Recently, talk show host Glenn Beck said that social justice is a “code word” for Communism and Nazism, and urged people to leave their churches if they teach social justice. Until this evening, I have not been following the news, controversy, or even my friends’ responses. But tonight, something caught my eye and I had to find out what was going on: Sojourners twitter feed said “Due to the overwhelming response, you may receive a message that Beck’s inbox has been filled. Please know we will get your letter through.”
(You can read another article, by Politics Daily, from here)
As many of you (my readers) know, I studied Community Development in college and am now currently an Americorps intern for TechMission, an organization committed to bringing social justice to the poor. Being “socially just” and working for holistic transformation is something that I am called to as a Christian. It is also something that I intend to pursue as a career.
In addition to my work life, I am currently living in a small, intentional community in the heart of Dorchester where we are seeking to build relationships with our neighbors and learn what it means to live in a urban poor community. My housemate, Ben, intends to spend years here. I have committed to being around for the next little while as well. Social justice is not just an 8-5, M-F job. It is a lifestyle.
My Letter to Glenn Beck:
Being just is when I help someone gain something that I have and they do not. But social justice means more to me than simply redistribution of wealth or power, or reforming America’s immigration system. Rather, social justice should be encapsulated by a holistic, transformative approach to helping the poor around the world. If I am not assisting the poor and living my life in relationship with such people, I am not living out the gospel.
The theme of Amos’ book, a minor prophet in the Old Testament, is consistent throughout: Because a nation took advantage of another people, rejected the law of the Lord, and denied justice to the oppressed, the offending nation was going to be severely punished. “They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.” (Amos 2:7).
I believe that Bryant Myers gets is right when he writes in his book, Walking With the Poor, that “Poverty is a result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”
Myers goes on to argue that poverty (and I will insert, the need for social justice) is about relationships that are broken and that are not peaceful. One’s key relationships are with God, with oneself, with others, and with the environment. If I do not work for the healing of these relationships for those around me, I am not being just. If I am not being just, I am not living a life that will empower the poor to help themselves.
Being just is a Biblical mandate, and is my life’s calling that I will not back down from. So help me God.