Social Justice Christian

In response to Ryan Bell’s article and video about Social Justice Christians at Spectrum (and now on Huffington Post), I left the following comment:

– – – – –

Leaving the details aside, what level of agreement about the following statements do we have. I presume support will drop the further down the list we go:

1. Persons can do unrighteous, unjust, and evil actions of their own free will.

2. Social systems and structures can be unjust (e.g., legally enforced slavery, forced prostitution, police-supported child slavery or drug-trafficking, apartheid, racial discrimination, etc.).

3. Social systems can be unjust even if they are legal (i.e., justice and legality are not synonymous).

4. Christians as individuals are called to be righteous and just and compassionate (separate but overlapping descriptions).

5. Christians as individuals can (should?) decry systemic social problems as the prophets of old did with passion.

6. These individuals can work to change social systems that they deem unjust.

7. Christians as individuals can run for political office to affect changes they believe are consistent with God’s values.

8. The church (congregations and/or denominations) can use its voice to speak to local or national governments about changes that it deems consistent with God’s values (e.g., 1921 SDA letter to Pres. Harding supporting arms reduction).

Depending where we begin to disagree with the list (and I can imagine a few changes/additions to the list), we will have very different discussions.

Three statements of belief:

B1) Personally, I believe it is possible to get all the way to #8 and still believe in the separation of church and state in terms of finances and control/authority.

B2) I believe we can agree with #8 and still speak truth to the empire without being co-opted by it.

B3) I believe we can agree with #8 and still disagree with each other regarding specific policy issues. This to me is more constructive than attacking “social justice,” which encompasses but is not limited to economic justice, to use terms previously mentioned.

To be against social justice is to support social injustice. Clearly, we are against injustice as personally defined, so why not stick to specific issues–health care, tax policies, human rights abuses and definitions, labor laws, immigration, education, housing, public debt, etc.–instead of being flat out against social justice.

“I believe in social justice defined as…”

“I’m a social justice Christian who believes…”

“I am an activist Christian committed to the biblical values of…”

“I value social justice, which to me means…. However, I disagree when…”

“Regardless of how some people in some places have defined social justice, I am trying to support a society that reflects the values supported by the prophets, including…”

“Even though this world will not be perfect until Jesus returns, I’m trying to learn how to best live out Is. 56:1-2, so I am working for peace and justice by…. However, I have a real problem when Christians and non-Christians…”

“Even though I don’t view any political party as holy or completely right, I want to know God as described in Jer. 22:16, so I am working to aid the poor, needy and oppressed by… and this has indirectly brought me in contact with government leaders and bureaucracies, and I…”

Peace, Jeff

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16 Responses to Social Justice Christian

  1. Jeff Boyd says:

    From the list I gave, #7 is the most suspicious to me.

    • Jim says:

      Social justice used today is a political agenda and not what it used to mean. It is pure and simple Socialism, not Christianity. It is just using Christianity like Stalin did in the old Soviet Union to achieve an end.

      Don’t buy it! If they get power, they will outlaw Christianity also, because it calls certain behaviors sinful.

      Don’t be duped by this power grab!!!

  2. RightKlik says:

    If you’re going to promote the idea of “social justice,” you should make the definition of social justice crystal clear. If we each carry around our own vague definition of social justice, many will be confused or even misled.

    The Church cannot use its own definition of social justice. If Church leaders are going to promote the idea of social justice, they should be prepared to acknowledge the generally accepted definitions.

    “Social Justice” is not defined in most dictionaries. I usaully shy away from Wikipedia, but in this case, Wikipedia appears to be helpful in presenting a very accurate definition:

    “Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. These policies aim to achieve what developmental economists refer to as more equality of opportunity and equality of outcome than may currently exist in some societies.”

    For a number of reasons, I do not support the definition of social justice noted above. But contrary to your claim, those of us who reject these notions of social justice do not support social injustice.

    For example, I reject the injustice of legally enforced income redistribution and property redistribution, but I also reject the injustices of legally enforced slavery, forced prostitution, police-supported child slavery or drug-trafficking, apartheid, and racial discrimination.

    With your argument, you have created a false dilemma. A fruitful discussion of this issue will require arguments more refined than the one you have made.

  3. Jeff Boyd says:

    Actually, RightKlik, your answer is the kind that I’d like to see more of. Your response is exactly what I meant. It’s more helpful than when people merely say they are for or against “social justice.”

    Thanks for contributing: “I reject the injustice of legally enforced income redistribution and property redistribution, but I also reject the injustices of legally enforced slavery, forced prostitution, police-supported child slavery or drug-trafficking, apartheid, and racial discrimination.”

