Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, December 04, 2009

Adventism and Social Justice

Today in an article on the Spectrum Website entitled: Theological Harmony in New Orleans By Bonnie Dwyer, she reports on the joint meeting Adventist Theological Society and the Adventist Society for Religious Studies, the article states in the opening paragraph:

Adventism’s two theological society presidents agreed on the biblical call for social justice and the significance of Scripture on people’s lives during a historic session in which the two societies met to not only share a meal but to present ideas for discussion.

She does not define what “social justice” means and that is a problem. Today it is often a code word for redistribution of wealth through the government. As this article The Scandal of Social Work Education NAS Study says:

Use of the term "social justice" today generally equates with the advocacy of more egalitarian access to income through state-sponsored redistribution. The phrase is also frequently used to justify new entitlement rights for individuals and whole categories of people, i.e., legally enforceable claims of individuals or groups against the state itself. ("Economic justice" is even a stronger term, largely confined to populist and radical rhetoric.)

Here is a University of Wisconsin student newspaper’s definition of social justice in response to an article by Dr. Hansen mentioned who asserted social justice is misleading rhetoric.

Dr. Hansen’s article proposes, “until ‘social justice’ can be precisely and understandably defined, programs to promote this goal cannot hope to succeed.” Well, is it really that difficult to define it? Social justice is a system, a process, and an end result where all members of society have equal access to resources and benefit from them equally without regard to their identity, specifically race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class and age.

You notice that the student newspaper author describes the goal not the system. Socialism and communism are the two most commonly used systems or processes which claim to end with this utopian goal. We know from experience that neither system ends in the utopian goal however. Notice the newspaper author included “ability” in the list, let us assume that the government had a medical school. By the social justice definition above anyone could go and demand equal access to the resources and the benefit of the medical school education whether they had any ability or not. We could hope that the person with no ability would not graduate from the school…but if you can’t differentiate due to ability everyone needs to graduate. Achievement and ability mean nothing under this type of social justice.

As one comment I read says:

From Sharpton to Wright, social justice has come to mean redressing the wrongs of the past in the form of government benefits or reparations. The expression has a hint of retribution as in “you owe us.” In actuality, the words haven’t any real meaning. There are always those who grieve, and as long as the government attempts to satisfy those with a gripe, the plaintive cry for social justice will have irresistible appeal.

There is one other definition which we need to look at, from Business

Fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. See also civil rights.

I guess if that is the definition that the two theological societies are agreeing upon that is good. They are agreeing upon the most basic idea or civil rights found in the latter half of the 20th century. Hardly a newsworthy proclamation unless one of those groups had been opposing civil rights. I think common sense tells us that that is not really the meaning of social justice that is intended, but we have to hold out that possibility sense those involved seem unable to define what they mean…thought when you can’t define your meaning the chances become much higher that the use is a code word otherwise why not define your terms.

In conclusion there is this comment from a blog article which is Christian related under the title “what do you mean by Social justice” Which pretty much says all I could want to say on the subject.

"Social justice" is a phrase currently often employed by "emergent church" types who, in their reaction to the Church's nonparticipation (actual or perceived) in the world, suddenly believe they're the only ones interested in helping the poor and feeding the hungry.

Apparently among many, these problems -- and the world entirely? -- are viewed to have begun yesterday. There's no perspective of history, the fact that people in both the Church and governments have been aware and trying to alleviate poverty before -- especially when it comes to the failed attempts of federal governments to overextend their constitutional (and worse, Biblical) bounds and take the place of the citizenry and religious institutions in terms of charity.

Among such "social justice" advocates, there's also very little perspective of the actual Scripture in these quasi-utopian visions, which indirectly contradict the Bible's portrayal of the rest of human history.

Christ-followers certainly disagree on what end-times events occur when, but there is (or was) an overall consensus against the notion that people would eradicate poverty, hunger, all that sort of thing, without Christ or at least before He comes back to take a look at our planetary renovations.

But now we're back to the same stuff -- and while it's very, very true that Christ-followers are to be a means of "common grace" toward the poor and abused among nonbelievers, this is not the be-all-and-end-all of the Gospel. "Social justice" is only an outgrowth: at the center should be the actual truths of God as Creator, humans as rebels against Him, and Christ as redeemed. Are these professing evangelicals using "social justice" as a means toward proclaiming the Gospel? Or do they operate completely the opposite?

As it is, many of them are advocating a clone religion of Christianity And, as His Utter Subliminity Screwtape (from C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters) said is such an effective strategy. In this case, the "new" idea is Christianity And Social Justice -- and it's not so new, either; it's a mere strain of "liberation theology" liberalism that's somehow been accepted as legitimately evangelical. (10 Dr. Ransom at 10:52 AM on Jul 22:)

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