Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for "social justice" are really ideological calls for "forced redistribution of wealth . . . under the guise of charity and/or justice," and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach or practice "social justice."The responses include my friend Rabbi Jack Moline who wrote in part,
Rev. Jim Wallis disagrees, saying social justice is a faith-based commitment "to serve the poor and to attack the conditions that lead to poverty," central tents of the teachings of Jesus and at the heart of biblical faith.
Who's right? How does the pursuit of justice fit into your faith? Is 'social justice' an ideology or a theology?
Arguing from presumptions about the American form of government and economy about the mandates of the Bible is dishonest, specious and irresponsible. It is also irrelevant. The values taught by the diverse interpretations of religious communities in the United States do not determine, individually or collectively, what kind of government we ought to have. Likewise, American values do not determine the beliefs and practices of diverse communities of faith.Quaker recorded minister Max Carter wrote in part,
It is irresponsible for a religious figure to lay claim to government policy by dint of his or her faith. It is likewise irresponsible for a self-proclaimed "rodeo clown" to lay claim to understanding of religious teachings by dint of his television ratings.
What is responsible is for each of God's children to take responsibility for a just society and a just world.
Query #41 in Britain Yearly Meeting's book of faith & practice says, "Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle, freely chosen, is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?"R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offered a nuanced response both conceding the point on justice, while wanting to hold churches accountable if that is their only Gospel. He wrote in part:
I'm not the one to start throwing stones, myself, though. I am among the privileged of the world and have, even on a Quaker educator's salary, more than my share of the earth's wealth. I gladly re-distribute what I have been blessed with - but I should do more. I would hope Glenn Beck does the same, voluntarily, from the enormous wealth he gains from his "bully pulpit." I would hope that his major complaint is about "government mandated" re-distribution of wealth, not about Jesus' advice to a person of wealth in his day seeking advice about gaining "eternal life." Jesus' response? "Go; give all that you have to the poor, and follow me."
Sounds like re-distribution of wealth to me! Maybe Jesus should leave the church.
As an evangelical Christian, my concern is the primacy of the Gospel of Christ — the Gospel that reveals the power of God in the salvation of sinners through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church's main message must be that Gospel. 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 and planted Gospel churches. Our task is to follow Christ's command and the example of the apostles.You can read the full statements of any of these writers by clicking on their name in the text above to go to their own full response. All the panelists responses are linked from here: Social Justice.
There is more to that story, however. The church is not to adopt a social reform platform as its message, but the faithful church, wherever it is found, is itself a social reform movement precisely because it is populated by redeemed sinners who are called to faithfulness in following Christ. The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications.
Faithful Christians can debate the proper and most effective means of organizing the political structure and the economic markets. Bringing all these things into submission to Christ is no easy task, and the Gospel must not be tied to any political system, regime, or platform. Justice is our concern because it is God's concern, but it is no easy task to know how best to seek justice in this fallen world.
I agree with Mohler's central argument, if not with all of his text. We are to be all about the Gospel of Jesus. The whole Gospel. So, yes, we are to be about justice. We should not ignore the needs of those around us. The Book of James states it this way:
Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (James 2:13-16)Justice is something that God will bring about in the fullness of time, but that we are to be about in the meantime as we share the love of God with others. Liberation theology is on to something important in saying that persons of faith should help end oppression and injustice in the here and now.
Yet we must admit that this good theology can become an ideology if we divorce the justice itself from the connection to God whose love for us is what spurs us to reach out in love to others. This is not a political view. This is much more important than the merely political. We should not trade the Good News of Jesus for the news of any political idea or system as it is always a bad trade. In the process, we miss any idea of sin and redemption as well as forgiveness and healing. The shalom of God is not simply a lack of hostility, but health, healing and wholeness and we don't want to lose this theology.
The love of God is broader and deeper than any ideology. I am dancing along the edge of politics to make the apolitical statement that we are to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves, which is always Good News.
That's my take, what's yours?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
The above fits with my earlier video Jesus Said...Love
Facebook users can find the video here: YouTube—Jesus Said
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