in the centre of the political spectrum as well.Christian Democratic Party of Uruguay
The Christian Democratic Party of Uruguay (Spanish: Partido Demócrata Cristiano) is a political party of the Christian left.Christian Social Party (Switzerland)
The Christian Social Party (CSP) (German: Christlich-soziale Partei, French: Parti chrétien-social) is a political party in Switzerland of the Christian left. The CSP is more aligned with social democracy than the other major Christian party, the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland (CVP), which is more economically liberal. With the moderate Christian left as its background, the CSP commits itself to social-democratic and environmentalist political solutions. The core principles of the CSP contain, among others, "solidarity with the socially and economically disadvantaged and the preservation of the environment."The party should not be confused with the Christian Social Party of Obwalden, which is affiliated with the Christian Democratic People's Party and holds a seat in the National Council.Christianity and politics
The relationship between Christianity and politics is a historically complex subject and a frequent source of disagreement throughout the history of Christianity, as well as in modern politics between the Christian right and Christian left. There have been a wide variety of ways in which thinkers have conceived of the relationship between Christianity and politics, with many arguing that Christianity directly supports a particular political ideology or philosophy. Along these lines, various thinkers have argued for Christian communism, Christian socialism, Christian anarchism, Christian libertarianism, or Christian democracy. Others believe that Christians should have little interest or participation in politics or government.Citizen Left
The Citizen Left Party of Chile (Spanish: Partido Izquierda Ciudadana de Chile, IC), known until 2013 as Christian Left Party of Chile (Spanish: Partido Izquierda Cristiana de Chile, same acronym) was a Chilean left-wing political party. Founded in 1971, in its early days it was suppressed by the Pinochet dictatorship. It is nowadays part of the Nueva Mayoría coalition, supporting the presidential candidacy of former president Michelle Bachelet.Democratic Left (Spain)
The Democratic Left (Spanish: Izquierda Democrática, ID) was a Christian left political party in Spain. It was formed by people from the anti-Francoist opposition, like Gregorio Peces-Barba or Joaquín Ruíz-Giménez. The party had two main internal factions: the social democratic one and the Christian democratic one.Evangelical left
Typically, members of the evangelical left affirm the primary tenets of evangelical theology, such as the doctrines of the incarnation, atonement, and resurrection, and also see the Bible as the primary authority for the Church. Unlike many evangelicals, however, those on the evangelical left often support and utilize modern biblical criticism and are open to more progressive interpretations of Christian beliefs. They often support a more progressive political platform as well. Many, for example, are opposed to capital punishment and supportive of gun control and welfare programs. In many cases, they are also pacifists. While members of the evangelical left chiefly reside in mainline denominations, they are often heavily influenced by the Anabaptist social tradition. While the evangelical left is related to the wider Christian left, those who are part of the latter category are not always viewed as evangelical.Harambee (Italy)
Harambee is a centrist and social liberal faction, with roots in the Christian left, within the Democratic Party (PD), a political party in Italy. Most of its members hail from the Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy (DL).The faction was formed in April 2018 by Senator Matteo Richetti, spokesman of the PD and close advisor of former Prime Minister and former party's secretary Matteo Renzi. On 8 April 2018, Richetti announced his intention to launch his bid to become secretary of the PD whenever a leadership election would be called.The faction's name came from the Kenyan word Harambee, which is a tradition of community self-help events, for example fundraising or development activities; it literally means "all pull together" in Swahili, and is also the official motto of Kenya and appears on its coat of arms. Richetti said that he was inspired by his uncle, which was a missionary.Jesus movement
The Jesus movement was an Evangelical Christian movement beginning on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s and spreading primarily throughout North America, Europe, and Central America, before subsiding by the late 1980s. Members of the movement were called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks.
