When Social Justice Devolves into Revolution
Anybody discouraged about social justice issues? Racism, problems with immigration, lack of access to health care, economic inequality, environmental problems, lack of access to clean water, unjust treatment of marginalized groups, unfair labor laws, sexual harassment and abuse – if you are not bothered by any of these, something is wrong. God is bothered by all this and His Spirit lives within us. When God is disturbed, His Spirit within us is disturbed.
Social justice ≠ the gospel, however. Social justice is not to be our focus. Before any social justice warriors get mad or defensive, however, hear me out. God wants us to be involved in social justice. But we cannot make it our reason for being. This is for our own protection, if nothing else.
Richard Beck, in his blog on Progressive Christianity vs. Post-Progressive Christianity, points out that Progressive Christianity doesn’t like to talk about sin or salvation in any traditional biblical sense (Progressive Christians feel like they have “moved past that”). Instead, Progressive Christianity has its own vision of salvation: it comes through social justice.
There’s a great weakness here, however. Beck says, “But without grace and atonement the pursuit of social justice tips into darkness. Salvation becomes the Revolution, and the Revolution will always end in blood. Grace is the only thing that can save social justice. Knowing that we ourselves are forgiven sinners is the only thing that keeps our pursuit of justice human and humane.”
Isn’t that so true? “Salvation becomes Revolution, and the Revolution will always end in blood.” My friend’s son is not a believer in Christ. He puts his hope in social change through politics. That looks so bleak right now for him that he is preparing for War! He is a pacifist Democrat, but he’s angry enough that he’s ready to go to war against other Americans. He groups all people who vote differently from him into a monolithic box, rejecting nuance and having no grace.
Do social justice. Jesus would tell us that. But don’t make it the focus: we are not God and we cannot solve it all. If we make it our focus, we burn out, turn hard and cynical, and lose the love that motivated us to begin with. Instead, focus on the Source of the Love where grace and real salvation reside.
Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”