Interesting discussion came up around the concept of social justice recently, part of what I call the “Great Divide” between conservatives and liberals.
First off, “social justice” is a term Catholics actually put forth around 1824, having more to do with charity, responsibility, living in community, and taking care of those around us. It’s actually a Christian value, based on the bible, no matter how much we have managed to make a mess of it over the centuries.
It’s nearly unrecognizable in the more political struggle of today where “social justice” seems to encapsulate everything from redistributing the wealth, to gay marriage, abortion, socialism, racism, feminism, sexual harassment, and global warming.
There are often two extremes at loggerheads with one another, something that is really observable on the internet where people tend to be more out spoken while tucked safely away behind their keyboards. Most of us IRL are neither of these caricatures, neither a Social Justice Warrior nor an Alt Rightie, who thinks he is a conservative, but he’s actually more of a right liberal.
If you have a headache already, that’s completely understandable. People often make my brain hurt too, and not in a good way.
My point being, those caricatures we see on the internet, those extremes the media likes to highlight and exaggerate, are not representative of the vast majority of us. Believe it or not, most of us are actually arguing about how best to love other people. That is the essence of all our political debates, barring a few extremists on either side who seem to genuinely believe that world domination is a distinct possibility, with them on the throne of course.
Keeping in mind that the essence of the argument among the majority of people is actually, how best do we go about the business of loving people, can be a challenging truth to hang onto sometimes, but that is the truth, you can see if you cut through all the shrieking and hyperbole. That’s vitally important to remember because we like to demonize the opposition and assign malevolent intentions to them.
One theme I bumped into this week, speaking to a liberal woman who just moved here, and a rather conservative Christian guy. We were talking about how best to help people and I completely forgot where I was, because I blurted out, “what people really need here is Jesus and more of Him.” What stuck me as really interesting was how she quickly said, “religion is a private matter” and he totally agreed. In fact, he took it a step farther and said, “I think we have enough Christians here.”
I was kind of taken a back because that is so not my heart at all. I’ve spent way too much time watching people suffer from things like generational poverty, societal rejection, addiction, suicide, abuse, divorce, in ways that all seem very preventable to me. If you only had the Lord, if you really knew Him….
It’s a very idealistic thing to say, Jesus fixes everything, but I’m going to say to anyway, because He does. Our lives do not become perfect, but if He doesn’t get us out of it, He sure gets us through it. If you have abuse issues, Jesus can fix that. Addictions?Jesus can fix that. Feeling rejected by society? Jesus can fix that. Marital problems?Jesus can fix that. Poverty? Jesus can fix that. Wounded by racism, sexism, the disfavor and disapproval of others? Jesus can fix that.
Jesus is the ultimate social justice solution, the cure for all that ails us. I think sometimes people forget, MLK was actually a preacher, a flawed and imperfect man serving a perfect Lord and a set of biblical ideas and values that have been with us for centuries.
In my other post a comment said in part, “being in Christ is not a social matter.” That same concept was to be found in my conversations earlier, and I have to say, I totally disagree. Being in Christ is a social matter. We don’t come to Jesus Christ in a personal way, just to get ours and be done with it. It is not an exclusive club. The spiritual does not compartmentalize itself away from community, as if they are two separate things.
Something that tends to get forgotten in the modern West, on the more conservative side of things, is Ezekiel 16:49. Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Well in part, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
To whom much is given, much is expected. I’m pretty low on the totem pole in America, but let me tell you, I have pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease. I also have Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are called to care about the suffering of others. We are called to social justice. It’s not optional, it’s a mandate.
How we go about social justice is obviously the subject of much debate politically and involves some complex policies, unintended consequences, and general chaos. Also, nearly 200 references to “dung holes” on CNN the other day, which was quite a sight to behold. There are a lot of forces in this country working hard to create divisions and to amp people up on hyperbole.
In the midst of the mess however, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Christians are indeed called to social justice and that we are mandated to spread the gospel to a lost and hurting world. Jesus fixes everything, so in that sense religion cannot be “just a personal thing” at all. Being in Christ really is a social matter. He is the essence of what builds our communities.