    The latest book I got on practical social justice (Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice, http://www.zealouslove.org/zl/ ) has economic justice as one of 8 categories–trafficking, water, refugees, hunger, education, environment, HIV/AIDS, economics. So rather than say pro/con “social justice,” we can discuss:

    1) Which categories are strategically imperative priorities?
    2) What personal, organizational and political strategies can best begin to alleviate this injustice?
    3) What role can or should religious organizations (churches and agencies) play in this area?

    Peace

  4. RightKlik says:

    I appreciate your gracious response.

    One thing I have found to be conspicuously underrepresented among the concerns of “Social Justice Christians” is a concern for spiritual needs. Social justice Christianity is strikingly preoccupied with material concerns.

    I’m not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t be concerned with material needs, but spiritual needs should be at the top of the list. But for Social Justice Christians, spiritual needs seem to be an afterthought.

    The “Zealous Love” list of urgent needs excludes spiritual concerns.

    Whether most Social Justice Christians realize it or not, they are operating under the auspices of a leftist political ideology that proposes statist solutions to the world’s problems while ignoring the extent to which statism has created those very problems.

    “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.”

    To the extent that Christians organizations recognize the power of government to do harm through legally enforced redistribution of wealth and to the extent that religious organizations fight for religious freedom and other forms of freedom, I think that Christian political activity is compatible with Christ’s teachings.

    Let’s remember: Much to his disciples’ dismay, Christ did not pursue political power. Christ’s work was not a political strategy. He did not work with political framework of the day, but against and beyond it.

    “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world…my kingdom is from another place.'” John 18:36

    Christians can succeed where governments have failed, but only if they free themselves from the insidious notions of distributive justice.

    • Wendy says:

      I agree with this-

      One thing I have found to be conspicuously underrepresented among the concerns of “Social Justice Christians” is a concern for spiritual needs. Social justice Christianity is strikingly preoccupied with material concerns.

      However, I’d like to point out that in the absence of material justice, spiritual concerns are inevitably trumped. Historically, the SDA church has recognized this and placed emphasis on meeting people’s basic needs along with spiritual guidance- if needed. Sometimes it isn’t. The absence of one does not mean the absence of the other.
      Jesus said it best in Matthew 25 when speaking about the judgement- When I was hungry, you fed me, etc. Not when I was hungry you concerned yourself with my spiritual life, then fed me- just you fed me.

    • Jeff Boyd says:

      Just to clarify, in Zealous Love “spirituality” isn’t a separate topic from the other more “tangible” issues. Zealous Love is about spirituality with gloves and boots on.

      Government. Tricky topic for me. I do agree that Jesus didn’t come to usurp government power, and I do think the Christian’s primary job is to bless society through the church as opposed to putting all of one’s hope in government reform. This article spoke to me — http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2009/01/21/inauguration-thoughts-the-state-is-still-the-state/.

      At the same time, I believe the Hebrew prophets offer a model of speaking truth to power. And what do you think about Yoder’s “The Politics of Jesus”? I found it compelling on the second read (confusing on the first). I believe Jesus’ teachings had significant implications for the polis, yet he rejected both passivity and violence. His was a different kind of power, a different kind of movement, but it was still about influence and blessing. When he said the Jewish leaders still didn’t know the things that make for peace as he looked at the temple and foretold its demise, we realize his teachings have real-world implications for dealing with things like oppressors and occupying powers.

  5. Becca says:

    Hi! Great website! keep up the good work, and thanks for doing justice in Jesus’ name–we appreciate you!

    Do you think you could link to us at http://www.ChristianVolunteering.org?

    ChristianVolunteering.org is the largest online directory of Christian volunteer opportunities, with 5,500+ volunteer opportunities from over 4,000+ ministries, and since 2007, we have matched over 12,000 volunteers. ChristianVolunteering.org is a part of the Christian nonprofit TechMission, which also runs City Vision College (formerly Rescue College).

    We also have a lot of urban ministry resources at http://www.urbanministry.org . Maybe these would be useful to you!

    Thanks,

  6. Becca says:

    And hey–thanks for posting thoughts on this–i’ve been reading a lot of re-posts and its refreshing to see someone spend time on this topic themselves in a concise, organized manner :).

  7. Monique Ball says:

    Very interesting read. Honestly!

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  11. BRN says:

    The separation of church and state doesn’t mean the church is barred from the public discourse, It simply means it is not part of the government apparatus.

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