Craig Calhoun outlines what Christianity has (and hasn’t) done for workers.
Christianity has criticised capitalism – and we see this recently with the Pope’s call for a recognition of the problems of growing inequality. Christianity has sometimes disciplined workers to say, you should just stay to your place in the world and not challenge the system. Christianity has sometimes empowered workers to raise challenges and questions. It’s on all sides of debates about capitalism or about modern government.
Part of that is because religion offers a language in which we can debate and discuss issues. It doesn’t offer only a single lesson. Part of that is because participation in religion gives us skills, gives us motives that we can carry with us into other aspects of lives. In many areas … the situation of workers, that is reflected by the idea that Wesleyan Methodism was a disciplinary tactic. This cuts both ways, because these same workers who were sometimes disciplined or taught not to question the established order were also taught to read, and read for themselves, and think for themselves, and told not to just accept the teachings of preachers but to read the Bible and think about it themselves. And that lesson could turn into a much more challenging approach to authority.