Justice or Social Justice? ~
Christian or Political?
Is it justice or social justice that’s the big deal in our society these days?
What pictures are generated in your mind when you hear the words justice and social justice? How do you personally relate to these concepts? What activities are you involved in, participating with these ideologies?
In my previous post, we were looking at tolerance, and thinking about various aspects of that concept and their implications for Christ followers in today’s Western cultures.
So now, here’s another invitation for you to THINK with me as we consider further these concepts.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives these definitions for justice:
- the administration of law; especially the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
- the quality of being just, impartial, or fair
- the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action
The definition for social justice says:
- a state or doctrine of egalitarianism – the causes of human freedom and of social justice
Perhaps a more popular idea of social justice is clearer from the definition provided by the National Association of Social Workers when they state that social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.
These definitions sound pretty good, right?
The idea of social justice started out as a “Catholic term, first used about 1840 for a new kind of virtue (or habit) necessary for post-agrarian societies, the term has been bent by secular “progressive” thinkers to mean uniform state distribution of society’s advantages and disadvantages.” Originally, it was all about helping the poor, a beautiful expression of Christ’s care to them through the church.
For several years now, we’ve been hearing the promotion of equality for all, of every race, religion, gender, economic and social status, etc. – without discrimination. Certainly, on the mainstream media platforms, it seems that those pursuing such causes are heralded as the heroes of our day.
So what exactly does this all mean in our society today? Let’s look closer at some of the aspects that are being promoted . . .
Care for the poor.
For Christians, the biblical approach to caring for the poor is based on God’s care for those who are suffering, for the disenfranchised (Psalm 35:10; 82:3; Proverbs 21:13; Isaiah 25:4). And His admonition is for His people to also care for them in His name, especially for orphans and widows among them (James 1:27). God’s Word also says that able-bodied persons should work to provide for themselves and their families (Psalm 128:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; 1 Timothy 5:8). We can teach people how to fish rather than giving them a fish, and another, and another . . . . Also, those with means can provide work opportunities for others.
Let’s be clear . . . ministry to the poor in Jesus’ name and through the outreach of the church or a compassionate ministries organization is pleasing to God.
So what about from a political perspective?
Promoting social justice and care for the poor in our times by the progressives means to disparage the wealthy, and to say their wealth should be forcefully removed from them in order to redistribute it to all. So who will be in charge of this redistribution of wealth? Presumably the government leaders are the logical answer – they’re the people in the know to decide (with what accountability?) who will get to enjoy all that wealth (first for themselves?), and how it (whatever is left over?) will be distributed to the masses.
Does that sound to you like socialism?
Socialism. Equality for all.
Doesn’t that sound like a type of totalitarian Marxist government?
Has history ever shown socialism to work?
I’m assuming you understand what socialism is all about. So think about it . . .
Is it really true that all peoples should be treated equal, no matter what they do, regardless of the rule of law and order? Is that truly justice?
Do all have the same abilities, mental capacities, preferences, backgrounds? In a world of rich diversity, should we not respect and appreciate individual dignity and worth and show tolerance for this rich diversity? Am I being too simplistic? Or are we seeing words and ideas turned on their heads here? Does it seem contradictory to you, too, when social justice calls for equality for all? So for the progressives, which is it? Equality for all or respect for the rich diversity in the human family?
Have these ideas of equality for all, empowered the victim mentality and entitlement attitudes we’re seeing today? Is that why there’s so much blaming of others for one’s circumstances? Even Christians blaming other Christians for society’s woes? Of course, the blame game has been going on since Adam and Eve in the garden . . .
It is true that equality in the sense of human freedom and equal opportunity is good and appropriate. But is it right for all peoples to be required to live and operate as if we are all the same, without diversity?
We do know from Scripture that all peoples are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). All have access to salvation through Christ (John 3:16). And by grace, His shalom (wholeness and harmony in diversity) is available for ALL, everyone, everywhere, all the time (John 14:27), because He does not show favoritism (Act 10:34-35).
So are the progressive ideologies actually of God – the God of shalom?
I want to be clear – racism is wrong!
Wherever it is found, and by whoever engages it.
However, when officers are doing their job to maintain law and order in the land, and they find it necessary to apprehend (even forcefully) a criminal person of color or of a minority group, how is that considered racist? Does that actually show the opposite of justice? And where is the fairness to all the other people who have been hurt by the criminal?
Sexism and gender discrimination.
Again, let me be clear – discrimination is wrong!
As Christians, we are to show love to all people, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.
However, as followers of Christ, when we speak against sexual sins (as the Scriptures so clearly do), if we are then called bigots and sexists, and thus we are discriminated against and marginalized for taking a moral stand, is that not also discrimination? Where is the equality and fairness there, in the opposite direction? Is this yet another endeavor to shame and silence Christians regarding understandings of the Church throughout its history, and of God’s Word itself?
There are numbers of other causes that social justice promotes, such as terrorism, anti-police, guilt and blame, immigration, health care and welfare, the judiciary, and on and on . . .
So let’s THINK about this . . . .
If those who are promoting the ideology of social justice or equality across the board, what happens when that plays itself out over the long term? When played out to its furthest extent, where does it lead? Will it really bring society toward wholeness and wellbeing for ALL? Or will it be for just a favored few at the top of the heap? For a few favored minority or specialty groups?
And how will Christians fare among those specialty groups and minorities?
We learn in Scripture that all humanity is born with a bend toward self-centered interests, intentions, drives (Genesis 3; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12-14; Galatians 5:16-25). Without the transforming grace of God that enables people to act with selfless behavior and lifestyles, humanity continually shows itself to be “curved in upon itself”.
When those in power act without regard for law and order, and without care for ALL under their purview (not just for specialty groups) – when their actions are opposite of authentic biblical justice – that has traditionally been called corruption!
So what has changed for Christians in our nation?
Who are we listening to?
As Christians, are we pursuing the popular perspectives currently promoted in our rapidly changing culture and political environment? Are we more concerned about looking good before our peers and fitting into the culture around us?
Or are we seeking out a deeper understanding of what God says in His Word about the issues of our day? Are we delving into His Word to know how to live according to God’s timeless culture – His culture is for all people everywhere, at all times.
Our times call for careful discerning – to test all things with the Word of God and with the spirit of its intent.
Thank God for His Word as our guide for faith and practice!
In the chaos of our confusing times, let’s prioritize digging deeper into His Word.
Let’s maximize every opportunity to stay close to Jesus and to discern the guidance of His Spirit, so that we don’t find ourselves caught up in un-Christlike pursuits.
Let’s be found firmly planted on the solid foundation that can withstand the swirling winds of a crumbling culture.
The goal is not conforming to every wind of doctrine in a worldly society.
The goal is following the values and principles of a lifestyle that reflects Christlikeness.
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 For a reference see Michael Lodahl, The Story of God: Wesleyan Theology and Biblical Narrative (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1994), 83