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.”
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 tents 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?
Glenn Beck, a self-professed entertainer, expected all of the calumny he received after his attack on social justice. He wanted it, and here we comply. But rather than respond to the inanities his more intellectually incurious flock eagerly lap up, consider that there is little doubt that our vocabulary is either easily tainted and mocked, or embraced and celebrated, in what has become predictable political gamesmanship.
Words such as “progressive,” “liberal,” “social justice,” “multiculturalism” or “diversity” — these are seen as idiomatic of the political left, just as the right owns “conservative,” “libertarian,” “freedom,” “liberty” or “individual rights.” I am not arguing that the identification is true or even appropriate — just that the utterance of these words evoke strong feelings among the politically polarized.
In a world where “religious freedom” too often means “freedom to convert more and more to my faith and discard theirs” 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, is also, for example, a term hijacked by Marxists in India who kill and plunder in a large swathe of today’s India and Nepal vying to bring the revolution their manifestos demand.
Redefine social justice and a new conversation can begin: social justice achieved through violence is as wrong as the injustice of oppression and discrimination; social justice cannot be a brickbat to label faith traditions and family values as retrograde, just as religion cannot be dogmatic, static and unyielding to the plight of the faithful; social justice must be understood as a moral imperative for humanity and not a coda to attain social utopia.