Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for "social justice" are really ideological calls for "forced redistribution of wealth . . . under the guise of charity and/or justice," and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach or practice "social justice."
Rev. Jim Wallis disagrees, saying social justice is a faith-based commitment "to serve the poor and to attack the conditions that lead to poverty," central tenets of the teachings of Jesus and at the heart of biblical faith.
Who's right? How does the pursuit of justice fit into your faith? Is 'social justice' an ideology or a theology?
Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham on April 12, 2010 12:55 PM
Accurately defined, Christians believe wholeheartedly in "social justice." Sadly, the term has been hijacked by some as a means of calling for government-induced income redistribution and the parceling out of "rights" as politicians deem appropriate.
Our strategy for healing the world is to equip bold and resilient leaders who embody the moral courage for which our world hungers, who can rise to the challenge of this hour. And there is no separating social justice from this challenge.
Posted by Katharine Henderson, on April 16, 2010 12:00 PM
Wise guys are the ones who sling words around with unbalanced fierceness instead of using reasoned conviction. Wise people tend to blend the right amount of knowledge and experience that appeal to our higher nature.
Posted by Vashti Murphy McKenzie, on April 15, 2010 5:09 PM
Anyone who has the barest familiarity with the way different Christian movements are described knows full well that "social justice" is a recognizable and widely used catchphrase for a certain subset of the Christian family.
His comments should alert church leaders to the very real harms that can come from the misuse of politics and social justice activism within the church. I'm also glad that a younger pastor came to my parish and brought the "social justice" era to a quick end.
Posted by Ronald Rychlak, on April 14, 2010 3:59 PM
Beck starts discussions about social justice that illuminate our common concern that institutions be just, but also that the means used to achieve institutional justice do not become unjust to individuals. Institutions and society must be just, but this call for justice cannot be used as an excuse to expand government at the expense of our liberty. That is the deep truth in the jests of Beck about social justice.
Posted by John Mark Reynolds, on April 14, 2010 3:16 PM
Several heads of church denominations have called to tell me that their pastors are actually preaching more about social justice because Glenn Beck has told them not to, and that thousands of pastors have turned themselves in to them (as church authorities) as "social justice pastors."
Should care of the poor and needy fall to our individual, charitable and church responsibilities, with government playing a minimal role? Or should government take the major role, with individual charitable efforts in support? That depends on your personal politics.
Posted by Michael Otterson, on April 14, 2010 9:50 AM
A Hindu is unanchored supporting a concept but not its practice. "Social justice," important to a Hindu for whom nothing less than their soul's salvation depends on right karma gained in the service of others.
Posted by Aseem Shukla, on April 13, 2010 11:37 PM
Religious life is fundamentally about making the presence of God manifest in our world by witnessing the pain of the afflicted, agonizing over the plight of the poor, fighting for the dignity of all human beings.
Conservatives present a half-empty gospel when they share their faith, but do not perform good works in order to demonstrate their faith is real. Liberals are equally in error when they present a half-empty gospel of calling upon government to do more, but failing to share the gospel of God's love in Jesus Christ.
Hebrew has no word for charity. The word tzedakah, normally translated as charity, really means justice or righteousness. The not-so-subtle implication is that social justice is not a matter of ideology. It is theology.
Posted by Steven Wernick, on April 13, 2010 11:30 AM
Would all the Christians and the churches which accept any benefits of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, tax exemption and other such programs cut them off tomorrow? They all involve the government and all were backed by "social and economics minded" leaders and followers in churches, often against the odds raised and symbolized by the Glenn Becks of their past.
Posted by Martin Marty, on April 13, 2010 11:09 AM
The last century has seen many churches and denominations embrace the social gospel in some form, trading the Gospel of Christ for a liberal vision of social change, revolution, economic liberation, and, yes, social justice. Liberal Protestantism has largely embraced this agenda as its central message.
Posted by R. Albert Mohler Jr., on April 13, 2010 11:01 AM
I think we have to concede a little bit to Glenn Beck on this one. Often faith-based calls for social justice are heavily ideological. I often cringe, for example, when church bodies make pronouncements on complex economic issues.
Posted by Richard Mouw, on April 13, 2010 10:58 AM
in Jewish tradition, the idea of social justice is well established. You have specific obligations - burying the dead of people in your area (if they can't afford it), helping with the poor and with orphans, giving social support.
Posted by Julia Neuberger, on April 13, 2010 8:40 AM
Social Justice is an integral part of the religious life of the Muslim. It is clear that the faithful are not supposed to spend their days purely in worship and contemplation of the Divine, but rather to get out and make the world a better place.
Posted by Pamela K. Taylor, on April 13, 2010 7:23 AM
Generosity, justice and fairness are old Pagan virtues, and Robin Hood is one aspect of our Pagan Gods. In fairy tales, the hero/a wins the aid of fortune when she shares her loaf with a beggar or lays his cloak at the feet of a poor widow. The greedy, hoarding, grasping or jealous person ends up defeated and despised.
I wish I had Beck's dot-connecting chalkboard. I'd connect my dots between Nazism and Christianity, and leave for Beck the much more difficult task of connecting dots between Nazism and social justice.
Posted by Herb Silverman, on April 12, 2010 6:10 PM
The Bible does not guarantee universal health care any more than it protects an absolute right to private ownership. Arguing from presumptions about the American form of government and economy about the mandates of the Bible is dishonest, specious and irresponsible. It is also irrelevant.
Posted by Jack Moline, on April 12, 2010 2:45 PM
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