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Social Justice IS Christian, Actually

Cy Kellett

I have, on the occasions that I have encountered his thought, admired Jordan Peterson. When I caught my son watching Jordan Peterson videos, I was delighted. But boy, Dr. Peterson baffled me with a recent tweet attacking Pope Francis for using the (admittedly much-abused) term “social justice.”

There is nothing Christian about social justice? Then why is the God of the Bible always going on about it?

Consider just this fact: the Lord does not punish only individuals for injustice, but entire nations. Read the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah for some sharp examples. Here’s Ezekiel delivering God’s anger to Israel as a nation:

“Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. You have despised my holy things, and profaned my sabbaths” (Ez. 22:8-9).

In such passages (and there are lots of them) we meet the God who is very much concerned with whether a society is just or not. How can Christianity claim to love this God but ignore his demand for just society?

It is also a bit confused to pretend that social justice is not a factor in individual salvation. How many people could come to salvation in a society that was without justice? How many could withstand the temptations to sin or the pressures to do evil?

Could I have come to the Faith in North Korea, given its unjust oppression of the Church? By a miracle of God, yes, but not in any normal way. At the absolute least, then, the Christian must be concerned that society is just enough that the gospel can be shared and lived.

Societies have obligations. They must give to each what is due. Certainly the term “social justice” is abused when it exaggerates what societies owe to people. But if societies deprive us of what we truly are due—say, life or freedom or family or Church—they are unjust. God cries out against such societies, and the Christian must, too.

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