Thursday, March 11, 2010

Social Justice?

a) I don't mind whether you call it that.
b) Also, how we implement Christian values is a different question from what those values are.
c) Finally, cultural differences need to be taken into account...

... but just to give some sense of what the Bible actually has to say on this recently and notoriously mentioned topic by a certain television personality:

Leviticus 19:10: "And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God."

Leviticus 25:35: “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you."

Deuteronomy 15:7: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother."

Proverbs 21:13: "Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered"

Proverbs 22:16: "Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty."

Proverbs 28:27: "Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse."

Isaiah 1:16-17: "remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause."

Amos 2:6-7: "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the ... needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth...

Matthew 25:41-43: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink... naked and you did not clothe me..."

Mark 10:21: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor."

Luke 4:18: " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor..."

Luke 6:24-25: "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry."

Luke 18:24: "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"

Acts 2:44-45: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need."

Galatians 2:8-9: "when James and Cephas and John... perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me... Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

James 1:9-10: "Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away"

James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

James 2:15-17: "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

James 4:13-5:5: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes...

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days... You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."

Never confuse political conservatism with Christian conservatism! They overlap at some points... and at others diverge wildly.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

This is a true definition of "Biblical" Socialists, if you politicize this view :) But, America was also founded on the values of "the Protestant work ethic", and the Wesleyan Church is incorporated, so surely all Wesleyans are not socialistic in their views. Is John Maxwell?
That is fine if the way you understand 'faith' is by this political stance.

This is one definition of 'Christian'. But, then those that affirm, and obey these texts might sit next to the stranger in the pew Sunday after Sunday and never give them a hospitable greeting.

I am glad that I live in a country that values liberty of conscience and doesn't want to establish a particular religion.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

BTW, wasn't it Jesus ethic to do your good works in secret, so how would one know what another has or hasn't done?

Dan said...

though most would probably disagree, I will assume that beck is not a complete idiot and that he has read the bible and likely some of these verses. so I have to infer he has something different in mind than churches helping the poor. but he does a horrible job at explaining himself. he's an alarmist. his fault is not at arguing against neighborly altruism. its at casting a gloomy shadow of conspiracy and mayhem on everything that is politically socialist. he does not dabble in nuance or explanation. people that do that can't hold a national audience. the bottom line is though, several people I know will be duped into his horrendous logical fallacy. its awful when u think about it. using peoples political emotions (mostly fear) to possibly keep them from reflecting the life of christ. even if it wasn't his intention that is going to be the result. I don't care if u are a reagan conservative (i named my firstborn after him by the way) every christ follower should fight hard against this. its spiritually very dark.

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, to quote these verses doesn't translate directly into a single course of action for a Christian. For example, my esteemed online friend Craig Moore presumably would favor churches helping those in need while probably opposing government taking the lead on such things. World Hope helps poor people in other countries start businesses to help themselves rather than simply giving money to people. The actual way in which "love of neighbor" plays out can be complex. It's just hard to think of a definition of Christian with any history that would not involve this value.

From an atheistic standpoint, however, the United States was founded on a social contract, whose fundamental values were to "insure domestic tranquility" and "promote the general welfare." I would argue that any approach to American government that does not address the welfare of the disempowered is not properly American, Christianity aside. And if the disempowered are not properly addressed, they will foment unrest, increased criminal activity, etc. That is, it will make domestic tranquility nigh impossible.

Again, this is not to address the specifics of how to address the disempowered, only to say it is both a core Christian and American value, at least in terms of their founding principles.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for this post, and also for your comment on it.

cawoodm said...

Great list! To which I would add Luke 6:20: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is for the poor because they are its biggest beneficiaries having suffered injustice. How can the Gospel not be about social justice if the poor are to benefit like this?

Angie: Check out the "secret works" passage together with Mt 5:14-16 and get the sweep of Jesus vision: Don't be pious in public for personal gain but work God's works for His glory and the benefit of others. Doing nothing is not an option.

Anonymous said...

Ken..I am afraid that the term "social justice" has become a term the church uses to promote a Marxist worldview in the church. I think many in the church have substituted the State in the place of God. Glenn Martin (who I know you dismiss) lectured on this back in the 70's when I was at IWU. I agree with Dr. Martin and Glenn Beck, social justice has become a term that identifies a socialist or Marxist worldview mixed with Christianity, or as Dr Martin used to say "The Gospel of Marx."

Ken Schenck said...

Craig, see "a" above.

Anonymous said...

Ken we both know you are trying to take a shot at Beck with this post. I think you would be quite pleased at the State provided welfare (etc) for many Americans. Depending on the State for our daily bread is becoming more and more a growing reality for Americans daily. I suspect you and the late Mr Marx are quite satisfied!

Ken Schenck said...

The purpose of this post is to remind Christians of core Christian values in relation to a comment made by Beck. The term "social justice" is not some code word for a particular governmental approach to poverty. It is a term that comes out of passages like Micah 6:8 and Isaiah 1:17. As Terence Fretheim has written, this is a "conservative" value in the Old Testament that goes back to the Pentateuch. Beck simply didn't know what he was getting himself into.

I don't care if we use this term and I have made it clear that the value is not the same as a tactic. But there is no debate on the Christian value in general. Either you submit to God's will or you break yourself on it. I have given you the benefit of the doubt above that you share the value but might disagree with others on the implementation of the value.

Anonymous said...

Ken thanks for your charity. Maybe a Biblical OT value, but the term has been hijacked by some Christians with a Marxist worldview whereby the state becomes the redemptive entity and provider for those in need or great equalizer of society. If Christians limited it to the original OT meaning and it was practiced by the church, then redemptive Big Government would not become the almighty problem solver and maybe the church would be more relevant in the world. That is what Beck means when he warns of avoiding churches who use the term "social justice." It is a synonym for "Big Government Christians.

I practice social justice all the time. It is a major part of our ministry in my church, but not in the Marxist sense.

David Drury said...

Thanks for the reminder of those verses, Ken. The scripture is useful for teaching and correcting, as I recall--and this "anti-social justice" backlash by your, aptly titled: "certain television personality" needs correction.

Here's a great story Lucado has in his forthcoming book on Acts:

"Jim Wallis took some scissors to his Bible. He was a seminary student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School when he and some classmates decided to eliminate a few verses. They performed surgery on all sixty-six books, beginning with Genesis and not stopping until Revelation. Each time a verse spoke to the topic of poverty, wealth, justice, or oppression, they cut it out. They wanted to see what a compassionless Bible looked like. By the time they finished, nearly two thousand verses lay on the floor, and a book of tattered pages remained."

"Cut concern for the poor out of the Bible, and you cut the heart
out of it." - Max Lucado in "Outlive Your Life" 2010

Sam Blevins said...

This is very encouraging! I've been struggling with the mashup of faith and politics within this nation. Although many have emphasized the need for Social Justice, you're Scriptural support provides much needed foundation for this evolving ambition within the Church. Thank you.