I don’t think I was the only Christian to bristle at conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s strong statements this past week against churches that support, or even use the term, social justice.
“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words [for Communism and Nazism]. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
I’m a white, middle-class, suburban-raised, Evangelical christian, so you can quickly deduce toward which side of the political aisle I naturally lean. And while I do understand what’s at the core of Mr. Beck’s concerns, I think he’s wrong. Or at best misinformed. Although I’m sure I could never out-argue a pundit of his wit and verbal capacity, I at least want to share my own personal awakening as it pertains to the issue of social justice.
People are broken. And spiritual leaders, unfortunately far too often, fall victim to using their influence to manipulate God-fearing people towards their own human, political perspectives. There’s no doubt that some pastors push social justice, and the ultimate “God-said” trump card, to promote liberal personal agendas.
But so do conservatives pastors.
And rather than digging for God’s truth, we use Him as as circumstantial support for our selfish motivations. We form sides aimed at protecting our way of life, rather than submitting to The Way that is greater.
Here’s the (probably) overly-simplified way I see it: Conservatives desire to preserve personal freedom. Liberals wants to mandate universal fairness. And depending on which side of the equation benefits us most, we go to battle. But what if there’s another way? A third option?
The Bible unfolds God’s perspective, His ideals, His Kingdom. The way I read it, God is all about freedom and all about fairness. The catch? What happens when free people willfully choose to use their freedom to serve one another?
“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Gal. 5:13-15 MSG)
Mandated justice never works. It spirals towards corruption. Even God Himself doesn’t mandate we follow Him (without choice there is no love). That’s why I love America, because this freedom gives us unbridled opportunity to live out God’s Kingdom calling. But only if we choose it. When we willfully submit to serve, we truly become free. We willfully begin to make right the injustices that permeate the world.
Let’s be clear, the Kingdom of God is certainly not only about social justice (if it were, every secular Hollywood mogul and rock star would have achieved sainthood). But to ignore the justice thread and call to serve the poor woven throughout Scripture is plain ignorance. Dangerous. Incomplete. A puzzle with missing pieces. A stool with missing legs.
So here’s the ultimate question: Are we building God’s Kingdom or just fighting to preserve a way of life? What are you willfully submitting to?
I don’t always like answering that one either, but it’s worth asking.