Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Time: Week 7---The Gospel As A Clarion Call To Social Justice

Week 7 was all about social justice and mercy. Here is a working definition of Social Justice:

Social justice, sometimes called civil justice, refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law. It is generally thought of as a world which affords individuals and groups fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society. (Different proponents of social justice have developed different interpretations of what constitutes fair treatment and an impartial share.) It can also refer to the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.

Social justice is both a philosophical problem and an important issue in politics, religion and civil society. Most individuals wish to live in a just society, but different political ideologies have different conceptions of what a 'just society' actually is. The term "social justice" is often employed by the political left to describe a society with a greater degree of economic egalitarianism, which may be achieved through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or property redistribution. The right wing also uses the term social justice, but generally believes that a just society is best achieved through the operation of a free market, which they believe provides equality of opportunity and promotes philanthropy and charity. Both the right and the left tend to agree on the importance of rule of law, human rights, and some form of a welfare safety net (though typically the left supports this last element to a greater extent than the right).

Social Justice features as an apolitical philosophical concept (insofar as any philosophical analysis of politics can be free from bias) in much of John Rawls' writing. It is fundamental to Catholic social teaching, and is one of the Four Pillars of the Green Party upheld by the worldwide green parties. Some of the tenets of social justice have been adopted by those who lie on the left or center-left of the political spectrum (e.g. Socialists, Social Democrats, etc). Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality.

See: Jim Wallis, An Evangelical Ethic of Social Justice, Jim Wallis---Wallis said "Jesus didn’t speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question ... [t]here are thousands of verses on poverty. I don’t hear a lot of that conversation."[3] and The Social Justice Roots of Christianity for social justice within a Christian context.

As for mercy---mercy and grace are related. The Greek word for Grace is: χάριν---charin/charis from which charisma comes from. χάριν means:
that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
good will, loving-kindness, favour
of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
what is due to grace
the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
the token or proof of grace, benefit
a gift of grace
benefit, bounty
thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward.

The Greek word for mercy is: ἔλεος---eleos, which means:
mercy: kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them
of men towards men: to exercise the virtue of mercy, show one's self merciful
of God towards men: in general providence; the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ
the mercy of Christ, whereby at his return to judgment he will bless true Christians with eternal life.

Sadly though there seems to be a disconnect in churches between belief in grace and mercy and acting upon grace and mercy. One example of this is when the staff of a certain local church fired a staff member caught in pre-marital sex or so I heard. Some of you may feel that they did the right thing, however, if this is true as a Baptist I must offer my dissent on such a graceless and merciless act. Sure we can write platitudes, sing a bunch of hymns and preach for hours on end about grace and mercy---but unless we act on them, they are all but meaningless. Churches that fire people for certain sins while ignoring others quickly degenerate into graceless legalistic churches, but the Good News is God's Grace and Mercy extends to all and so should the churches' and individuals' grace and mercy.

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