I could have entitled this post, “Conservatives and Social Justice,” because my point would have been the same. Very often, folks on opposite sides of the political or theological fence talk past each other. This often happens because they are using different vocabulary and/or approaching issues from different perspectives. But, as is sometimes (not always) the case, when you dig beneath the surface, you discover their concerns are the same.
This is true on an issue such as social justice. For most of Christian history, Christians of all stripes have been caring for the dying, rescuing the neglected, setting up orphanages, raising money for the poor, visiting those in prison, etc. In other words, Christians were declaring, as well as living out, the implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its fullness.
This post is not an historical reconnaissance, but I think it was somewhere in the early 20th century when both the fundamentalist/modernist controversy and the social gospel movement began to gain traction. Folks who were described (by themselves or others) as “liberal” began highlighting, almost exclusively, the social ramifications of the Gospel. By “social” I mean the “this-worldly, here-and-now, physical needs” of the last, least, and lost. Of course, as a United Methodist, I would want to point to John Wesley who was ministering to those folks long before then. And, as a Christian in general, I could point to almost any century since Christ where Christians were caring for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden. The social gospelers’ concerns were not new. Their virtually exclusive "physical and temporal" emphasis (to the neglect of the spiritual and eternal) was new.
Toward the latter 20th century it became common to frame the argument thusly: Evangelicals or Conservatives care only about salvation of souls and the world hereafter. Liberals or Progressives care only about issues here and now, such as social justice. And, in truth, some Evangelicals and Conservatives brought that caricature upon themselves.
Whatever the perception and however it came to be, it’s still too often assumed to be the case. In reality, Evangelicals/Conservatives care just as much about life in this world as Liberals/Progressives. But very often, obstacles such as varying perspectives, differing emphases and vocabulary, and disagreements regarding strategies to deal with issues such as social justice come into play.
An example might look like this: If a person doesn’t think the government should be as involved as it is in issues dealing with poverty, then very often that person is deemed not to care about the poor. Instead, it may very well be the person in question cares a great deal about the poor but looks to other means and strategies to address the issue.
Of course, I’m not saying anything new here. But we play into established stereotypes far too often to be helpful to anyone. And so, on that note, I’ve linked some very fine and helpful articles on social justice by a few Evangelical and/or conservative thinkers (see below). The articles are well worth your time and effort.
Grace and Truth,
Great links on Social Justice at Break Point
The Real Social Justice? at IFWE
Social Justice links at Heritage Institute
Defining Social Justice by Dylan Pahman
Social Justice has Christian History at Anthony Bradley
The Elements of Social Justice by Anthony Bradley
How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism by Russell Moore
Gambling, The Gospel, and Social Justice by Russell Moore
Social Justice links at Public Discourse
Social Justice links at The Society for a Just Society
The Social Justice Fallacy? by Mark Hendrickson
Christian Charity: Social Justice and the Good Samaritan by Mark Hendrickson
Social Justice links at First Things
Real Social Justice by Regis Nicoll
A Profile of Social Justice by Andree Seu
Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Limits of Public Discourse by Al Mohler
Redefining Social Justice by Elizabeth Waibel
On Social Justice by Brittany Baldwin
Is Social Justice Just Ice? by Marvin Olasky
Beck vs. Wallis by Marvin Olasky