I’m going to touch one of those third rail things – you know, things you should never touch or talk about. Why? I’m not sure, but I’m feeling inspired to write about this. Disagreement is fine.
Maybe this all started when this article:
I started to think about social justice and the church. There are many churches who make social justice a huge priority. I happen to be a member of a denomination that does.
The author of the article paints a pretty scary picture of social justice turned bad. In fact its social justice in the form of authoritarian conformity, victimhood as a privilege, things called microagressions and restrictions on speech. In a word, all of these things can be summed up with one word – tyranny.
The examples in the article are mostly from universities in the US. My first reaction was to make note of the universities – should I ever go on for another advanced degree, there is no way I am going to any of those institutions. And secondly, there’s no way I’m sending my children to any of those institutions either. Not because I’m concerned about them being indoctrinated with the craziness, but rather, because I don’t want them to have to deal with these type of people – it’s unnecessary and frankly a dangerous situation to avoid.
The article left me with some questions that I don’t have answers for and probably no one else does either.
When did social justice become a tool for tyranny? Why do people jump on board to support this?
How is this form of social justice any different from politics – the pursuit and wielding of power?
How did this form of social justice come about? What happened to the “old” form of social justice?
I mentioned that there are churches who focus on social justice. I have friends in seminary who spend a great deal of time focused on social justice. Some will take this further than others and will be political activists as well when it comes to social justice. They attempt to tie their theological beliefs regarding social justice into the political process. Usually they are linked to one particular political party. I often wonder do they believe that they can “change the system” by attaching themselves to one political party over the other? How can you change a system using tools and rules of that system that are designed to maintain the status quo?
What I have typically seen is religious people become pawns and tools to be used by political parties. And when they are no longer useful, they are tossed aside.
Brian Zahnd, a pastor, put out a tweet that I think relates to this topic very well.
“When the Christian Right and the Christian Left practice blame and scapegoating they are two sides of the same coin…in the devil’s pocket.”
Here’s my own take on it. If being for social justice only means jumping on whatever leftist or right-wing political agenda happens to be at the time, count me out. I’m not interested in propping up either one of these flawed, power-hungry political parties that want to maintain a broken system. That’s not what I learned what social justice was about.
When are we going to separate social justice from political parties and the broken system that they represent? The solution isn’t voting in one party over the other when we see injustice, as if one of the political parties could ever be any form of salvation. It is not. Political parties exist to obtain power for it’s elected officials, workers, financial contributors and insiders. Both parties exist for this and neither is more pure than the other. Favoring one party over the other contributes to the idea that we don’t have a broken system. Which is really an injustice.
Within the last decade or so we have seen our federal government be controlled by one political party and then completely by the other. Can you tell the difference? Did anything really change? Sure, some policies were enacted, but did the system that these parties exist in really change?
If you want to change something, you have to change the rules. Rules exist to maintain the status quo and the power structures in place. The article in essence is pointing out a group of people who are trying to take power from those in power. But then really, they just want to use that power to punish their enemies. That’s not changing the system. That’s just changing the names of the people in power. Power will still be used to oppress. Power will still be used to make those in power comfortable. It’s not really a change at all.
It’s an example of brokenness in the world. Maybe you could even call it something that is not in vogue right now – sin.
The church has a responsibility to speak out on social justice and point out injustices. The church does not have a responsibility to prop up a political party, or a broken and corrupt power system – regardless of which side of the political spectrum it comes from.
Want to see real social justice happen? Stop looking to our politicians and elected officials to make it happen – as if they are enlightened. Start looking at the community you are in. How can you work together for the benefit of the people in that community.
Stop doing marches to let everyone know how pissed off you are and start doing the work of making change happen.
Stop wasting time with petitions that you send to your elected officials. Stop waiting for these people to do something on your behalf. Take up your cross and get to work.
Stop sitting around waiting with bated breath for some pronouncement from the President or Speak of the House or Governor – as if some speech actually changes anything. Sure you feel better about yourself after the speech, but I thought you were interested in actually changing an injustice, not feeling better about it.
Don’t go in search of funding from government – funding always comes with strings attached and some politician who is looking for a headline to say how wonderful they are. If and when you see an injustice in your community – work with people there to change it.
That’s how you change the rules and an injustice around you. It’s not by looking “out there” and waiting for someone else to take responsibility to make a change. The responsibility is in each one of us to get up off our asses and get moving. Jesus didn’t wait for someone out there to provide salvation. He did the hard work himself. Because of this, we’re called to go and do likewise.
So what are we waiting for? Oh yeah, it’s hard work and we may get tired, or we might offend someone, or it might cost us. We can either take what Jesus says seriously or we can go the easy route – and become political activists. The parties and marches and slogans and signs are a lot of fun. Getting down to work isn’t fun at all. It’s hard and it sucks. But then again, I imagine the person experiencing injustice thinks their situation sucks too.