Its predecessor, the Charismatic Movement, had already been in full swing for about a decade. It involved mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics who testified to having supernatural experiences similar to those recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, especially speaking in tongues. Both of these movements held that they were calling the church back to a closer Biblical picture of Christianity, in which the gifts of the Spirit would be restored to the Church.The Jesus movement left a legacy that included the formation of various denominations as well as other Christian organizations, and it also influenced the development of both the contemporary Christian right and Christian left. Jesus music, which grew out of the movement, was very influential in the creation of various subgenres of contemporary Christian music during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, such as Jesus Culture and Hillsong in both America and the UK. This also led to the inclusion of new musical instruments in churches all over the world, such as guitars and drums, in addition to traditional musical instruments such as pianos and organs. Music in other parts of the world was also greatly influenced by the Jesus Movement, such as music in Central America and the UK. In Central America, Pentecostal churches under the Charismatic Movement began to compose spiritual music called "coros" (fast-paced hymns) which is normally accompanied by dancing in the Spirit.Moderate
A political moderate is a person in the center category of the left–right political spectrum.Neal Morse
Neal Morse (born August 2, 1960) is an American singer, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and progressive rock composer based in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1992, he formed the progressive rock band Spock's Beard with his brother Alan and released an album which was moderately successful. In 1999, he joined former Dream Theater co-founder Mike Portnoy, Flower Kings' Roine Stolt and Marillion's Pete Trewavas to form the super-group Transatlantic. In 2002, Neal Morse became a born again Christian, left Spock's Beard and began a Christian rock solo career, releasing many progressive rock concept albums about his new religious faith. In the meantime, he continued to play with Transatlantic and formed three new bands with Portnoy, Yellow Matter Custard, Flying Colors and The Neal Morse Band.Popolarismo
Popolarismo (popularism) is a political doctrine conceived by Don Luigi Sturzo which was the ideological basis for the Italian People's Party and later Christian Democracy. It is a Christian democratic and centrist school of thought distinct from the Christian left and from more socially conservative currents in Christian democracy but distant from Christian right.
The French Popular Democratic Party formed in 1924 was ideologically inspired by the popularism of Sturzo and his Italian People's Party.Within Christian democracy, the use of the name People's Party is widespread, so that European Christian Democrats decided to name European People's Party their party in 1976. "Popular" or "people's" in this context consists of two meanings. The first is the idea that the Christian democratic parties should try to work towards a policy that is for the good of all the members of society as opposed to parties that promote the good of a specific group (i.e. class). The second refers to a society where the people live in a kind of harmony and where people and groups are interested in and care about each other.Popular Unity (Chile)
The Popular Unity (Spanish: Unidad Popular, UP) was a left-wing political alliance in Chile that stood behind the successful candidacy of Salvador Allende for the 1970 Chilean presidential election.Progressive Reconstructionism
Progressive Reconstructionism is a loosely-knit interfaith community found principally at this time in the developed world. It comprises activist adherents of Reconstructionist Judaism (and of some other Jewish traditions) and the Christian left, of progressive Hindus, Buddhists Muslims, left-leaning Neopagans, Wiccans, and members of other faiths, as well as of progressives who follow a spiritual practice but adhere to no particular religion or tradition, considering themselves to be "spiritual but not religious" (among these are included even agnostics, non-theists, and secular humanists). Some of the key current proponents are Michael Lerner, Starhawk, and Matthew Fox.
Among the seminal ideas leading to Progressive Reconstructionism have been Jewish Renewal, the Social Gospel and Liberation Theology, Reclaiming Wicca, and Creation Spirituality. Some of the main centers of study and organizing in this movement are the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Wisdom University, Naropa University, The Chaplaincy Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Reclaiming, Muslim WakeUp! magazine, and the Yahoo! independent catholic Blog (called, "The Old-Catholic Churches").
