Category Archives: Social Justice
Posted by Joshua M. Young
So back in the book of Leviticus, God instructs the Hebrew tribes in the way that they’re to live their lives. There’s been more than one kerfuffle over passage from the books of the Law (of which Leviticus is), but there’s at least one that echoes a sentiment we can all get behind: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Lev 19:34, NIV)
Love those who are different and strange, and treat them justly. It’s a verse we don’t always see brought into play in conversations these days, which is a shame. It’s both profoundly wise and one of those things that the Israelites later forgot, only to have God spend a lot of time harping on them through the prophets.
It’s also inclusive.
I’ve written before on the perversion of social justice that’s becoming pervasive in a lot of circles. About how it’s become a machine of hate, not love. Exclusion, not inclusion. A woman by the name of K. Tempest Bradford illustrated that very same point earlier this week when she challenged people to stop reading works by “white, straight, cis male authors for one year.” Later on, she specifically suggests skipping Christian authors.
All this is predicated on the fact that she read a lot of stories she didn’t enjoy. Which is cool. We all do that, but as Larry Coreia notes, normal people just go find something else to read when that happens.
But that’s not the way of those who understand social justice and diversity in this modern perversion. Having lived as the “other,” the foreigner, they choose to other those that they don’t like. In the name of social justice, they’re unjust. In the name of diversity, they lop off a portion of the diversity.
Now, I have a horse in this race. I’m a white, straight, cis male author, with a novel coming out this year and at least another couple of short stories. And maybe that’s what’s bugging me. We all have our own struggles, and this woman would cheerfully shut out mine because of the circumstances of my birth, among other things. I don’t appreciate that. Ms. Bradford has a dozen stories or so listed on wiki, so she should know how hard it is to sell a short story.
If you want to branch out in your reading, awesome. Go for it. But branch out all over the place. Embrace diversity, genuine diversity. Read the people you disagree with. I do; it’s enlightening. Sometimes, they make awesome things regardless of how you feel about their politics or religion.
There will be no list from of authors I will not be reading. There will be no rationale behind my choices, save for “I like stories from this person” or “I don’t like the way this person writes” or maybe “It doesn’t sound interesting.” It will be without hate and rancor.
And lastly, a challenge: Ms. Bradford: I invested the time to read some of your work, even though you’ve lobbed a grenade of hate at my camp. Invest the time in mine. Is it really that traumatizing for you?
Posted by Joshua M. Young
On Monday nights this semester, I have a class entitled “Worship and the Community of God.” Last night, it ended with this.
There’s a fairly strong social justice thread to the Bible. We all tend to focus on the parts of the Old Covenant that are things like “don’t eat pork” and “holy cow, guys, you’re gonna jump through hoops to be ritually clean” but we forget that there are all sorts of subtle things about taking care of the world around us. Do you know why Deuteronomy 25:4 tells you not to muzzle your ox when he’s working? So your ox can eat and partake of his share in the labor. Leviticus 23:22 bears instructions telling us not to be thorough when we’re reaping our fields– leave the corners and leftovers for the poor and the aliens, so that they can eat.
I don’t have an ox. I don’t have a field to reap, and if I did, I’m pretty sure that the people around me wouldn’t know what to do with the leavings of a field of wheat. I sure wouldn’t. I gather that you can just eat the heads? Maybe? I might be missing something from when the disciples were picking grain because they were hungry.
Fortunately, Jesus, a few thousand years later, summed it up all very nicely:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 ESV)
Social justice, ya’ll. Pretty obvious, no? Deserving of a blog post? Maybe. Maybe not.
Here’s the problem: we’ve made a terrible mockery of the idea of social justice these days. It’s no secret that there’s a culture war raging in America– and, from what I’ve read, pretty much everywhere else in the Anglosphere. Some terribly important ideas have been co-opted and ideologically vandalized. Equality, the idea that we are all equal in the sight of our Creator, has turned into the idea that everything we do is valid. Freedom, the absence of oppression, has become “do as thou wilt.” In our hurry to undo the injustice of Jim Crow and slavery, Civil Rights has morphed into something I get the feeling the good Doctor MLK would be appalled by. Feminism, which bumper stickers tell me “is the radical notion that women are people” (You are! Huzzah! I value your opinions quite highly!) is wasting its time shrieking about some tacky shirt a scientist wore for an interview.
And it is tacky. Hideous. You’d never see me wearing that thing. But is it really important? Did it suddenly leach power from women and make their votes only worth 75% of the vote of a white male? (Alright, so there’s one opinion I don’t value quite highly.)
Self-disclosure: I am a white male. One flirting with the being the middle class, no less. Gasp, horror, shock. What am I doing talking about social justice? What can I know?
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Social justice isn’t. Not anymore. We’ve taken the idea of ministering to the oppressed and the fringe and the hated, of imitating the life, compassion, and mercy of Jesus, and turned it into attacking the things that make us uncomfortable because we’ve been slighted by them. It’s a slight, subtle difference, but it is a difference, and it makes a huge difference in the way we’re going about it. The social justice warriors in our world seem to be driven by hate, not by love. When you chase after “justice” with hate, you’re not chasing justice. You’re chasing revenge. You’re chasing a grudge. Your legacy isn’t the beautiful legacy of wisdom and compassion that MLK left us, it’s something twisted, tainted, and hostile. (Here’s the point where I want to insert a .gif from The Grudge, but I’m not going to. Cuz, y’know, Japanese ghosts are frikkin’ scary and I don’t want to stare at that every time I have to come back to this page.)
When you chase after something holy, without holiness in your heart, you’re putting on a show. And make no mistake: ministering to the poor, downtrodden, and excluded is holy. But when the goal is to level everyone else instead of elevate those who are in need of it, you’re lashing out with bitterness. Your justice is a sham, because your heart is false and you seek after universal misery instead of universal liberation.
Loving your neighbor is an act of worship to God. But this is what God says about worship with your heart in the wrong place:
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21-24 ESV)