christian social justice

What’s Christian Social Justice?

on October 27, 2018

A blogger in Sojourners defends Christian social justice activism and denies it’s liberal or secular:

Many Christians are wary of participating in social justice because of a deep-rooted fear of being labeled “liberal,” “progressive,” or “secular.” They don’t want to be associated with “secular” movements, and are uncomfortable delving into issues that go beyond their cultural comfort zones.

But the Bible tells us that Jesus cared deeply about the social causes around him.

Some conservative critics of Christian social justice activism reject its identity group politics and victimology. They prefer to look at all people as equally needing the Gospel without focusing on racial, ethnic, and economic distinctives.

But the blogger responds:

While God does love everyone and all believers are united in Christ, this doesn’t negate the fact that we have a unique cultural identity and upbringing and are called to recognize the marginalized, help the oppressed, and avoid rejecting their significance by denying their identity or ignoring their plight.

And the blogger concludes:

By acknowledging and actively participating in the #blacklivesmatter movement, addressing racism, immigration, gender equality, and a litany of other issues, you are following in the steps of Jesus.

The blogger is correct to note Christianity’s special concern for persons who are neglected, oppressed and persecuted. In God’s fulfilled Kingdom the last shall be first and the first shall be last. The church if faithful strives to ennoble all who have been marginalized and dehumanized.

But this blog, although denying social justice is liberal, is not very encouraging or persuasive to someone who’s not liberal. Christian social justice activism almost always focuses on racial, gender, poverty and immigrant injustice. Its intentions are often good. Sometimes but not always the results are helpful. But rarely does Christian social justice activism focus on concerns outside the parameters of the secular left.

Most Christian social justice activism doesn’t discuss the unborn, who clearly are vulnerable. Christianity has always been pro-life, so why the virtual silence? The aged and terminally ill who are increasingly threatened by euthanasia and assisted suicide are also vulnerable yet largely ignored by social justice activism.

Christian social justice activists ignore and sometimes even reject defense of traditional marriage and family, along with traditional sexual morality. But Christianity has from the start understood that the protection of children and the dignity of women necessitate stable marriages and families, undergird by chastity. Illegitimacy and divorce are leading contributors to material and spiritual poverty. So why the silence from social justice advocates?

Social justice activism obsesses over privilege, and it assumes Christians are privileged, which has been historically true in the West. But it’s not true in most of the world, and true less and less in the West. Hundreds of millions of Christians globally contend with persecution or restrictions on their faith. Social justice advocates are almost always silent. Why?

And even in the West some Christians, often economically vulnerable, face prejudice and discrimination from big corporations, government and other powerful entities, especially for their views on sexuality. But social justice advocates are either silent or contemptuous.

Social justice activism is rightly focused on poverty but mostly concerned about expanding the welfare state, often if unintentionally at the expense of the church and civil society. This prescription of income redistribution implies humans are primarily material and not spiritual beings. Fifty years of rising illegitimacy and family disintegration owe partly to the welfare state. And the chief victims are children lacking mothers and fathers married to each other, about which social justice activism is silent.

Distortingly, social justice activism embraces a secular demonization of America and the West as uniquely oppressive. But Christianity teaches all humanity is equally fallen and needful of redemption. Social justice activism largely acquires its laudable desire for human equality from the Western political tradition, yet it is ungrateful.

A better informed social justice activism would confront American and Western sins while also admitting blessings. Most of the world lacks reliable rule of law or consistent protections of human rights. Tormenting, imprisoning and murdering dissidents remains all too common globally, about which social justice activism is largely indifferent.

Within the lifetimes of many persons now alive multiple societies around the world have conducted genocides murdering tens of millions. Yet social justice activism typically finds fault mainly if not exclusively with America, which had often been the counter to those genocides.

Christian social justice activism is usually hostile to America’s military strength, upon which much human freedom and defense of human decency depends. It’s negative on law enforcement, which along with military protection is God’s primary vocation for the state.

Police and military injustices and abuses can’t be properly critiqued outside affirmation of their divine calling. All persons and human institutions are fallen, and therefore must operate within constraints. But social justice activism is often utopian, damning some institutions while demanding almost total power for others.

True Christian social justice seeks racial and economic justice. It wants dignity for all. So it also includes defending the unborn, the aged and terminally ill, marriage and family, religious freedom, civil society, ordered liberty, and private property. It’s about God-ordained human creativity & dignity, the public good, gratitude, duty, and not just grievance, entitlement and identity politics.

If faithful, comprehensive and realistic, Christian social justice seeks to redeem persons and reform society while always recognizing all are fallen. Only God in Christ will ultimately reclaim and perfect the world. If social justice activists more intentionally incorporate holistic Christian teaching into their advocacy, non liberals will be more persuaded of their cause.

  1. Comment by William on October 28, 2018 at 10:47 am

    What liberal Christian social justice advocates seem to miss is the fact that they’re often aligned with the enemy —- that is, liberal secular movements that are out to destroy orthodox Christianity or render it irrelevant as they pick and choose highly selective pop cultural issues on which to focus their attention by using strategies actually stolen from historic Christian ethics.

