Labelling Social Justice as Dangerous, Part 2

Labelling Social Justice as Dangerous, Part 2 June 5, 2024

Social Justice

As we continue our consideration of efforts to label social justice as dangerous, let’s remember Jesus is leading a Jewish renewal/reformation movement calling his society back to the social justice ethics found in the Torah and building on them. He’s calling for the year of Jubilee when all debts are cancelled (the record of these debts were held in the Temple). He’s calling for resource-sharing and wealth redistribution, for the marginalized to be gathered in, for the farm lands lost to predatory creditors to be restored to their original owners, and for those made “last” in society to be treated the same as the “first.”

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(Read this series from its beginning here.)

There were those who benefited financially and powerfully from Rome’s coopting of the Jewish temple state. Those who had much to lose were against Jesus, and their tactic is nothing new: Inspire the masses with fear of the very thing that could be the means of life-giving change for them, but would mean loss of privilege and wealth for those in power. We see the same tactic used today. Those working to shape our world into a safer, more compassionate, just society are now often referred to as “woke.” But woke is a term with a long history in marginalized communities simply endeavoring to survive harm being committed against them. We see the same fear tactic with Critical Race Theory. We witness it every time programs calling for social well-being are labelled by the Right as socialism or communism to cause people to be afraid that their freedoms are being taken away. Terms like “the radical Left” also inspire fear.

Jim Wallis, in his recent book, The False White Gospel, recounts an anecdote of his personal experience with fear-mongering from Glenn Beck:

When television personality Glenn Beck had his highly rated show on Fox News, he urged people to leave churches that preach “social justice.” Said Beck: “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! They talk about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth and, surprisingly, I love this, democracy.” Beck, who is a Mormon, said the message of social justice has infected all faiths. He called it a “perversion of the gospel.” Beck advised people who attend churches where pastors preach a message of social justice to report it to their bishop or other church authority. Then this very loud and noxious broadcaster decided to put some of those “social justice” perpetrators on his famous blackboard to remind his listeners day after day of who they should look out for. And after a blazing attack on me personally, Beck put me on his blackboard and began to regularly assail me on his show. (Jim Wallis, The False White Gospel: Rejecting Christian Nationalism, Reclaiming True Faith, and Refounding Democracy, p. 119-120)

As we consider our reading this week, it’s helpful to remember that when Jesus is referring to the strong man’s house. We’ll unpack this last part, and how it might inform our justice work today, next.

(Read Part 3)


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About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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