As I’m confronted more and more with the evangelical social justice movement I find myself torn between two thoughts: 1) This is necessary, and 2) This is insincere.
What is injustice? I’ve heard it described as the strong taking from the weak. That, I suppose, is a good enough, albeit broad, definition of injustice. Few things break the heart of God more than injustice. God, himself the strongest of the strong, wields his power with grace and humility, both of which are supremely evident at the cross. God exercises his strength in mercy and grace, and I am forever grateful for that.
The evangelical social justice movement is right to call the strong to exercise their strength in mercy and grace. This is how we ourselves should move in any strength and power that we may possess. The world needs to be a more merciful and gracious place, and who better to lead us to this calling than those who are following Jesus Christ?
But somewhere along the line this calling has become corrupt. It has become perverted in its politics.
If injustice is the act of the strong taking from the weak, then what is the lowest act of injustice? Is it poverty? Perhaps. But at least in our American, capitalistic context, the injustice of poverty gets muddy. Is it slavery? It’s hard to imagine a more unjust act than slavery. What about rape? Or murder? These are all acts of horrible injustice.
But I think there is one act that goes beyond all of these. One act in which the gap between the strong and the weak is as wide as an ocean. I submit that there is no greater act of social injustice than abortion. You cannot find a weaker human vessel than an unborn child. These cannot speak, fight back, or even be seen. We don’t even call them human, though what else they could possibly be has not been satisfactorily answered.
And my criticism of the evangelical social justice movement is that it cares more about a “more equitable redistribution of wealth” than the foundations of human life. It cares more about health care than caring for the least of us. The evangelical social justice movement has forgotten about abortion, and it now runs the risk of becoming merely a politically-liberal activist group.
If you truly care about social justice than you must be concerned for the unborn. But instead the evangelical social justice movement has swept them under the rug, and has chosen the praise of the liberal men and women of the world rather than the praise of God, who is concerned for the least of us. Ask yourself: Is abortion just?
To my socially-justice minded brothers and sisters, your work is important, but you are forgetting the truly least of us. The hungry need to be fed. The naked need to be clothed. The slaves must be set free. The sick must be healed. And the unwanted must be rescued. This is what we have done for 2,000 years. Let us not give up on doing good for the sake of a fleeting political trend and the ever-shifting tide of public opinion.
When you hear about the sex trade and child prostitution, what do you do? When you hear about human slavery, what do you do? When you hear about the AIDS pandemic, what do you do? When you hear about global poverty and starvation, what do you do? When you hear about Darfur, what do you do? When you hear about our own prisoners, what do you do?
The troubles of the world are overwhelming, and I am overwhelmed by my own crushing sense of guilt and over-identification with the “failure” of the Church to respond to these crises. (A “fact” which I think ought to be open for debate rather than used as the primary construct in the strawman-ification of the Church. But as you can see, I myself am conflicted.) I can’t possibly solve any of these problems, and I don’t have much faith that anyone else can, either. On the other hand, I can’t just twittle my thumbs, claim inability, and wait for the Lord to return and I don’t have to hear about these things anymore. (Again, I’m conflicted.)
But does knowledge necessarily demand action? Does information equal responsibility? How much can I be reasonably expected to do in these arenas? Just because I know about the sex trade, does that mean I am responsible for seeing it destroyed? Sometimes it seems that everything is the most important thing in the world, and the more I know about everything, the less I’m able to do about anything.
Honestly, how can I in good conscience say no to any of these things? And if I can’t say no to any of them, then I wind up saying no to all of them. The evil in this world is so overwhelming that it becomes very tempting to close my eyes, shut my ears, and sit in my own safe corner of the planet waiting out death or Christ’s return, whichever comes first. (There’s irony in there, to be sure.)
But what am I really saying, here? Isn’t what I’m really getting at my own insecurities, and the need I feel to cover my backside? Doesn’t my guilt come from my desire to stand before the harshest skeptic and say, “Well you can’t say those things about me. I did it all. I did more than you. I cared more. I helped more. I served more. I loved more. I’ve been to more places and done more things….” Somewhere inside of me, all of this is really about me. I may not be trying to earn the favor of God–I know I can’t do that–but I am tempted to earn the favor of the most hard-hearted Christ-hater.
That’s a sin in me that needs to die and be resurrected. I desire credibility for myself, not glory for God. The glory of God is the most important thing in the world. Ending the sex trade, freeing the slaves, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, stopping AIDS, ministering to the prisoners, and everything else like them are important because they give glory to God. They are not ends in themselves (although they are some of the best ends I can think of), and they are not the most important things in the world. The end of all of our work, small or great, is to give glory to God. And I have to trust that, if I pursue God’s glory, then he will give me, in my smallness, some small thing to do that will someday bring him great glory.
Back to Craig Groeschel’s message from the Leadership Summit.
This morning Craig Groeschel gave a message at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit that really rocked me. He talked about it. He admitted that he didn’t really know what it is, but he knows when someone or some church has it. You know when it’s there, and you know when it’s not. You can just tell when someone has it.