Religious Socialism

My friend Fran Quigley is director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and has been teaching me about Religious Socialism. This began when he contacted me about writing I have been doing related to the evils of capitalism. The Evil of Capitalism. I suggested that he contact the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and he had done that.

Great post, as always! Thank you for prioritizing solidarity with our Black sisters and brothers in your advocacy.

This post of yours struck me close to home. I too have become fully convinced of the evils of capitalism. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that my faith dictates that I work to replace it. Turns out I am far from alone, so I’ve been devoting much of my time this past year to the Religion and Socialism Committee of the DSA, .

And, as part of a book project on religious socialism, I have published several articles profiling activists from different faith and spiritual traditions who feel called to advocate for a socialist society.  (Examples, if you are interested: a Catholic socialist, a Jewish rabbi socialist, a Black Presbyterian minister socialist, a Liberation Theologian Lutheran minister/professor,  Muslim socialists , a Buddhist socialist and a Black Baptist minister socialist.  I also co-wrote with longtime Religion and Socialism activist Maxine Phillips a short, one-stop primer on the argument for Christian socialism: )

Fran Quigley

Among the things he shared with me is an article he wrote about sometimes negative views about socialism.

I will be interested to know if you get any negative response to your socialism discussion. U.S. Americans of a certain age, especially those of us who can remember the Cold War, often have some knee-jerk resistance to the term. I recently wrote about that a bit in this article profiling a Black Presbyterian woman minister who is a socialist:

Of course, identifying as a socialist can create some challenges in that organizing. For example, Ray Sells, the retired Methodist minister, is not as excited about her embrace of socialism.

“I don’t see the reason to use that word,” he says. “It just turns off so many people from the start. Why can’t we just advocate for things like affordable housing and good public education without putting on a label with all those negative connotations?”

When Cowser is told about Sells’s objection, she nods in understanding. But her experience is that talking about socialism in faith communities is less problematic than Sells and others expect — especially when the conversation is with younger Americans, who polls show prefer socialism over capitalism on average, and black Americans, who similar polls show are likely to hold favorable views of socialism.

“I actually don’t get much pushback on it,” she says. She points out that church communities with strong tithing and aid cultures and healthy union workplaces are already quite socialist, as are many American institutions like public schools, infrastructure, and public safety.

“Plus, the biblical basis for socialism is just undeniable. Just look at the early books of Acts, where the body of believers responded to poverty — and a very gendered poverty — by organizing money and resources for the benefit of poor people,” she says. “And the Jubilee platform in Deuteronomy lays out the whole program for a sharing economy where no one person can be strong without the community being strong.”

To Rev. Angela Cowser, “the Biblical Basis for Socialism Is Undeniable”
BY FRAN QUIGLEY, Jacobin, 12/25/2020
Rev. Angela Cowser, a cofounder of the Institute for Christian Socialism, argues that a society rooted in the dictates of the Gospel would look radically different from the one we have now. There is a name for what that change should look like: socialism.

Following is some general information about Religious Socialism (RS) from Maxine Phillips.

The RS group is older than DSA, having been started in the seventies by John Cort, a Catholic activist in the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. It published a print newsletter for about thirty years. You can find pdfs of some of those old newsletters at Click on “issues.”  This is a dead site, so nothing else works on it.  After John’s death (at age 92) and some other changes, we stopped publication for a while, but rebooted a couple of years ago with a website.

At the moment, our primary activities are the website (, a Facebook page as well as a Twitter feed ,  a podcast series and a Twitter page for the podcast at 

We are not out to “convert” anyone but to bring a socialist perspective to our work with faith communities. We have an intersectional approach, i.e., class always matters, and so do other identities, and we can work on what unites us.

During this time of uprisings and a pandemic, we can reach out to others in our faith communities and in other organizations to work in coalitions for racial and economic justice.

As I’ve learned more about Religious Socialism, I’ve written a few blog posts related, including Religious Socialism – Introduction | Quakers, social justice and revolution (

Fran and Maxine also wrote Christian Socialist. Before Karl Marx, there was Jesus Christ. And before secular socialism, there was Christian socialism by MAXINE PHILLIPS and FRAN QUIGLEY.

This weekend will be a series of presentations related to “Building the Religious Left” Virtual Conference.

