Social Justice: Repackaged Marxism

By Julie Roys
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By Julie Roys

In a brief two-year period in the nineties, sales of Reisling wine more than tripled. This wasn’t due to any significant change in the wine itself. Rather, the Reisling company simply changed the bottle that housed the wine to an eye-catching cobalt blue.

A similar re-packaging is occurring today in the field of politics. Very few Americans would embrace Marxism. The failures of the former Soviet bloc countries are too fresh in our memories. But, repackage Marxism as social justice, and just about everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

When the United States first was taking shape, social justice meant opposing political absolutism. Our Founding Fathers believed justice could be achieved only after limits were placed on the government. That’s why they barred government from seizing property, arresting citizens arbitrarily, and limiting the free expression of speech or religion. Today, however, social justice means something different entirely.

Proponents of social justice view the world through a Marxist lens that places people into two categories – that of being either the oppressed or the oppressor. Because of slavery, gender inequalities, and the antipathy toward the Judeo-Christian view of the family, the oppressed generally are believed to be minorities, women, and homosexuals. The oppressors, then, are white, heterosexual Christian men.

Also borrowing from Marxism, social justice proponents view oppression in economic terms. The oppressed proletariat are those in low income brackets; the oppressing bourgeoisie are those in the upper income brackets. Society will achieve utopia only when the government seizes all the goods of the rich and redistributes them equally among the poor.

Though it may sound appealing, this brand of justice presents numerous problems, biblically and practically. Practically, it wrests money and power from the people and puts it in hands of government. As our Founding Fathers warned and the former Soviet Union displayed, this does not increase justice, but decreases it.

Biblically, however, there is no support for re-hashing injustices and stirring up strife between races, economic classes, or gender. The Apostle Paul said that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” Neither does Scripture support the have-nots demanding goods from the haves. In fact, James says, “the brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position.”

Scripture, however, does speak repeatedly about personal responsibility. Second Thessalonians 3:10 says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Similarly, in the parable of the talents, the master gives the man with five talents five more; and, he takes the only talent from one man and gives it to the man with 10. Why? Because the man with 10 talents was faithful, but the man with one talent was not.

Justice should never be confused with uniformity or Marxism. Justice is getting what one deserves. Uniformity is ensuring that everyone has the same amount, regardless of what each deserves. And Marxism is the government seizing control of everyone’s finances so it can impose uniformity on an entire society. Should Christians fight for justice? Absolutely. But, let’s not confuse justice with Marxism – even if it goes by the same name.

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5 thoughts on “Social Justice: Repackaged Marxism”

  1. I believe justice has a major part in the Christian worldview. I would like to reference an Old Testament passage from Micah which sets the foundation for justice:

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

    How compelling the phrases are, how interesting the order. We usually think of things going from the individual, to the congregation, to the neighborhood, to the society. This list turns that on its head:

    • Do justice – address the systems of society.
    • Love kindness – reach out to the nearest neighbor we can touch.
    • Walk humbly with your God – get your own life connected to God.

    As Christians why work on a larger scale opportunities to make things better? We only have to look at this world to see that the world isn’t as God wants it to be. 500 richest people control more assets than the three billion people who make up the poorer half of the world’s population. The environment suffers from human greed. The list could go on and on.

    In fact, many observers would suggest that in this country we are seeing an erosion of a sense of community; less we and more me. To tend to issues of justice is to tend to we, rather than just me. Justice is quite simply, the commitment to fairness, equity and opportunity for everyone.

    There are humanitarian reasons, religious reasons, and more specifically Christian reasons to pursue justice and to commit ourselves to working in the community, in the public square, and in the role of citizens. Because we know that we are saved by God’s grace through faith:

    • We love others because He first loved us.
    • We see human worth through God’s eyes.
    • We believe that everyone can contribute in some way, and should.
    • We know that everyone has unique gifts to share.
    • We act out of that amazing freedom and joy, facing fully the fragility and limits of our humanity.
    For the Christian work in the world that might mean that there is no such thing as “underserving”. That argument doesn’t wash, since if God applied that logic, we’d all be in trouble. We can also care for others without judgment and don’t give up. We should see our works as mutual care, not as “we” and “they”, but as “us” – as one brother or sister to another in a reciprocal relationship of care.

    What are the implications for pursuing justice? We can look at this three folded:

    • Client self-advocacy – we don’t need to speak for people, we need to make sure they are at the table to speak for themselves.
    • Working on the underlying causes – it is important that we counteract the human tendency to unwittingly deny opportunity by treating symptoms and not questioning underlying causes of injustice.
    • Caring for one another – with regards to grace, we also approach things with a sense that we are all needy, not just some of us. At some point we all have, and all will, depend on someone else. This conflicts directly with the pervasive and growing sense of “not my problem” in our society.

