The problem with “social justice”, part 3

In my previous articles on the problem with social justice, I suggested that:

The problem with social justice is that it is based on justice.

Since most of us have become very comfortable with the idea of justice being a very good thing, I went on to say that:

The concept of justice as understood in modern culture is essentially self-centered.

That last idea is somewhat troublesome for those who see themselves pursuing justice on behalf of others. What could be more altruistic than making certain that people everywhere have access to sufficient food, clean water, medical care, and safety from oppression? Obviously, there is nothing more noble or needed than those things.

I am suggesting, however, that there is a better way to bring about widespread change in the ways that resources and human rights are distributed among all people.

Love, not justice, must be the foundation for addressing the problems of the world.

Justice demands a winner and a loser. Justice enforces a standard. In regard to social justice, it insists that something be taken away from those who have and be given to those who have not. The short term result is good. Yet, as history details, the action must be repeated over and over again. Our individualistic assertion of rights exceeds our ability to embrace the more divine leanings towards good for all.

Until “those who have” become willing to divest for the benefit of “those who have not,” the problem will never be fully resolved. And that’s why social justice is problematic.

Still, the concept of justice as a self-centered behavior is hard to accept. In the next article, we’ll take a look at why our tendencies to impose our own welfare are so strong — even in a context of goodwill toward others.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “The problem with “social justice”, part 3

  1. In our culture, we tend to look at “justice” primarily from a negative sense. Scholars like NT Wright suggest that biblical justice, from God’s vantage point, was more positive in nature. It was something like vindication. As Wright states in Simply Christian, it’s “putting the world back to rights.” This was something I never saw because of my constricted view of justice.

    I believe you are right, “Love, not justice, must be the foundation for addressing the problems of the world.” I think that is exactly why Jesus came, to show us a better way!

    Great post, Compadre!

    • Thanks, Doug. I expect that you know where I’m headed with all of this. We can’t pile all of this on the mercy side of the equation either, can we? We have to find that balance.

  2. I do not see how love and justice are mutually exclusive. I do not see justice in our culture as self centered. I see people in our culture as self centered (Of whom I am most egocentric). What is unloving about requiring ourselves to live by a set of rules that protect us from harming each other and being harmed by others? As an example, do we not love our children when we require them to treat others fairly and when we teach them to live principled lives? Denying people the consequences of their own actions by letting them mistreat others causing others harm is not loving them, it is enabling them!

    Requiring justice from our government, corporations, others and ourselves, regardless of status or wealth, is of utmost importance in establishing a thriving economy. Without the ability of people and businesses to redress grievances, commerce flounders because trust is gone. The stable ability to redress grievances brings trust to a market, as all know that if we are harmed by another we will be dealt with reasonably by the courts.

    Also, in dealing with for profit corporations (I am not against corporations or making money), we must remember that they are soulless entities without the capacity for love or empathy. Unless required by law or regulation to act right, they cannot act right unless they are being lead by people illegally putting their human values above monetary profit. Officiers and directors of for profit corporations have a fiduciary duty to the shareholders to maximize profits, regardless of the morality of the means, as long as it is legal. Thus, the need for oversight of corporations by rules, regulations and laws … justice.

    My experience is that the Glenn Becks of the world have a problem with “Social Justice” because they believe justice is spelled “JUST US”.

    II Corinithians 8: 13 – 15

    13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”[b]

    • Thanks, Dave! Great thoughts!

      “I do not see how love and justice are mutually exclusive.”

      Couldn’t agree more. In an upcoming post, I’ll look at how perfect love (and peace) is a balance of justice and mercy. You can’t fully love without demanding accountability AND extending grace.

      Fairness, equity, equality — all of these things have been tainted with the subverted expression of justice as a win-lose proposition.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Be watching for the next installment!

  3. Justice is no core value at all; it is merely an adjective to describe the actions one will take to protect another out of a sense love. Love, when perceived as the hand of justice, protects only against those of out-groups not driven by love in their hearts. A self-serving sensitivity to perceived inequity ironically inhibits us from a self-AND-world-serving sensitivity through love: honest and zealous love.

    • Jason, thanks for your comment! I believe you’re getting to the central idea in all of this. We must come to a point that our love and compassion for others drives us and justice becomes less a means of enforcement and more a measure of need. I hope to develop this more in coming articles. Great to hear from you!

  4. “Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

    – Wendell Berry