Over the last few years, the concept of social justice has become a hot-button topic. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have a strong visceral reaction at the mention of it. The concept has even spawned its own subclass of people—SJWs (Social Justice Warriors). Sadly, it has been misunderstood, perverted, and hijacked into the service of a movement that actually violates the concept. Because of the perversion of social justice, many people now grossly misunderstand it, including misunderstanding who authored it, which is the first of four common myths:
Myth #1: Social justice is a leftist invention
Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God commands His people to “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16-17). Right next door in the canon of Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah conveys God’s message that entrance into His kingdom requires that people, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3).
Bible passage after Bible passage demonstrates God’s eternal concern for the oppressed and marginalized. In the book of James, we read, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). The great thing is that throughout her history, the Church has often been the first to rally around the pursuit of righteousness by enacting social justice. Names like William Wilberforce, Harriet Tubman, and John Newton, all devout Christians, are writ large across the story of how the sin of chattel slavery was dismantled in the West. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Christians were busy building hospitals, feeding the poor, and caring for orphans. By way of contrast, dominated by social Darwinism and polygenism (the belief that the inferiority of certain races could be proved by measuring the size of skulls), secularism explicitly condemned all forms of philanthropy as detrimental to society. Things haven’t changed much; religious people are still the most philanthropic people in the world. Supposed advocates for social justice lag far behind. By way of example, take Bernie Sanders, who gives a measly 4% of his income to charity.
Myth #2: Social justice is about individual rights
In his book Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory, David Novak argues that rights extend from duties. Further, he claims, the Old Testament wasn’t concerned with the rights of the individual, but with the duties of the community. For example, humans have a duty before God to preserve life. This is the reason for the command “Thou shall not murder.” In fact, concern for protecting the community from oppression is why the other commandments are also written looking outward and not to the individual. God’s ethical law, while assuming certain individual rights, is concerned that individuals acting in community perform their duties to each other. Instead of declaring, “Property owners have a right to dispose of their property as they see fit,” the Bible say, “Thou shall not steal.”
All of the passages in the Bible that speak about social justice do so out of a concern that the community fulfills its duty to the weak and the oppressed in order to preserve life and to push back against the effects of sin. By way of contrast, today’s SJWs are fighting for their right to self-fulfillment. For them, individual self-fulfillment trumps their duties to the community at large, and more importantly, before God. The “social justice” of SJWs is often an outworking of their rebellion against God.
Myth #3: Social justice is about fairness
One of the common complaints lodged against rich people by SJWs is that it’s not fair that the rich have so much while others have so little. Except, well, the Bible doesn’t recognize the category of fairness. It does, however, have quite a bit to say about justness and unjustness. And the Bible defines justness and unjustness in relation to God’s holiness. This means that the question should be, “Is it just for the rich people to be rich while others have so little?” If the rich person earned his money without exploiting workers or the weak, then the answer is probably, “Yes, it is just.”
In relation to income, the Bible clearly teaches that the laborer is worthy of his hire; this applies to the guy making a high six-figure salary as much as it does to the guy making a low five-figure salary. It is not unjust for an individual to take home the money that his labors earned. It is also not unjust for different laborers to earn different incomes. Value is determined by many things, and the contribution to the community is one of the most important variables. Forcing someone to divest themselves of their justly earned wealth is a form of oppression. Focusing on the manmade category of fairness, SJWs betray their commitment to oppressive self-fulfillment regardless of the justness or unjustness of their actions.
Myth #4; Social justice is divorced from sexual ethics
Worshiping the false god of self-fulfillment means that any strictures on sexuality are taboo in the world of SJWs. The problem is that real social justice recognizes that aberrant sexuality oppresses the individual and the community. The Bible doesn’t separate sexual purity before God from feeding the poor, caring for the sick, and protecting the weak. Throughout books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, the prophets ping-ponged back and forth between condemning God’s people for the oppression of the poor and their sexual immorality. Disobeying God’s sexual ethics violates His desire and order for His creation as much as exploiting the poor and harming the weak. SJWs are far more concerned about preserving their right to define what makes a good life than they are about enacting actual social justice.