Christianity and Social Justice

“The analogy of good firefighters helps us understand…”

The poor you have with you always.” —Jesus

And with that people who self label as Christians dismiss any obligation to help anyone but their religious leaders as they seek to curry God‘s favor and reap the bountiful blessings they believe are due them. It’s just easier.

I stumbled upon1 this quotation that needs to sink deeply into the hearts of American Christians who have become addicted to the “prosperity gospel” rampant in fundamentalist circles.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of biblical verses that emphasize the fact that God and God’s faithful people have a special concern for the poor. God acts in history to lift up the poor and cast down those who neglect or oppress them. God identifies with the poor. In fact, those who neglect the poor risk eternal separation from God…

Amazingly, the Bible declares that God so identifies with the poor that when we care for the poor and needy, we truly minister to God Himself (Proverbs 19:17). On the other hand, religious people who neglect God’s summons to care for the poor are not the people of God at all. God rejects their worship (Amos 5:21-24; Isaiah 58:3-7). Those who do not feed the hungry and clothe the naked go to hell (Matthew 25:44-46). Jeremiah declares that we simply do not know God properly if we do not care for the poor. (Jeremiah 22:16). Do these hundreds of biblical verses mean God is biased toward the poor? No. The Bible explicitly forbids God’s people to be biased toward the poor (e.g. Leviticus 19:15). But does God’s lack of bias mean that God is neutral in historical situations of injustice? Again, no.

Precisely because God cares equally for both oppressor and oppressed, God sides with the oppressed to end the oppression so that oppressed and oppressor may become whole. The analogy of good firefighters helps us understand how God is not biased but sides with the poor. Good firefighters do not spend equal time at every house in the city. They focus on burning houses. But their focus on burning houses does not mean they care more about some people than others. (Ron Sider, Evangelical Protestant)

Source: Lo$ing Faith in Our Democracy: A Theological Critique of the Role of Money in American Politics, Auburn Seminary, Auburn Applied Theology Series, Volume 1

The entire 22 page treatise is essential reading for those who claim Christ to be the center of their faith practice. You can download it here.

[pullquote]Why shouldn’t political speech be delegated to corporations? Because a corporation is obligated to maximize its profit. It is unable to weigh competing values like self-interest and communal interest, or other moral and ethical considerations that humans must engage with all the time.[/pullquote]

As you read it, I would like to challenge my friends who self label as Christians2 to adopt a “think it through” or “ponder it” or a “grapple with this” attitude. Avoid the fundamentalist tendency for dismissive condemnation or right-or-wrong reasoning.

I’m delighted to see that people of faith are beginning to address the more compelling issues of social injustice in our time instead of senselessly harping on the vapid but infinitely easier3 “culture wars”. I hope this trend to grapple with the more significant issues of our day not only continues but gathers the momentum of a national, unstoppable religious and political movement.

I hope everyone enjoyed a happy Labor Day weekend.

  1. Hat tip to Fred Clark 

  2. I use the expression “self label as Christians” because so many people who claim to follow Christ have lost a full understanding of what he taught and stood for during his life on earth. Based on what they do, I fear the actual Christ of the bible would not consider many people who “self label as Christians” to be his followers at all. 

  3. Because they demand nothing of you but hate-filled words, financial contributions, and the election of corporation-centric politicians