    So don’t let Christian get confuse about the role of justice through the eyes of men and through the eyes of our Lord.

    Kind Regards,

    MF

  2. MF,
    Thanks for responding. I think perhaps you missed my point, though. I was not arguing that Christians shouldn’t work for justice. I simply was saying that “social justice” as many activists define it bears little resemblance to true biblical justice. But, I appreciate your passion to care for those hurting in our society.
    Peace.

  3. Julie’s commentary addresses a serious problem that pervades public education. As Christians we are rightly charged with caring for those who suffer and about justice. But there is a critical distinction between actual justice and “social justice” theory as espoused by Bill Ayers and Paulo Freire. MF seems to think that Julie is opposed to justice. But no authentic Christian, and that certainly includes Julie, would ever oppose justice. To imply or claim that in order to support and work toward justice, one must affirm contemporary “social justice” theory is simply false. What justice looks like and how best to achieve it are the questions at hand.
    The good ends of caring for widow and orphans, of helping to fight starvation, poverty, and disease do not justify Marxist/socialist policies that undermine liberty. Many who are deeply committed to justice believe the following about contemporary social justice theory:
    We believe that the obsessive focus on past injustices hurts minority children by communicating that their lot in life cannot improve unless members of the “oppressor” group change in some way and express the requisite degree of remorse for crimes they did not commit.
    We believe that the false claim that homosexuals are victims of civil rights violations undermines the true belief that homosexuality is soul, family, and culture-destroying.
    We believe that environmental extremism punishes third world nations and exacerbates poverty and the spread of disease.
    We believe that the concept of “institutional racism” is largely specious and by focusing on it, time and resources are frittered away that could be put to better use in ways that actually help those who suffer in myriad ways.
    We believe that the United States–which is vilified by social justice theorists–has a more remarkable record of integration than perhaps any other nation on earth.
    We believe that America is the most generous nation in the world, sacrificing money and blood to help millions of people across the planet recover from natural disasters and resist tyranny.
    We believe that the degree of income redistribution that social justice theory seeks will undermine liberty.
    We believe that American democratic principles have provided the philosophical foundation that has enabled us to rectify real injustice.
    We believe that the identity politics of social justice theory that divides people into groups deemed either “oppressor” or “oppressed” cultivates a sense of powerless victimization and balkanization that works against the real, authentic, and binding integration that will result in the color-blind society about which MLK Jr. dreamed.
    We find more truth in these words of Freidrich Hayek than those of Bill Ayers:
    “From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict which each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.”

    “Equality of the general rules of law and conduct, however, is the only kind of equality conducive to liberty and the only equality which we can secure without destroying liberty. Not only has liberty nothing to do with any other sort of equality, but it is even bound to produce inequality in many respects. This is the necessary result and part of the justification of individual liberty: if the result of individual liberty did not demonstrate that some manners of living are more successful than others, much of the case for it would vanish.”

    “There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.”

    As Christians, we should all be invested in alleviating suffering and fighting for justice. Some believe contemporary “Social justice” theory is the way to achieve those ends. Some respectfully disagree.

  4. I would like to preface my thoughts by saying that I do not adhere to the extreme that I see people only as two groups, or that the state is the cure to these injustices. Nor do I believe that white straight male Christians are the primary evil doers in the world… because I am one myself.

    I think we all want as much “liberty” as possible, but liberty can mean so many different things to different people. A poor person (though not told what to do by the government) can find that they have very little liberty when they can’t get medical services or safe yet reasonably priced housing. Liberty to a millionaire can mean that he wishes to have his extra million back from taxes to buy/ invest more. Which one has more liberty? I think the millionaire, though the government asks more of him.

    Second thought, without government interference & restriction of liberty very bad things have happened. Certain environments have suffered greatly. Resources have been over-exploited. Employers exploiting employees. These are real issues that need to be balanced. The truth is, the stronger the private sector presence & power, the stronger the government presence is needed to prevent exploitation. As long as the bosses are able insulate themselves from a shared fate, then the work force will be exploited (a la Pullman’s work camps).

    I believe this current economic crisis is a clear example of how deregulation (lack of government involvement) causes exploitation of so many and profit the few. The fact that certain bankers were able to draft the legislation on derivatives and credit default swaps and stick it in last minute with no debate is exactly why we are in the mess we are today. The market became a casino for the rich few who could play the game with everyone’s 401k and pension money. How is that just? How is not asking for that money back (via taxes) to pay for extended unemployment and health insurance not just?

    All that to say I believe that untethered liberty has allowed others to perpetrate injustice against a great amount of people. I am not ashamed to say that I would call it just for some of that money to go towards people who need it so they can have more liberty. Will this bring utopia? No, only Christ will do that. But I think the best we can hope for is an amelioration of some of these injustices while we live out God’s mission.

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