As an interfaith and progressive movement, it is not to be confused with Dominion Theology, the so-called "Christian Reconstructionism" and Theonomy of such right-wing millennialists as R.J. Rushdooney and his colleagues, North, Bahnsen, et al. Progressive Reconstructionism is also different from the Polytheistic Reconstructionist religions, though both movements include individuals and groups who identify as Polytheists or Pagans, and the Polytheists and the Progressives have more in common with one another than does either group with the "Christian Reconstructionists".Promoting Enduring Peace
Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP or PEPeace) is a peace advocacy organization based near the New Haven-Hamden line in Connecticut. It is sometimes referred to as PeaceNews.org, a website it runs.
PEP was founded in 1952 by Dr. Jerome Davis. Its original purpose was resisting the ideology of ceaseless aggression and nuclear terror that characterized the Cold War. It was incorporated as a tax-exempt educational organization in 1958 and reincorporated as a 501(c)(3) charitable-educational organization in 2008. It is a United Nations non-governmental organization (NGO).Its principal programs have been peace education, citizen diplomacy, and the awarding of the Gandhi Peace Award to recipients such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Ellsberg, and more recently Amy Goodman (2012), Bill McKibben (2013), and Medea Benjamin (2014).Solidary Democracy
Solidary Democracy (Italian: Democrazia Solidale, DemoS, Demo.S or DeS) is a centre-left, Christian-democratic political party in Italy. The party's early leader, Lorenzo Dellai has described it as a "Christian-social" party.The party is led by Paolo Ciani. Several party members, including Ciani, hail from the Community of Sant'Egidio.
DemoS maintains solid relations with the Democratic Party and a number of minor parties/groups of the Christian left, notably including the Democratic Centre (with which DemoS formed a joint parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies in 2014–2018), the Christian Popular Union (active mainly in Sardinia) and the Union for Trentino (Dellai's long-time party in Trentino, of which he was President from 1999 to 2012, when he resigned in order to enter Italian politics).The Populars
The Populars (I Popolari) is a loose association within the Democratic Party (PD), a political party in Italy.
The Populars are the heirs of the Italian People's Party (PPI), a Christian-democratic party of the Christian left, and of the left-wing of the Christian Democracy (DC). In 2002–2007 the Populars, led by Franco Marini and Ciriaco De Mita, were the majority faction within Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, before merging into the PD. In the 2007 Democratic Party primary election around 600 Populars were elected to the party Constituent Assembly.Leading members of the association have included Marini, De Mita (who left the PD over disagreements with party leader Walter Veltroni in early 2008), Pierluigi Castagnetti, Giuseppe Fioroni, Antonello Soro, Rosy Bindi, Enrico Letta and Dario Franceschini (deputy secretary of the party under Veltroni and, later, secretary). Bindi and Letta have been respectively leaders of Democrats Really and the 360 Association: their affiliation to The Populars is a further evidence of the looseness of the association. In this respect, Fioroni and Franceshini set up a more reliable faction called Fourth Phase: the name was chosen to identify the new stage of left-wing Catholics in Italian politics, the first three being within the Italian People's Party (1919–1926), DC (1943–1994) and the new PPI (1994–2002).After the resignation of Veltroni as secretary and his replacement with Franceschini, the Populars of Fourth Phase chose to support Franceschini in the 2009 Democratic Party leadership election, while Letta and Bindi, as well as most Olivists and the Social Christians supported Pier Luigi Bersani. Franceschini thus organised his followers, including not only Populars but also several Veltroniani, into Democratic Area. Most Populars later supported Matteo Renzi as party leader.Zero Cuts
Zero Cuts (Spanish: Recortes Cero) is a Spanish eco-socialist and christian left party alliance, initially founded as a group of electors, formed to contest the 2014 European Parliament election. Subsequently, it has contested the 2015 and 2016 general elections together with The Greens–Green Group. It is supported by the Communist Unification of Spain.
In the 2019 Spanish general election, the filmmaker Fernando Colomo was the Madrid candidate to the Spanish Senate for the coalition Zero Cuts - Grupo Verde - Partido Castellano - Tierra Comunera.
His aim was to promote the list rather than becoming elected.