What is Social Justice?

Wrapping up this series of opinions on social justice returns us to the original question – What is social justice? As argued, that question can only be answered within the perspective of foundational worldview. The progressive (secular humanist) worldview understands social justice as an end, and that end is imposing their egalitarian vision of economic, political, and social equality on the rest of us. Further, any means to achieve, or even attempt to achieve, that vision is “morally” justified.

Inescapably, those means require violation of individual life, freedom, or property. In spite of the history of failure and brutality of socialist states, progressives believe their goal is just and achievable. From their perspective, the failed or failing welfare state societies, including the USSR and European Communist states, Communist China, Cuba, etc., are the result of imperfect understanding of the economic and societal control needed to implement “the greatest good for the greatest number”, not of wrong ideology.

My efforts to lay out the ideological foundation of the welfare state were not intended to persuade the human secularists. Moral debate between progressives and Christians is a non-starter. We do not have a shared foundational understanding of right and wrong. My intent instead has been to provoke thought and debate among those of us who profess belief in the Christian God, the God of Jacob and Abraham. The question being asked is not the theoretical one – What is social justice? Rather more practically – As Christians how do we work for justice in a secular society?

Should we empower our secular government’s elected officials, supposedly of “higher” moral character and intelligence, to judge who has too much, who does not have enough, and who has given too little? And should we further empower those elected officials to take from those judged to have too much? Since those who have not given enough are not voluntarily giving up their possessions, they must be compelled by the threat of penalty, property seizure, imprisonment, or in the case of brutal collectivist states (think USSR, communist China, “egalitarian” French revolution, etc.) bodily harm and death.

To some extent, Christians who support the progressive “social justice” movement have done so because of a desire to achieve an imagined societal outcome that would have resulted from a more faithful Christian society. However, attempting to compensate for lack of Christian love and morality in our society by forcefully redistributing wealth not only fails to understand that the means and not the ends defines the Christian struggle, but also indicates an acceptance of the depth of our fallen condition.

Identifying the principles that underlie progressive social justice further explains the uncomfortable associations “liberal” Christians find themselves in when aligning with the wealth redistribution crowd. Most progressives who support wealth redistribution also vigorously protect animal rights but condone abortion of unborn infants; deny the sanctity of traditional marriage and family structure; promote politically correct tolerance but reject making value judgments of right and wrong; and encourage observance of Earth Day but have outlawed public celebration of Christmas and Easter.

Rather as Christians, we should prayerfully re-examine our lives and actions, and pray for God to give us the faith as individuals to do more than we have for the poor and estranged. We should encourage each other to do the same in a non-judgmental spirit of love and humility, since we all fall short, and we cannot truly know the other person’s circumstances, i.e. what is in their heart.

Our politics should also be consistent with our espoused beliefs. We should work in the political sphere to promote God-given individual freedoms, including economic freedom. As a brief aside – although progressive Democrat social policy and economic policy particularly conflicts with Christian worldview, both establishment political parties patently disregard individual freedoms, but instead serve self and special interests. I would assert that Libertarian political ideology, founded in the Declaration of our God-given inalienable rights to life, freedom, and property, most coincides with Christian worldview.

Finally, Christians must argue for the truth and goodness of traditional American values – values founded in Christian worldview. In the end, much of American society’s despair and dysfunction stems from moral decline; and progressive relative morality has blurred our society’s understanding of right and wrong, contributing significantly to this decline. When American society encouraged and extolled virtues such as love of God, country¸ and family; responsibility for self, family, and neighbor; respect for elders and those in authority; honesty, humility, charity, living within ones means, and industriousness, our society and country were better for it. To quote Alex de Tocqueville’s observation of 19th century America, “America is great because America is good.”

What is Christian social justice? – It is our Christian witness and defense in a secular society, not to impose our Christian worldview on others, but to offer the Christian vision of joy and hope as an alternative to the falsehood that is the secular humanist worldview.

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One Response to What is Social Justice?

  1. William Gall says:

    Lot of truth here, Nick. Perhaps we do need to wean ourselves off the secular welfare state and its false values. But I mourn that de Tocqueville’s America is no more. The struggle to live in those days built character into people, and now we’re largely a people focused on free bread and circuses, on trifles. Television advertisers have captured many, many hearts. The third world works harder for less and gets the contracts. Perhaps the initial disorder of a libertarian revolution would shake people out of their trance so that they would accept a life of hard work, simple living, and genuine values again. But I think a conservative approach to this solution would entail a gradual implementation, so that the development of private, local answers to human need would be in place to buffer the shock of dismantling the welfare state. Or maybe it’s the instincts of a bleeding heart liberal, as the ephitet goes. All I know is that many cities are enacting cruel regulations in regard to homeless people, whose ranks are growing and would grow dramatically when their government checks stop. Ultimately, the Church is the Ark in the flood of mortal ills; that’s the only conclusion I feel I can safely make.

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