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Social Justice and the Gospel
For centuries, philosophers have puzzled the human condition. Questions abound about why humans act the way they do, why they form groups, what role cultural and social norms have for learning, how societies form, the nature of society, social change, and the way integration and alienation fit in with modern societies. In particular, the changes in urbanization and technology, and access to other cultures, spurred even more study of what it means to be human. Together, these paradigms form a notion of human history in which theories have tried to explain different aspects of human behavior and interaction. However, we can also look at the 20th century and find that there is a disparate interpretation of social justice, and the compatibility of the Gospels toward that goal. This is exemplified, for instance, in the works of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who noted: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider…" (King, 1996).
Social Justice - In its most basic form, social justice is the fairness and just law or custom exhibited within a given society. It should be applied universally to all members of that society, and is defined by not only a rule of law, but by the people advocating for and practicing a sense of egalitarianism. Social justice means that society understands the value of human rights recognizes the dignity of every human being, and that law is based not on privilege, class, or economic status, but on the ideas of equality. In fact, it is interesting that several international documents hold that social justice must be universal and must educate on the system of global human rights (Barry, 2005).
The compatibility of social justice and the Gospels is evident in the historical writings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the manner in which the term was used in the 19th century by the Jesuit order. Aquinas, and others like Socrates and Aristotle, focused extensively on their definition of human rights, among other ideas, and lead the way for more contemporary thinkers such as John Locke and Martin Luther King Jr. In his Summa Theologica, for example, Aquinas stated his belief that there were behaviors that were naturally right or wrong because God ordained it so. Aquinas believed that it was God, through the Gospels, that limited political actions by humans to that which was intrinsically moral. If in fact, the mission of Christ, and the Gospels focus on acceptance, love and equality, then contemporary human rights tends to focus upon the concept of equality in pay, gender, ethnicity and cultural background -- lumped together, affirmative action plans to mitigate past mistakes (Hayden, 2001; Jenkins, 2011, pp. 29-30).
Social Justice in Global Society- As noted, social justice is not simply a concept for egalitarianism in society -- it is a way of being, an attitude, and a way of looking at society in a new manner. For Christians, social justice is a maxim of the ministry of Christ, of sending missionaries throughout the world to bring the Gospel to those who have not yet had access. In general, the key attributes to combining the Gospels with social justice revolve around life and the dignity of the human person and the focus on helping the poor and vulnerable attain actualization. Certainly, in the past this has included charity, devotion to the poor, fighting for civil rights, and now even looking at the global village in a way that, as the United Methodist Church says, provide all citizens with access to health care, to educate about population control and sustainability, and to view the global village in a way that one's actions reflect cause and effect in all parts of the world (UMC, 2013).
In fact, social justice is completely compatible with the Gospels; it does not diminish their structure or philosophy. Instead, social justice takes the Gospels and amplifies them for the 21st century. If we look at the basic ideas of globalism, we will see that instead of working a town, village, or even country, the world is not…[continue]
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