I’m going to take a risk in this article. You see, there is a danger in talking about social justice–if you aren't blatantly for it you are branded as being against justice. That is the power of one's position. “Social Justice” is currently becoming the soup du jour of our progressive millennial world. This problem results from a lack of critical reflection. And some folks are pursuing it in a way that promotes a utopian collectivism. More about that later…
Also, the term is ill-defined. Whole books written about it never defined it. Some people know only that promoting it is a moral imperative, but they are helpless to explain why it is a moral imperative.
Three aspects of this growing phenomenon called social justice are: Helping the Poor, Utopian Social Justice, and Religious Liberty Implications. Let’s look first at a positive aspect of social justice.
Helping the Poor Outreach in the Christian life is not optional. It is not saying, “Hey I have some extra time, let’s do something nice for someone. It’ll make God feel good.” No.
Helping the poor is not only a legitimate part of being a Believer; it can be a barometer of compassion for us individually. Let us have compassion on the poor/oppressed and let us demonstrate that compassion through action. But who are the poor that we should help?
Right here I need to make a distinction. God does not look favorably on all the poor. That could sound blasphemous to a modern social-justice devotee. Yet it is true. God does not look favorably upon the lazy poor. God does not look favorably upon the disobedient poor. God looks favorably upon the humble poor, and helping them is something we should be about individually. And that is different from the utopian pseudo-political social justice phenomenon that is currently sweeping the earth. Very different.
Utopian Social Justice The utopian tendency in man’s mind is very strong. After all, the original temptation was a utopian one. By eating the forbidden fruit Eve thought to attain a higher level of divine enlightenment. She could be as God. Problem is, she was already in Paradise and had nowhere to go but down.
Since then, mankind has often sought to create a wonder-world where people’s needs are few, their desires limited, and there is no motive for war or oppression. In such a fairy world there would be instinctive harmony between man and nature (basis for environmentalism). To social justice zealots, the highest goal, indeed the Babel Tower of their socialist dreamland is the egalitarian redistribution of all goods and wealth. This is code language for Communism, friends. And one-ism.
Modern social justice is a rallying cause for one-ist ideologies. What do I mean by that? One-ism is the belief that all distinctions must be eliminated, including creation and Creator. One-ism worships and serves creation as divine. Through enlightenment we discover that we are also divine. I repeat–you radically redefine yourself; you become divine through enlightenment. And if you are divine–you have to be just. Are you starting to see the connection? Since everyone shares in the “divine power,” if we unite, we can bring the world to a new level of happiness and peace. That is the utopian vision. Think you haven’t rubbed elbows with one-ism? Let me give you its oft-cited mantra—“I’m spiritual, but not religious.”
True to this vision, activists (even in the church) want us to correct every problem out there. In their determination to create a utopian world, utopian one-ists say we have to apply their brand of justice to:
- Health care
- Tax Increases
- Gun Control
- Carbon emissions
- and others…
Liberal Protestantism has largely embraced this agenda as its central message. But the Bible doesn't say that it is our duty to fix every problem out there. In fact, some problems that we experience are consequences–tied to choices we have made. God allows these consequences and gives us the Gospel that we might experience freedom from sin, and rest in the hope of His promise to “make all things new” on That Day (Rev. 21:5). The church’s main message must be the Everlasting Gospel, accompanied by the pragmatic warning of His imminent return. As believers, we look forward to a better city and a better country, “in the renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:28). The New Testament is stunningly silent on any plan for governmental or social action. The apostles launched no social reform movement. Instead, they preached the Gospel of Christ, planted Christian churches and took care of their own. Our task is to follow Christ’s command and the example of the apostles.
Justice in the Bible is s lot less sexy than what we hear today. It manifests itself as concern for the poor, primarily the poor in spirit. It quite often refers to the people of God oppressed by their enemies.
And that brings us to the fact that the Bible is absolutely clear that injustice will not exist forever. A perfect social order is coming, but it is not of this world. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ in its fullness spells the end of injustice and every cause and consequence of human sin. We have much work to do in this world, but true justice will be achieved only by the consummation of God’s purposes and the perfection of God’s own judgment on That Day.
Religious Liberty Implications In the wake of communism’s history and collapse, the terms “Marxism, socialism, and collectivism” became unsellable and a “new and improved” substitute was needed. Enter the term “social justice” which is socialism in Skinny Jeans™.
The unbroken line from The Communist Manifesto to its contemporary adherents is the belief that economic inequality is the monstrous injustice of the capitalist system, which must be replaced by an ideal of social justice—a classless society created by the elimination of all differences in wealth and power.
It is thus concluded that it is the choices of the masses (“the market”) that create the inequalities of fortune and fame–and the only way to correct those injustices is to control those choices (restrict liberty).
To further the illusions of social justice, it cannot be conceded that the haves are responsible for what they have or that the have nots are responsible for what they have not. When I was young, men of achievement were admired for their ambition, risk taking, and work ethic. Today, the class-envy ideas coming from Washington cause successful individuals to be regarded as privileged at best and dishonorable at worst. The flip side of this is the insistence that the have nots are, in fact, the underprivileged who have been denied their due by an unjust society. The intrusion of this thinking opens the door for state redistribution as the logical adjudicator of resources. Two ominous things now happen. Social justice assumes a façade of religious authority and the role of the state is elevated to oppressor. It is the point at which theory ends and history begins.
The goal above is the project of a growing number of leftist legal theorists including Cass Sunstein and Catherine MacKinnon, the latter opining that the "law of [substantive] equality and the law of freedom of expression [for all] are on a collision course in this country." Wow! Such statements rightly energize a lot of opposition, for they are tied to a diminished God and acceleration of state power. Make no mistake “freedom of expression for all” includes religious freedom. When you kill off God and elevate the role of the state, social justice is born and the result is an enforced love of one-ism. Whatever is socialized is state-controlled.
In spite of the efforts of social justice proponents to explain away its historical relationship to totalitarianism, we cannot escape the fact that authoritarian brutality is the not-merely-possible-but-inevitable outworking of the nature of social justice itself.
In summary, the term social justice is not Biblical. Having compassion on the humble poor and the poor in spirit is very much Biblical. God's justice does not require a forced redistribution of wealth through auto developed temporal social justice. It is communism in code, and socialism in Skinny Jeans®. Because of these truths, I believe the risk I took in writing this article is worth it.