Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Does the Bible support the social justice movement?

The Bible certainly commands us to be advocates for justice. Isaiah 1:17 declares, “Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Nevertheless, it seems to me that several key elements of today’s social justice movement are in conflict with the Christian calling.

1) The social justice movement is often quick to conclude that problems in society, such as poverty or disparity, are the result of oppression or discrimination. Likewise, the social justice movement is often quick to interpret religious convictions concerning gender or sexuality as expressions of hatred. These tendencies violate the basic Christian principle that one should think the best of other people. Now of course some problems in society are the products of oppression, and sometimes religion is used as a cloak for bigotry. When such injustices are present, Christians should speak out. Nevertheless, it is uncharitable to make injustice our default assumption.

2) The social justice movement tends to foster the conviction that you can build a better system than the one already in place. Particularly for those of us who have no formal training in economics, such a conviction often involves quite a bit of hubris.

3) The social justice movement sometimes harbors blatant injustice. The most glaring example here is so-called “reproductive justice” (i.e. unrestricted abortion), which is anything but just to the unborn child. Another glaring example is the attempt on college campuses to suppress dissenting views on sexuality and gender.

Of course, these three elements do not characterize all expressions of the social justice movement, and there is much within the movement that is good. (For an organization doing vitally important work to advance justice around the world, check out the International Justice Mission.) Nevertheless, the three elements outlined above are widespread, and thus I believe Christians should be cautious about endorsing the social justice movement.

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