The problem with “social justice”, part 5

This series of posts was inspired by the strong debate over the phrase “social justice.” Political conservatives view social justice as a redistribution of wealth intent on destroying personal initiative. Liberals counter that social justice is a necessary exercise because those who “have” show no inclination to help those who have not.

photo courtesy of Constantin Jurcut

That context left me thinking about the phrase and how much energy is expended defending the two ends of the continuum.

Most people I know — conservative and liberal — are in favor of helping those who are in need. And most people I know prefer a method of providing that allows those who give to have some discretion in guiding their philanthropy.

The problem, they say, is that people just refuse to do enough and, as a result, the less fortunate have had their rights diminished. Thus, we must vigorously pursue “social justice” to force the world into “doing the right thing.” When force is used, however, the “right thing” is more properly phrased as “the thing I believe to be right.”

That led me to assert the following statements in previous posts:

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

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

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

Yet, realistically, people aren’t reacting quickly or compassionately enough to stem the tide of hunger, disease, and atrocities that rises so quickly and routinely in our world. Thus, I made this statement:

Even though addressing social justice issues through the machine of justice is flawed, it is a necessary exercise while the world struggles to find a better way.

You may be asking, “Then why write this series of articles? What was the point?”

The point is this:

We should never give up on humanity. We must continue looking for ways to inspire and motivate right action — even when it is not legislated or demanded.

The model for peace I have been teaching for over a decade equates peace as being an equal balance of justice and mercy.  Just having one or the other is not workable. A corollary would be a model for love — where perfect love in community exists as a result of a perfect balance of social justice and “social mercy.”

In truth, it is the sense of “social mercy” that inspires those most adamantly pursuing “social justice.” Or at least I think it is. Unfortunately, the sometimes radical language of social justice without the equally radical language of social mercy inspires a competitive environment that defeats a spirit of love.

The theory of “social mercy” is not that difficult to grasp. Simply put, it is a willingness . . .

A willingness to take care of others . . .

A willingness to give others the potential to succeed . . .

A willingness to release our fears about the trappings of prestige and power . . .

A willingness balanced with social justice that naturally and gracefully places value on children, women and men as the creation of a God who loves.

The courts and armies enforce social justice. The kindness and will of caring individuals nurture social mercy.

The development of social mercy will require a shift in our priorities and a recalibration of our values. Neither of these can be legislated or mandated by even the most benevolent of dictators or legislatures. Social mercy will emerge as a societal quality when we have walked its path with our children, stopping along the way to bind the wounds of our enemies and to feed our neighbors.

Social justice isn’t the long-term answer. A competitive game only emphasizes the need for winners and losers. Our only hope is to develop our capacity for social mercy. And that capacity is built one person at a time.

I hope you will look for and join a social mercy community. I hope to turn more attention to this important quest in the near future.  Please share your ideas on ways this might be encouraged.

Love in Community = Social Justice + Social Mercy.

Become a leader in the social mercy movement.

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

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