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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Social Justice, Part Two

Aug 8, 2011

As stated in Part One of this article, the advocates of social justice tend to be found on the left side of politics. And there is an unfortunate tendency for those on the left to think they have some sort of monopoly on interest in social justice, in concern for the poor, and so on. They often seek to take the moral high ground here, claiming to really implement the values and concerns of Jesus.

They intimate – if not outright aver – that those on the conservative side of politics are lacking in compassion, unconcerned about justice in this world, and are somehow not really full-blooded Christians as a result. They intimate that if one is to be a champion of social justice, one must be a person of the left.

In part three of his helpful series on this topic Andrew Lansdown explores this issue in some detail. Says Lansdown: “Advocates of social justice are quick to impugn the motives of those who disagree with them. But what of the motives of social justice advocates themselves? Are they always and only noble and selfless?”

He discusses how Judas feigned to be concerned about extravagance and the waste of wealth (eg., Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive ointment). But he was in fact a hypocrite. “Similarly, others in more recent times have been Judases, disguising their evil intentions with lofty talk of justice for the poor. The communist (Marxist) movements and regimes of the past 100 years offer the best example of this. The principles, policies and practices of the communists are supposedly intended to help the poor and powerless. Yet whenever and wherever communists gain control, they never lift up the poor. Rather, they always pull down the prosperous and add them to the ranks of the poor.

“If we ignore the privileges communists confer upon themselves as the ruling class, we have to admit that they do manage to create societies in which there is equality among citizens. But it is an equality of misery, not of wellbeing and dignity. In any given communist society all citizens are equally oppressed, equally impoverished and equally intimidated. The communists’ claims of concern for the downtrodden are essentially a way of gaining and legitimising their own political power. They preach social justice while they scheme social tyranny. They are Judases.”

He examines some Australian examples of this, and concludes, “Generally speaking, advocates of social justice want to tackle the problem of poverty with other people’s money. They covet the wealth of the prosperous and pontificate about how that wealth could/should be used for the benefit of those whom they deem to be in need. They insist that others should be compelled to pay for their vision of the perfect world. They dream of big Robin Hood governments who rob from the rich and give to the poor. Indeed, they routinely press governments to devise new forms of taxation, and to revive old forms of taxation, and to increase existing forms of taxation, so that they can extract ever increasing amounts of money from the supposed haves for redistribution to the supposed have nots.

“In contrast, those who oppose this social justice approach nurture a philosophy and practice of personal, voluntary giving. (In my experience, this acceptance of the need for personal giving is particularly characteristic of conservative Bible-believing Christians—the very Christians whom social justice advocates claim are selfishly indifferent to the poor.) Without fanfare, they give generously to missionary and aid agencies from their own income and savings. They do not insist that others do the same or make them feel guilty if they don’t. They do not seek praise for this selfless giving, nor are they accorded any. They simply give, and continue to give. I suggest that this latter way is the better way. And I further suggest that it reveals a deeper and truer sympathy for the poor on the part of those who follow it.”

In the two most recent articles in his series, Lansdown looks at another topic which the social justice advocates often speak to, but often speak to in a decidedly unbiblical fashion. I refer to the hot potato issue of homosexuality. More often than not, those on the religious left reject the clear biblical teachings on this issue, and instead carry on about the need for ‘justice’ for homosexuals, ‘equal rights’ and so on.

Consider how those on the religious left – just like the homosexual activists – will claim that the Bible in general and Jesus in particular said little about this subject. Says Lansdown, “As with the importance of the new birth and the high priesthood of Christ, the seriousness of homosexuality is not determined by the number of verses on the topic, but by the plain and unified statement that those verses make.”

He lists the relevant passages here then writes, “Do we need more verses to get the message? These are statements that are hard to misunderstand and harder still to misrepresent. In the light of such blunt statements, how can advocates of social justice maintain that the Bible is ambiguous on homosexuality and doesn’t take it very seriously? They can only convince us of the soundness of their position if they can convince us to read the biblical passages through their ideological glasses.

“Just as social justice advocates are wrong in their view that the Bible treats homosexuality lightly, so they are wrong in their claim that homosexuality barely rates a mention in the Bible. Few verses deal with the subject directly, perhaps; but many deal with it indirectly. The only approval given for sexual intimacy in the Bible is for intimacy between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship. This necessarily implies disapproval for any other sexual behaviour in any other context.

