Responding to Glenn Beck… What is Social Justice?

By now you have likely heard that Glenn Beck told his audience that if you are a Bible-believing Christian whose church believes or preaches in social justice you should run.  I don’t know whether to be more mad (which i am) or sad when I hear stuff like this.  I can’t understand how so many of us have lost our way.

But that is not the ultimate reason for this post.  I read a good article by David P. Gushee on the Huffington Post that can be found here.  It explores what social justice is from a Scriptural standpoint.  This is my favorite quote from the article:

“For Jesus, as for the Jewish prophets in whose line he came, social injustice consists of misuses of power to create distortions of human community in which greed, domination, violence, and exclusion come to dominate human life. Social justice consists of human acts to resist social injustice by repairing such distortions of human community. We work today for social justice when we seek to create religious and political communities characterized by more economic justice, less domination, less violence, and more inclusive community. When we do so, we can have every assurance that we are attempting to put into practice God’s will and indeed God’s passion for a world that he made for precisely such justice.”

He also has an interesting way in which he breaks down Jesus’ confrontation with injustice through the descriptions of the Bible into four primary categories:

1. Jesus confronted the injustice of greed and gross economic exploitation and unfairness. He demanded/invited justice for the poor and hungry.

On this theme, a key passage is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man dining in luxury inside his gated home (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man is scored for his indifference to his poor neighbor and his ability to live in complacent opulence while a man slowly dies outside his door.

2. Jesus confronted the injustice of domination and bullying and demanded/invited his followers to exercise power in the form of mutual servanthood.

Here a memorable passage is the one in which Jesus contrasts the power-over-lordliness of the pagans with the true greatness of servant-leadership (Mt. 20:25-26). He embodied that servant-leadership throughout his ministry.

3. Jesus confronted the injustice of violent killing and demanded/invited peacemaking.

His earliest followers often remembered how Jesus grieved outside Jerusalem over the coming destruction of the city in a rebellion against Rome that would be ruthlessly crushed by the Roman legions, at the cost of 1.2 million Jewish lives (Mt. 23:37-39). No early Christian participated in that revolt.

4. Jesus confronted the injustice of exclusion from community and demanded/invited into existence a new kind of community in which everyone has a place at the table.

Jesus was constantly criticized for the way he and the God he served were about welcoming the despised, the rejected, the sick, the marginalized, and even sinners, offering mercy rather than judgment (Luke 5:27-32).

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