Social Justice

Seeking Justice

I have been fortunate to come across a number of great articles and books recently that continue to help my framing of the many economic, environmental, racial, and other injustices that have and are occurring in our neighborhoods and throughout the world.  Some of these readings also consider what justice is.  I continue to work through the book edited by James Sterba called “Justice: Alternative Political Perspectives” and have found it exceedingly valuable to better appreciate the differences between for instance the libertarian perspective of justice, the socialist perspective of justice, and the liberal democratic perspective of justice (I definitely lean more towards the latter). We need a healthy public sphere in which to debate and find compromise on how to best balance liberty and equality as well as the private and the public sectors, to address the unjust systems around us.

Today I read through an interesting blog posting by Jim Wallis entitled “What is ‘Biblical Politics’“.  I think an early paragraph captures nicely what it means to go from recognizing injustice and providing charity towards seeking justice:

I was talking the other day to a Christian leader who has given his life to working with the poor. His approach is very grassroots — he lives in a poor, virtually all-minority community and provides basic services for low-income people. He said, “If you work with and for the poor, you inevitably run into injustice.” In other words, poverty isn’t caused by accident. There are unjust systems and structures that create and perpetuate poverty and human suffering. And service alone is never enough; working to change both the attitudes and institutional arrangements that cause poverty is required.

The article goes on to define the movements, not just the people like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King, Jr., that are required to challenge and change unjust systems, structures, and attitudes.  I am proud to have taken part in a range of mission trips and service-learning projects that have done good works and in many cases better equipped those who work in the trenches to more effectively accomplish their goals of service through integration of new technologies.  But I have also found that over the years perhaps the greater outcome has been my own transformation as I have discovered my own unjust attitudes and ways that I personally benefit from and contribute to unjust systems and structures by regularly and ever more deeply engaging with those who are the victims of oppression.  And so increasingly I realize as I go through this journey my role is expanding, and I need to discern how best to use my gifts to not only serve, but to also seek ways to participate in the movements that are changing attitudes and institutional arrangements if I am to fully live out Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

0 thoughts on “Seeking Justice

  1. re: “We need a healthy public sphere in which to debate and find compromise on how to best balance liberty and equality as well as the private and the public sectors, to address the unjust systems around us.”

    This sparked a thought in my head, so I apologize that this is not a fully formed and mature thought. But I didn’t want to lose the spark. 🙂

    I am the kind of person that immediately thinks that “healthy public spheres of debate” are awesome. And then I start to think, what exactly would we debate. I believe you mean “argue”, in the legal sense, to throw all the pros and cons on the table and evaluate the weight of each. And I think you mean this in the spirit of self-discovery and arriving at a mutual knowledge, given your statements about your own transformation.

    The reason I point this out is the very first statement of the quoted Micah 6:8, “He has told you what is good”. We can explore what He has told us, but personally I would want to be careful about redefining what good is. I sometimes find myself caught up too much in the academic side of the equation; talking, arguing, tasting other opinions. Ultimately I have to remind myself that God wants us to chase after Him, to be like Him, to walk with Him. He has already laid down what is good.

    Or do I need to spend more time thinking this through? 🙂

    1. You are absolutely right, Charles. I believe for deeper discovery to happen, by which I mean a mutual development of knowledge from information, we need (as in necessity, not just a nicety) to have a diversity of people (beliefs, cultures, backgrounds, etc.) at the table willing to openly share with each other. I recently read a couple of chapters by Robert Jensen in his book “The Heart of Whiteness” in which he points out its important to get to the point of being tired of putting on a front so that we can open up and share who we really are and what we really think so that others can correct the errors in our thinking and also learn from our insights. In Virginia Eubank’s book “Digital Dead End” she points out that every one of us has a precious insight to share with others, and a range of things limiting our insights. Together we can benefit from each others’ insights and help each other overcome their limitations. I heard a podcast recently, but unfortunately it was while I was driving so I didn’t get it written down to remember from whom, that pointed out that while God is perfect and holds perfect truth, we are imperfect and therefore see only facets of that perfect truth. Back to you, do *I* need to spend more time thinking this through? 🙂

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