This weekend, we welcome the largest gathering of the multi-faith religious Left in DSA’s history, perhaps in U.S. history. Each of our traditions has a history on the Left, and we will continue to work within our own traditions. But we can also work together. This weekend, more than 600 of you want to create a different story than the one the religious Right tells. This conference marks the beginning of that journey.

We are working on uploading some fascinating short talks and interviews in conjunction with the conference and will update registrants by Saturday morning about those.

If you have not done so, please register for specific sessions through the links in this document and for the conference as a whole here. We will be sending out emails if/as panels or workshops change, and the only way that we can have your email is through this form.

If you can’t attend the whole conference, no problem. All panels and workshops will be recorded and links sent to you if you register here.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

(All times are U.S. Eastern Time)

11-a.m.-noon: Shabbat Room: Join Rabbi Robin Podolsky for a time of centering prior to the conference opening

Noon-1:15 p.m.

The Fire This Time: Forging a Multi-Faith Movement for Religious Socialism

There is a resurgence of socialist analysis and organizing, but little attention has been paid to the increased amount of religious commitment–the fire of both embodied analysis and practice– being brought to bear in the moment. In the spirit of James Baldwin’s iconic texts, communities of faith, in the wake of union organizing in Alabama and pending prospects of the PRO Act in Washington DC, have the opportunities to help spark the fires of our verdant, variegated religious traditions toward transforming our political economy, undoing white supremacy, and realizing a more just society. Join us as we talk through the possibilities, challenges, and pathways for religious socialism in this critical moment. Panelists Andrew Wilkes, Xavier Pickett, Jazmine Brooks, and Samy Amkieh.

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Multi-faith Perspectives on Medicare for All

Panelists–including Hebah Kassem of the Green New Deal Network; Sanjeev Sriram, M.D., of the National Physicians Alliance, David W. Greene, Sr., President of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and Pastor of Purpose of Life Ministries; Rabbi Robin Podolsky, who teaches Jewish Thought at California State University at Long Beach and serves as affiliated clergy at Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock–will discuss what their religious traditions have to say about the moral imperative of ensuring healthcare for all. Fran Quigley of the DSA Religion and Socialism Working Group will be the moderator.

Strategies of De-escalation: What Muslim Thought Contributes to the Practice

Waleed Sami will explore ways that political activists can de-escalate tense situations, with special reference to the impact of Muslim thought on de-escalation strategies. He is a doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Counselor Education program and is particularly interested in looking at how inequality and the political economy impact mental health. Imaan Javeed of the DSA Muslim Caucus will moderate the session.

Refugees at the Border: How do we respond?

Duane Campbell, co-chair, DSA Immigrant Rights Working Group, and Eddie Chavez Calderon, member, Arizona Jews for Justice will separate fact from false news about the situation at the border and engage with participants about how to convey information to potential coalition partners and move them to action.

3-4:15 p.m.

Black Church Radicalism

Joshua Davis, executive director of the Institute for Christian Socialism, will moderate a panel with Andrew Wilkes, co-pastor of Double Love Experience; Angela Cowser, Associate Dean of Black Church Studies and DMin programs at Louisville Seminary; and Obery M. Hendricks, author of many works on Christianity and politics, including The Politics of Jesus

Mutual Aid: Connection and Change, not Charity

Megan Romer of DSA Southwest Louisiana speaks with Shabd Singh of Metro DC DSA and Zellie Imani of BLM Paterson (panel in formation) about Mutual Aid and why it isn’t just charity repackaged.

Democratic EcoSocialism & the Green-Red-Black New Deal: Getting the Change We Need

How can environmental justice advocates bring about real change for all affected communities? Marie Venner, whose family is part of the Juliana v. United States case, is co-chair, CatholicNetwork US and an applied researcher with the National Academies Cooperative Research Programs. She will talk with Desiree Kane, a two-spirit Miwok storyteller, multimedia journalist, and co-founder of Grinding Stone Collective; George Lakey, nonviolent direct action trainer and activist for climate justice and author, among other works, of Strategy for a Living Revolution and How We Win; and climate justice activist Rodney S. Sadler, Jr., Associate Professor of Bible and Director, Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Worthy of Their Hire: The Alliance of Labor and Faith

UMC pastor Don Jones of Knoxville DSA, will moderate a panel on worker justice with DSAer Lisa Rung, East Tennessee Poor People’s Campaign; Jim Sessions, former director of the Highlander Center and retired UMC pastor; and David Linge, professor emeritus, Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee and community activist.

