Social Justice Not A Pejorative Phrase


“The Spirit of the Lord is
upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the
poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the
blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

-Jesus at Nazareth in the synagogue Luke 4:18

There has been some confusion over the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth over two thousand years ago, and even more confusion over the phrase “social justice” by the likes of popular talker Glenn Beck.

I’ve reflected here that the term social justice is consistent with the teachings of Christianity and always has been. How we treat our fellow human beings is at the center of what it means to be someone who is morally connected to the world we inhabit for such a brief time. Even though we may not practice any religious faith and believe that we all go to dust when we die, that there is no god that has anything to do with our world, all human beings bear an ethic for responsible social interaction with their fellow humans. Those of us who do carry our faith with us as a central part of our very beings are called to do better than what Glenn Beck and so many demagogues of the airways and public print are suggesting when they have a fit over the phrase Social Justice. Justice itself has become a dirty word too. Rush Limbaugh has a fit whenever he rants over “redistributionists,” as does Brother Glenn.

What they don’t realize is that there are such gross inequalities of wealth, land, water, and resources in our world today that they threaten the very lives of billions of the world’s people. This is a fact they have yet to grasp. Does social justice or redistribution require an absolute equality between every member of the human race? NO But we can and must be better stewards of the Earth we inhabit together. We also as human beings have a responsibility if we are not to become ethically stunted and challenged as Messrs. Beck and Limbaugh have become to do justice to our fellow-man.

There is plenty of room for people who have need of them to live in big houses, drive fancy cars. eat the richest foods, wear the nicest clothing, to throw out more useful things in a week than a poor man gets in a year, and to still act responsibly. Karl Marx did not invent ethics, and morality and simple human kindness and goodness. Anyone that lives in the United States or travels the world knows that communists are not everywhere. Redistributionists do not lurk around every street corner unless you are a wealthy man with a tremendous amount of guilt about how you live your life.

There is such enormous, even gargantuan, potential for human beings to work together on behalf of each other for a better world. Government can often assist large numbers of our species in cooperative action amidst a world where we do not always agree on what faith to have, or what political system to feature in our lands, or control what color our skin is or how we speak, or how we dress, or how we want to live. It is not blasphemy to urge our leaders to act more humanely and with an eye to what is just.

As members of the faith community, or as simply people with a strong sense of what is just, we can come together to act and do what is right. We know what is right. We know when we have done others an injustice. It is contained within our DNA and planted there by God for those of us who believe that entity exists and know she is an active presence in our lives.

Social justice and redistribution of wealth, land, resources, and more could make us all feel good. We could embrace the world by embracing the causes which surround social justice and redistribution. Only the miserly, and wealthy, and powerful and connected among us who retain their selfishness and greed have reason to fear these words and the ideas that underpin them.

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