A More Balanced Approach on “Social Justice”

Dr. Albert Mohler offers this discussion of the Glenn Beck/Social Justice controversy that has been stirring lately.

Mohler’s argument is that the church’s main message should be Christ’s victory over sin which, if it is truly followed, has social justice implications.

Mohler is right and his comments are refreshing and greatly needed. Mohler keeps the entire Christ of the Bible at the core of Christianity, whereas many elevate certain aspects of living like Christ (i.e. nonviolence, self-sacrifice and care for the oppressed) to the same level as actual belief in Jesus.  This in turn rips the heart out the heart of the Good News of Christ, not because Christian’s shouldn’t act like Christ (we should!) but because the Gospel is not merely acting like Christ and making the world a better place.  Instead, the Gospel is that our former enemy, God, has taken on our punishment for our rebellion against Him through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. By placing our hope in Christ’s death and resurrection we have victory over death in this age and the one to come. From this new hope our hearts are changed and we show compassion towards our neighbors by manifesting the Kingdom of God on earth.

While I share the appall that many have toward Beck’s comments, it would be dishonest to not at least acknowledge that a lot of people who wear the “social justice” label have more in common with non-Christian and anti-Christian ideologies (particularly political ones) than that of Jesus himself. This is where Mohler’s commentary is helpful- there is no Gospel in social justice apart from Christ.

For an even better (but theologically sound) approach to the understanding of Christ and social justice I suggest  John Perkins.

5 replies
  1. Micheal
    Micheal says:

    While there are variation of The 10 commandments, they all contain prohibition against envy, lying, and stealing. (I’m using simplified terms).

    Social justice of the left is about progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution. It’s based on envy, misrepresenting your situation, and convincing the government to steal on your behalf.

    I would not call John Perkins a man of social justice. He started programs and businesses focused on helping the poor and improving their education so they could better their position in life. From what I’ve read of him, he sound like a man that believes in a hand up, not a hand out.

    I’ve worked here in Cincinnati with Inter Parish Ministry and work on my own to help modify the homes of seniors so they can continue to live in their homes. I do this of freewill to help my neighbors have a better life.

    Organizations need to define their form of Social justice. Beck’s comment was referencing churches that support the government welfare state. As a man who has a special needs child and an adopted child, he’s not one to look down on those in need.

    I looked at values statement Christ the King Cincinnati: The church is the primary means of social justice. Everyone in our city should have equity when it comes to employment, education, income, and other opportunities.

    With no disrespect, these are just feel good words. What exactly does the church do towards assisting people with employment, education, income?

    Do you advocate for government to spend more on programs, or does the church have it’s own programs? Programs meant to really help people.

    Reply
  2. Ryan Kupiec
    Ryan Kupiec says:

    Thanks for your comments, Michael.

    People approach “social justice” in many ways. Some do so primarily through engaging in politics in order to change government; others do so in individual or collective action such as you mentioned (fixing people’s homes, adoption etc.). Still others have a hybrid approach (I’m thinking maybe government support for faith based initiatives). Frankly, some people don’t try to bring about “social justice” at all. Regardless, I think that the term “social justice” should not be thought of as political action per se. Your presupposition seems to be that “social justice” is only political (I may be incorrect in what I gather) but your lifestyle seems to be one that attempts to bring about shalom in society, which seems like “social justice” to me. That is why I believe Perkins is a man of social justice. Not because he is political (as far as I know he’s not very political) but because he attempts to bring the Kingdom of God to society through the preaching of the Gospel, the relief of suffering, the creation of opportunity and by showing compassion.

    I agree that the church is the primary means of social justice. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the church is the only true means of social justice. God has given us government to punish certain sins and maintain general order. While most people want good societies, government can not bring about the Kingdom of God – only the church can do that. Like Dr. Mohler discussed, many people have sadly come to understand the message of Jesus to only be how people interact with each other and have tried to use government as the means to bring about the Kingdom. While personal reconciliation is part of the Gospel, there is no shalom, reconciliation or “social justice” apart from the forgiveness of sins and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from Christ. Simply stated, apart from Christ we are not just and therefore cannot bring about true justice- that is the Kingdom of God.

    Our church is growing in our engagement of these things. While we tend to speak more in terms of “reconciliation” and “compassion” our desire is to bring about the Kingdom of God. This is done by the changing of people hearts’ through the preaching of the Gospel. As part of this we are engaging collectively and individually to help alleviate the injustices of abortion, racism, poverty, substance abuse, sexual slavery, lack of education, domestic violence etc. We are a new church, so we have primarily come along side other Christians who “specialize” in these things. While we all have our own personal opinions about politics we do not advocate any type of system of government system as a church. Instead, we preach the Kingdom of God through the church. We are people who identify across the political spectrum who are united into God’s family through Christ which brings us together to preach Christ in word and deed.

    Thanks for checking us out.

    Grace and Peace to you,
    Ryan

    Reply
  3. Micheal
    Micheal says:

    When I see “social justice. Everyone … should have equity when it comes to employment, education, income” as a core value listed under a groups views, it tends to lead me to believe the groups is supportive of the welfare state view.

    Coming from Indian Hill Church with friends at Armstrong United Methodist, I find that both churches list their outreach programs and how to be involved. Their is a clarity of what the churches are doing in the community and what their objectives are.

    Maybe a better phrase than social justice for church or faith based service would be social outreach.

    Reply
    • Ryan Kupiec
      Ryan Kupiec says:

      Michael, thanks for your comments again.

      With all due respect, if you have thoroughly looked at our website and listened to the sermons and still infer that our church is actively promoting “the welfare state” then it is only because that is what you want to believe about us. We don’t have a political agenda, we just love Jesus and want to best love our neighbors. Not having a political agenda does not mean that we completely ignore society or politics, but that we try to engage these things in a manner that does not make an idol out of them. That’s going to bother some people. Some people will call it “liberal” because of our language and emphasis and some might even call us “conservative” because we’re not trying to do it through means of government but the church. Either way we’re more concerned about actions than semantics.

      Thanks for the conversation.

      Peace,
      Ryan

      Reply
  4. Micheal
    Micheal says:

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest that your church in any way supports the welfare state.

    Some words, when grouped, equity/equality with income/education or the the word New before scientist/economist suggests that a group believes an individual’s needs should be managed by a large central authority.

    What I like about Inter Parish Ministry is that they work with each individual and try to have all the resources in house to meet that individual’s needs.

    I’ve run into some county level programs where Job and Family Services farms out a persons needs over 5 or 6 support organization where the goal is to keep the tax dollar coming while the person in need gets lost in the run around.

    But again, I didn’t mean to suggest anything about how Christ the Kingdom Church approach’s their outreach programs.

    Reply

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