4:30-5 p.m.:

Create a ‘Zine to Remember this Day and your Takeaways

Bring some paper, pens, markers, collage materials, whatever strikes your fancy to this art-making event with Nicole-Ann Lobo to finish off this stimulating and inspiring day. (Link will be sent.)

Sunday, April 25, 2021

2-3:15 p.m.

Views from Left Field: Mapping the State of Contemporary Jewish Life

Join moderator Lawrence Dreyfuss and the staff of Jewish Currents for a panel discussion on how the divided political landscape in North America is shifting Jewish communal life in the synagogue and the home. We will consider the recent rise of socialism, the schisms exacerbated by the Trump presidency, and how these changes have altered social bonds within Jewish community. Jewish Currents is a widely read magazine committed to the rich tradition of thought, activism, and culture of the Jewish Left. Participants: Editor-in-chief Arielle Angel, Assistant Editor Mari Cohen, Managing Editor Nathan Goldman, and Managing Director Joe Roberts.

Abolition: Can Religion Help Us Imagine a World Without Policing and Prisons?

Stephen Crouch of the NYC RS Group will speak with abolition activists Rabbi Barat Ellman, Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, and Nura Ahmed to explore such questions as, What are the religious roots of abolition? What should the role of faith communities be in abolition? How might religious imagination help us in imagining a world without policing and prisons? Is “Defund the Police” an effective slogan? Is abolition socialist? But what do we do with all the “bad” people? What spiritual resources from your tradition, maybe ritual or textual, do you see as pointing to the abolition of the Prison-industrial Complex (PIC)?

Using Values to Drive Social Change Around Poverty Issues: An experiential workshop

In their book, Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty, authors Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox lay out the case for what is essentially a democratic socialist revision of the U.S. economy. The authors have spoken with many groups, religious and otherwise, about these reforms and built support by linking the change they advocate with values that the audience already embraces. This workshop will consist of three parts. The authors will present information on the science of persuasion and what research tells us works and doesn’t work; each author will model   arguing a socialist reform from the basis of her faith tradition – Joanne (Judaism) Colleen (Roman Catholicism); and participants will work independently for 10 minutes developing an argument for a socialist reform from their faith tradition. We will return to the group and share as many of these as time allows.

Civil Disobedience from the Soul: Preparing Spiritually for Protest and Direct Action

Charles “Chaz” Howard , vice president for social equity and community at the University of Pennsylvania will lead this experiential workshop in which participants will reflect on the spiritual, mental, and emotional preparations that might make for more effective protesting and direct action. Attendees will consider historical change makers as well as some contemporary examples, all the while looking ahead to what our own practices could look like in the future as we seek to engage a range of systems of oppression and injustice.

3:30-4:45 p.m.

Intra-group Organizing by Religion

Do you want to meet other DSAers who share your faith tradition to talk about next steps in countering the religious right? Sign up and then break into groups for Buddhists; Catholics; Earth Religions; Hindus; Humanists, Jews; Muslims; Protestants, Quakers,LDS, and Nondenominational; Unitarian Universalists; and Others. If there are only one or two people in some categories, we encourage you to join another group or attend the workshop on one-on-one organizing.

How to Organize One on One

Former DSA staffer, Boston DSA activist, and current rabbinical student Lawrence Dreyfuss will take you step-by-step through the structured organizing conversations so crucial to every organizing campaign.

5-6:15 p.m.

How to Start a Local Religion & Socialism Group

Learn from different groups in various stages of formation and share your experiences and questions with other DSA activists.

6:30-7 p.m.

Create a ‘Zine to Remember this Day and your Takeaways

Bring some paper, pens, markers, collage materials, whatever strikes your fancy to this art-making event with Nicole-Ann Lobo to finish off this stimulating and inspiring day. (Link will be sent.)

This entry was posted in abolition, capitalism, Democratic Socialists of America, Religious socialism, socialism, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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