Monday, October 5, 2015

My Social Justice Problem

I realized something in Sunday School yesterday that I'm not happy about. The word "justice" -- especially the phrase "social justice" -- when it is used by fellow Christians sets alarms off in my brain.

I'm not happy at that discovery. It shouldn't be so. And yet it is.

"Justice" is one of the attributes of God. God is just; even more, God IS justice. Our only conception of the idea of justice comes from God's interaction with us through the law. It's not like it's a cuss word or anything.

But it has seemed to become a buzzword for a certain segment of the Christian world, a segment that I have unfortunately often disagreed with on a variety of issues, issues that those brothers and sisters promoted in the name of "social justice." I sat yesterday and tried to pinpoint for myself again what all it was I disagreed with them on . . . and I had a hard time doing so. The biggest differences were political, I think. My social-justice-loving Christian friends seem to also want to use the government as a means to achieve this social justice, which I often question the wisdom of.

Ah . . . and now I think I remember the big culprit in this: Obamacare.

It was when Obamacare was being debated that I found myself mentally setting apart a camp of people (Christian and nonChristian) who seemed to be all about "social justice" and seemed to be getting it all wrong.

It went like this: As much as I am concerned about making good health care available to all who need it, I was very reluctant about Obamacare (and still am). Admittedly, the people on "my side" of the argument had not approached the problem which much sense of urgency, to their shame. But Obamacare didn't seem to be the answer. I saw too many problems with the proposed system. It just didn't seem to be the best way to do this; it seemed to be an emotional, rushed reaction to the problem.

But the real stunner was the reaction I got from social-justice-touting friends when I expressed my concerns. Rarely were those concerns addressed in a reasonable manner. I was called selfish. Completely uncompassionate. Unchristian. Clearly unchristian. I was told I obviously hated poor people. Obviously. I was called a spoiled rich girl who had never had to suffer in my life and so my opinion had no validity in this debate.

Yes. Those very things were said to me. Often implied, but sometimes directly and bluntly. And it hurt me and angered me.

And so, my social-justice-promoting Christian friends got put in a mental box in my mind: they are WRONG. They are wrong about me, they are wrong about Obamacare, they are wrong, wrong, wrong about so many, many things. It was an emotional reaction, and it kept me from seeing what they were right about.

Which, I imagine, is exactly what they did to me, too.

I still get alarms up when my Christian friends start talking "justice" too much . . . partly because I think in the fight for justice, they often forget the need for "justification" (as we eventually got to in our Sunday School lesson). And I acknowledge that in my corner, the pendulum often swings too far in one direction, too. But I was reminded yesterday of how past wounds and personal feelings can color our "theology" and make us haughty. And wrong.

God gave us emotions, and they motivate us to act, which is good. But even our emotions are fallen and cannot be trusted alone. The heart is deceitful above all things, Jeremiah tells us. We would all do well to remember that. I'm trying to, at least.

1 comment:

Angie Thier said...

I learned of a time in American church history where the "Social Gospel" was a movement. Folks saw the needs of the inner city immigrants and threw themselves into the task of alleviating their poverty. Yet somehow, they lost sight of the eternal significance of salvation as they sought to meet those physical needs. While social justice is a need around the world, the methods by which to obtain that varies greatly, and to use it as a means to judge another who would also care for those in need is not pleasing to our Lord. But most of all, we cannot forget that the greatest need of every human being is salvation. We have to keep those priorities in check.

So sorry you were hurt by your self-righteous friends. I have friends like that but they exclude Christ in their mission completely. I can imagine it hurts more coming from a fellow believer.