  2. Comment by Ray on October 28, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    I think that we can get so involved in social justice that we for get to tell the story of the gospel. Also, what one Christian thinks is a social justice concern another Christian doesn’t.

  3. Comment by Evan Spencer on October 29, 2018 at 9:32 am

    I suppose we are left to guess that there is a promise inherent in focusing on the poor. That marriage, the plight of the unborn, sexual ethics, and the respect needed for law enforcement at home, and for the protection afforded by the military abroad will magically all reform if we focus all of our attention on the plight of the poor and other pet liberal causes. I’m afraid that such a belief in the eradication of poverty while laudable, has no basis in reality for being self-sustaining, and leaves us vulnerable to creating more poverty. For if marriage disintegrates and children are raised with values void of virtue, this would include yhe creation of more truancy, for the simple truth that the children no longer respect their parents, and this leads to disrespect for both teacher, police officer, businessmen, the elderly, the society and God himself.
    Focusing on the eradication of poverty is only good when we realize that ignoring other areas of social justice will bring you back to even worst poverty being reestablished with a vengeance, and a host of other problems caused by ignoring the universality of human depravity.
    I suppose the greatest problem we face is not tackling problems from a moral perspective, with society’s movements today not being undergirded by the moral authority borrowed from its churches and synagogues.

  4. Comment by William on October 29, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    From a historic perspective, there is little material poverty in America. My grandparents survived real material poverty while raising seven children during the Great Depression, only to see their sons go off to WWII, and NEVER accepted the first handout. In fact, they helped others when possible. They considered accepting welfare an insult. The one thing that sustained them and guided them to not consider themselves in poverty was their abiding faith in God. Therefore, spiritual poverty can be a far bigger problem than material poverty.

  5. Comment by Ron Gaskins on October 29, 2018 at 3:52 pm


    “Therefore, spiritual poverty can be a far bigger problem than material poverty.”

    This is so well said.

    … and then there is the mistaken focus on Utopianism from the political left … so often looked to first and foremost before Scripture is considered.

  6. Comment by Dan on October 29, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Excellent article! Two points; first, in the Old Testament it specifically says to not show partiality either to the rich or the poor, but to treat all equally. This would negate the social justice virtue signalling of elevating the “least of these” as these so-called social justice warriors define them, and simultaneously deriding the “deplorables,” many of whom are more charitable in their giving than the aforementioned social justice warriors.

    Second, article 13 of the Anglican 39 Articles of Religion states that “… Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School-authors say)
    deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be
    done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.”

    Interestingly Wesley chose fit to omit this article from his Methodist articles of religion. I don’t know why, but it seems a rather important one to omit.

  7. Comment by Jeremy on October 31, 2018 at 3:44 am

    The problem is that “social justice” is not JUST. It’s biased toward a perceived oppressed group, while at the same time biased AGAINST a perceived privileged group. Justice demands equality, but social justice — as it is currently expressed — demands partiality.

    Social justice that is truly just recognizes (if you’ll pardon the cliche) that two wrongs don’t make a right. In relieving the oppressed, you cannot legitimately oppress someone else by obligating them to your cause without their consent. Social justice that is truly just will have compassion for BOTH the recipient AND the provider.

  8. Comment by betsy on November 7, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    Having spent a lot of time listening to the social justice warriors within the United Methodist Church I came to realize they have a very scary black and white mentality: a person is either a victim or a privileged oppressor. All the mercy is heaped on the designated victim and all the justice/accountability is heaped on the designated oppressor. Furthermore, all it takes to be categorized as an oppressor is to disagree with their take on a particular situation.

  9. Comment by Grevile Constantine on November 21, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Maybe social justice would not be focussed on the things they are focussed on ( Christian left speaking) if the Religious conservative right focused on such “injustice” in the first place. Conservatism still has the oppression of Black citizens during the Civil rights movement of the 60’s more than 50 years ago. Their unwavering reluctance to admit the enslaving of 70 million people from their language and identities in Slavery 300 years ago. Not to mention, their claim that they ” Love everyone ” regardless of their gender or orientation, yet their silence when LGBT+ citizens are attacked or killed violently is deafening. Preserving human life must take precedent as Christian believers I agree,but if a woman “chooses” to abort her unborn child, that is her choice. She must live with the consequences. Yes, all should be treated fairly under the law, but why is it the privileged are never held to account for their abuse of that privilege. If the near collapse of the Global economy that took place in 2008 and the subsequent prosecutions of many of them who made a mint at the expense of the American public (& that happened under a Conservative Christian President’s watch at the time), I do not know how much more “injustice ” you can find than that. As for Christian social justice, sharing Christ’s love and his ability to change lives is how this can be achieved. The aim and objective is to show people that Jesus Christ is the source of All change for all people, regardless of Status, gender, orientation, and social background. If not focussing on the injustice that our fellow Christian brothers and sisters are facing around the world is a lacking part on the social justice activists, then example should be taken from the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement which has over 500 “civil rights ” cases around the world , taking a silent yet effective fight to social oppression everywhere.

  10. Comment by Tony Heine on November 22, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Well stated, Mark.

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