Political pundit Glenn Beck, who has a TV show on the former state-run media outlet during the Bush Administration, FOX News, created quite stir recently in reference to his comments on social justice and leftist agendas. The Christian blogosphere has been quite abuzz with responses to Beck's very misinformed views. Even the current state-run media outlet under the Obama Administration, MSNBC, has made much of the hoopla simply as a way to bash Beck. Their views are just as misinformed.
I have expressed on this blog that I struggle with the language of social justice, but it has nothing to do with Beck's rantings and ravings. I would like to think that my views on the subject are a little more informed, which of course doesn't necessarily make them right; but I hope the questions I raise are cause for some serious discussion and debate instead of resulting mainly in a battle between two woefully biased cable "news" outlets who are more interested in selling a political agenda instead of informing the public.
In his book A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic, Stanley Hauerwas argues, among other reasons, that the problem with the language of social ethics is that it assumes there are ethics which are not social in nature. In so doing Christians have unwittingly reinforced the private/public distinction when it comes to ethical matters. As he rightly notes, "All ethics are social ethics."
I have the same problem with the language of social justice. By using the terminology only for certain issues (e.g. health care reform, feeding the poor), Christians unwittingly fall into the trap of suggesting that some matters of justice are not social in nature. But I say in response that all justice is social justice.
So I ask all the apologists for social justice as it is currently construed-- why isn't abortion a social justice issue? Is there anyone who would deny that the current practice of abortion on demand has huge social implications for the present and the future? There was recent outrage among the social justice crowd that some Christian political conservatives suggested a libertarian approach to giving to the poor. Without siding with them, let me ask, nevertheless, why is it that so many on the social justice side of the equation take a libertarian approach to abortion? How many times I have engaged "pro-choice" Christians in discussion who basically say, "Well, I don't approve of abortion, but I would never presume to make that choice for someone else." OK... fair enough. But then what is wrong with the statement, "Well, I think it is important that I pay more in taxes to the government for programs to feed poor children, but I would never presume to make that choice for someone else." It is true that those on the political right want to stop abortion through legal means, but want to leave care for children outside the womb up to the voluntary generosity of individuals. At the same time those on the political left want to use legal means to force people to pay more to care for hungry children, but when it comes to abortion, they want to leave that up to the individual with the strategy of working toward abortion reduction. Am I the only one who sees the problem here? If we should work for abortion reduction without legal means, what's wrong with working toward poverty reduction without legal means? If we are going to work to outlaw abortion, then why not work to increase taxes to feed poor children? As I have said before and will say again... the Christian political left and the Christian political right are simply two sides of the same coin, and they share more in common with the politics of the nation-state than with the politics of the Kingdom of God; they share more in common with the political platforms of RNC and the DNC than with the Sermon on the Mount.
If Christians are charged with defending those who cannot defend themselves, then I say that Christians should not only be concerned with defending children who are poor and hungry; they should also be defending the voiceless and defenseless unborn, and vice-versa.
And all I ask from both sides is consistency. If the left is going to force people through legislation to dig into their pockets to provide health care and food for hungry children, they should also utilize legislation to protect unborn children as well. And if the right is going to work toward outlawing abortion, then they better work to pass laws that provide more money for those children in need, who have already made their trip into this world.
Until both sides become consistent on these issues, their arguments will fall very short of the mark, as far as I'm concerned, and will be quite unconvincing.
All justice is indeed social justice.