“Even if the Bible did not expressly tell us that fornication, adultery, bestiality, prostitution and homosexuality are forbidden, we would know these forms of sexual expression are wrong because they fall outside what the Bible declares to be right and good in sexual matters. Based on the biblical endorsement of heterosexual marriage, we could reasonably deduce that homosexual behaviour is doubly wrong; for it transgresses both the male-female nature of sex and the husband-wife context for it. Every affirmation of marriage in the Bible implies a corresponding repudiation of homosexuality. So then, the dozen explicit rejections of homosexuality in the Bible are supported by hundreds of implicit rejections.”

Many on the religious left will seek to argue that we must never judge homosexuals and their lifestyle, but instead simply show them love and acceptance. After all, that is what Jesus would do, they claim. But not so, as Lansdown rightly argues: “Advocates of social justice pride themselves on their supposed compassion towards minority groups such as homosexuals. But how is it compassionate to encourage people to enter or to remain in such a destructive lifestyle? Genuine compassion towards homosexuals is not served by acceptance of their propaganda and approval of their lifestyle. It is served by disputation and disapproval.

“Truly compassionate Christians should, in the first instance, grieve over the suffering that homosexuals inflict upon themselves by their sexual behaviours and, in the second instance, do all in their power to encourage homosexuals to abandon their lifestyle. Social justice advocates do neither of these things.

“Of course, homosexuals are not the only ones who suffer from homosexual practices. The wider community suffers, too. Take the matter of health and medical treatment as an example. It costs a considerable amount of money to treat the injuries and diseases prevalent among homosexuals—injuries and diseases such as anal incontinence, rectal tears, prostate damage, bowel inflammation, haemorrhoids, cramps, diarrhoea, ectoparasites, amebiasis, giardiasis, gonorrhoea, shigellosis, Chlamydia, syphilis, condylomata, herpes, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HIV/AIDS.”

Indeed, how can any genuine Christian argue that it is loving and compassionate to leave a homosexual in his high risk and dead-end lifestyle? Jesus came to give us life and set us free from our addictions, not keep us trapped in deadly, disease-ridden lifestyles.

Lansdown concludes with a personal story, illustrating this very point: “Some time ago a young man came to me for counselling a month or so after his conversion to and by Jesus Christ our Lord. For several years before his conversion this man had been heavily indulging in homosexual sex. He got involved, he said, through a friend, who suggested to him that they should experiment together. From this tentative start, he and his friend spiralled into perversity. But Christ convicted him of what he basically knew all along—namely, that homosexual behaviour is wrong and those involved in that behaviour must repent of it. He said with sorrow, ‘You wouldn’t believe the things we did.’ I told him he did not need to elaborate, because, due to the research I did for my book Blatant and Proud (Perceptive Publications, 1984), I knew all too well the sorts of things homosexuals do to and with one another—morally, imaginatively, hygienically filthy things. Scripture rightly speaks of homosexuals ‘committing shameless acts’ with one another and giving themselves over ‘to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves’ (Romans 1:25-27). As he looked back on his life from the vantage point of the forgiveness and cleansing he had recently received from Christ, this young man was appalled by his former moral depravity.”

The religious left likes to sell itself as a group committed to love, compassion, and justice. But as has been seen in these various topics, ranging from care for the poor, or ministry to homosexuals, often the policies and preferences of the religious left in fact cause more harm than good.

They tend to advocate policies and courses of action which may well fit in modern leftwing political agendas, but seldom line up with biblical teaching. I for one look forward to further articles in this series from Andrew Lansdown. And when they are finished, a book would be the way to go to make his incisive remarks even more widely available.

www.lifeministries.org.au/

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3 Responses to Social Justice, Part Two

  • Thomas Sowell points out that Adam Smith was extremely generous with his own money, and so modest about it that this was discovered only after his death.
    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Noel Pearson, leader in the Aboriginal communities in Cape York, writes in the Weekend Australian about the sorts of issues you have raised, namely how communalism and welfare dependency has killed and is killing Aboriginal communities. It is a refreshing break from much of the nonsense that surrounds solutions to indigenous poverty, which truly has to be one of greatest tragedies that has occured in this country.
    Lee Herridge

  • Bill,
    I agree with the above, and Andrew Landsdown’s observations. It is fashionable among conservatives to decry “Robin Hood” socialist governments giving largesse with other people’s money, but let’s be fair to Robin Hood! He only gave back to the pillaged poor what the Sheriff of Nottingham had stolen from them in the first place. He wasn’t relieving the evil rich of their accumulated wealth because of some view they had no right to possess wealth, however honestly obtained. He was not some pre-existent Mediaeval “social justice” advocate, seeking to redistribute wealth by his righteous outlawry.
    Murray R. Adamthwaite

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