When you look at the history of Christianity in the West, it is largely defined (despite popular anti-Christian myth to the contrary) by Christians promoting social justice and charity for the poor and underprivileged. No other social group has been responsible for more positive social reform and improvements for the underprivileged, sick and downtrodden than Christians.
In early 19th century, William Wilberforce, a Bible-believing Christian, campaigned his entire political career in the British Parliament for the abolition of slavery. Christian groups have founded scores of hospitals and medical clinics. According to the Catholic News Service, over 117,000 Catholic health care facilities exist around the world today, including hospitals, clinics and orphanages.
The abolitionist movement and the underground railroad were largely Christian movements. Quakers, Anabaptists and many ministers called for abolition and helped protect slaves as they made their way to Canada.
Christianity Supports the Common Good
Researchers who study philanthropy tell us: “Per capita, Americans voluntarily donate about seven times as much as continental Europeans. Even our cousins the Canadians give to charity at substantially lower rates, and at half the total volume of an American household. There are many reasons for this American distinction. Foremost is the fact that ours is the most religious nation in the industrial world. Religion motivates giving more than any other factor.”[i]
Consider the amazing history of the humanitarian “Salvation Army” around the world since 1865. They have reached millions and millions with practical help and the message of the Gospel. Their mission statement is: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” With a “heart to God, and a hand to man,” they model what true Christians have always sought to do throughout all time: Preach the Gospel and demonstrate God’s love to others.
One of the most revered Reformed American preachers of all time, Jonathan Edwards (a staunch theological conservative), advocated for radical, “liberal” generosity:
“It is the duty of the people of God to give bountifully for the aforesaid purpose. It is commanded once and again in the text, ‘Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy poor brother.’ Merely to give something is not sufficient. It answers not the rule, nor comes up to the holy command of God. But we must open our hand wide. What we give, considering our neighbor’s (needs), and our ability, should be such as may be called a liberal gift.”[ii]
What is Social Justice Theology?
With this background, it may surprise some when some Evangelicals refuse to support a popular fad within liberal church circles called, “Social Justice Theology.”
As with most things, it’s unfair to say that a complex ideology can be described in one mere sound-bite. However, in a nutshell, the primary objection that conservative Christians have with Social Justice Warriors (SJW) is their insistence that we should help people…with other people’s money! This is where the new postmodern, liberal version of Christianity parts from the historic Christian faith and practice.
Jesus taught his disciples to give generously, of their OWN money to the poor. SJW’s look to the civil government as the great savior of society. They advocate for socialistic programs that promote a forced redistribution of wealth through mandatory taxation and government-controlled welfare programs. It’s quite easy to be generous with money taken by force from others. The problem is, that isn’t truly loving.
Socialism is Not Love or Justice
Former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, once famously quipped:
“Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalise everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalisation, and they’re now trying to control everything by other means. They’re progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people.”[iii]
In the end, Socialism always results in people losing their freedoms, as the government increasingly takes control of the mean of production and distribution. Ronald Reagan once said (speaking of the hip new packaging of Socialism as a social kindness), “Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a Government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his ‘State Socialism’ and way before him it was ‘benevolent monarchy.’”[iv]
If you want to know where this “benevolence” leads, it ends up with all citizens (except those in elite political — and corrupt economic — power), losing their liberty. History has played that story out again and again.
As true Conservatives, our desire is to see true justice and true charity. Neither of these thrive when people have their liberties decreased through an ever-expanding government monopoly. Nor does it thrive through the financial plundering (and soon disappearance) of the working middle class (because of excessive taxation for government welfare programs).
As Christians, we are for the Biblical and historic Christian church’s version of social justice (where people demonstrate kindness from uncoerced hearts). We are not for the new Neo-Marxist version of force and political aggression. The new Social Justice is simply Socialism, disguised under a thin “Christian” veneer. Advocates of true social justice will want nothing to do with it.
(For more study on this topic, I will refer you to the excellent essay, “Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist?” by Lawrence W. Reed.)
[iv] The New York Times (27 October 1984)
Subscribe to the IFI YouTube channel
and never miss a video report or special program!