Reviving the Spirit of Socialism: an Interview with Charley Earp

JM: So Charley, how is it that we now have a “Faith and Socialism” Commission?

CE: The Socialist Party USA has officially re-chartered the “Faith and Socialism Commission.” The FSC had been around for many years, and was renamed the “Commission on Religion and Ethics” a few years ago, then didn’t renew its charter. After some discussion, the National Action Committee (NAC) elected to re-charter the effort under the older name, “Faith and Socialism Commission.”

JM: (Hum) I’m hearing some words unusual to socialist rhetoric: “faith,” “religion,” “ethics.” Not much of socially necessary labor time here.

CE:  The proposal that was created in consultation with party leaders is short and to the point.

Hopefully, the Faith & Socialism Commission of the SPUSA aims to:

1. Develop resources and support for SPUSA members for their spiritual enrichment as socialists.

2. Reach out to communities of conscience and spirituality as socialists.

3. Foster peace building and understanding across lines of religious conflict.

4. Create resources and media that develop socialist perspectives on religious, ethical, and spiritual matters.

JM: I wonder what sorts of folks are attracted to membership in the Commission. I am a trained philosopher. Philosophy is an avocation that I take seriously. And on occasion, I will write a short bit of analysis in the Magazine or the Webzine. What about your background, and whom you think might seek membership?

CE: The NAC decision also appointed myself, Charley Earp, to be the chair/convener of the FSC. I’m a member of the Chicago SP, a Pentecostal preacher’s kid who came to socialism from reading the story of Jesus and his first followers. I’ve been actively involved with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) for 17 years. I spent several years on the national “Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee” of the “Friends General Conference.” I’m planning to begin a second career as a minister in the next few years, including seminary education in the Unitarian-Universalist tradition. My religious philosophy is Universalist, embracing Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, and Pagans, as well as many others.

Above all else, I want everyone to feel like they [Commission members] have a stake in this new beginning. Even though the commission has “Faith” in it’s name, we need many from outside the “faithful” to be involved. I’m talking directly to atheists especially. Many, many socialists are atheists and any constructive relationship between the religious majority of the US and the atheist minority depends on both sides trying to understand the other better.

JM: I think there is a growing consensus within the Party  that  the  FSC can play a significant role in attracting  members, or at least spreading the word about  the  Party’s receptive posture to people of faith.

CE: Fighting for a democratic socialist movement in the US demands that we actively include religious persons in our party. Christians are over 80-95 percent of the US populace. The churches have spawned radical movements such as the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. Democratic Socialism cannot be won without a vibrant religious community at its heart.

And, we certainly need our Atheists to be right there alongside their religious comrades. Atheists such as Karl Marx have made massively important contributions to socialist movements. If Atheist and Religious Socialists can succeed where mainstream culture has failed, by uniting all persons across religious barriers in the fight for a better world for everyone, such a movement would be unstoppable.

JM: Thanks, Charley. I’m looking forward to soon hearing of the activities of the Commission in The Socialist.

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J. Richard Marra

lives in Connecticut. He received his Doctoral degree from Cornell University in 1977, majoring in Musical Composition and the History of Music Theory. While on the Faculty of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, he completed graduate work at Johns Hopkins University, majoring in the Philosophy of Science. He is a member of the Socialist Party USA, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Philosophy of Science Association. His articles have also appeared on the websites of the Secular Buddhist Association and The Hampton Institute. He is a 2014 recipient of the SPUSA's Eugene V. Debs Award. To read other essays by J. Richard Marra, please visit

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