What follows is a copy/ paste/ edit of my comments on a blog I follow. The comments are to a post that references a story told at the Sustainable Faith Conference about the exploitation of migrant workers in the USA. The discussion got interesting when one commenter asked, “What has all this got to do with the mission of the Church?” You can read the blog post and the ensuing discussion here.
I decided to post my comments here as a post so that I and others might begin to explore a more unifying expression of the “good stuff” when it comes to “social holiness”.
After my first comment, someone asked me to expound on why I “squirm” at the term “social justice.”
— First comment —
I have to admit – I squirm at the term “social justice”. But, I find that seeking to restore people, rectify broken situations, love “the least of these” as if they were Jesus, and praying for a Holy Spirit ordained opportunity to share the Gospel are inseparable from my walk with Christ. I really believe that, in most cases, the privilege of sharing the Gospel with someone is earned through an authentic relationship. Because of that, the relational things come first, not because the Gospel is subordinate, but because it is, by nature, relational – “God so loved” (relational word alert) “the world…” But, rescue and restoration are not merely the means to and end, but integral to the process of building authentic relationships.
— Second comment —
First let me say that my issue with the term far predates the current hoopla in the media involving a certain media personality. I have no issue with the majority of the work that is being categorized as social justice, and I have no problem with the movement, especially among young adults, that we are seeing under that banner. Perhaps because I am old enough to relate to boomers, but still young enough to interact with millennials in a mutual respect, I also have an understanding of why a lot of the not so young have issues. I believe it revolves around connotation.
Most of the boomers were just as rebellious and idealistic as millennials seem to be, and when they got to a place where they could make a difference, they felt as if they had made a huge dent in addressing social inequities. When a younger set comes along and starts using terms like injustice there is a natural defensiveness that sets in – as if the good efforts of those boomers are somehow judged as ineffectual and as if no change had occurred in dealing with social difficulties.
They wonder, “are they saying we are party to this injustice?” Yet these are the champions of the social revolution that gave us Martin Luther King, Jr., and other pioneers in restoring society. Add to this, the prevailing understanding that no matter how much we do, this creation will still be broken until Jesus finally restores all things, and you begin to understand that perhaps there is a major difference in opinion about approach more than whether the work needs to be done or not. When secular proponents of social justice chime in and begin to elevate the work above the mission, an additional layer of resistance emerges – again, not so much with the work, but the motive – as if, under human intention we will somehow create the utopia that is not possible until Jesus returns.
So then we find ourselves in the midst of a division, primarily generational, but not entirely, that causes false assumptions on both sides about the other. One saying that the other does not care about the poor and disenfranchised and does not really understand the Gospel, and the other side claiming that the other group is about handouts and feel-good theology devoid of any remnant of the redemptive Gospel.
Some term needs to emerge, that is born of a synergistic intention of unity in God’s people – one behind which both “sides” can rally, champion, and immerse themselves. I’ve sought alternatives, like “social holiness”, which is misused by most, but I have not yet found that ideal term. I am currently finding favor in “restorative holiness” as a viable term – we’ll see how it plays.
— Your thoughts? —