British Conservative Party leaders in the early years of this millennium were enamored with "compassionate conservatism" and often used the expression, but Bush's unpopularity in Britain has now made it politically toxic. They're talking about a gutsy replacement: They want to grab back "social justice" from the left, where it has come to be a politically loaded synonym for government redistribution programs.
Indianapolis community leader Joanna Taft, who heads the board of a charter school there, also wants to rescue the term. She notes that "charter schools are often perceived as a conservative ploy to undermine the traditional public school system. By emphasizing the social justice aspects of the project—bringing black and white/inner city and middle class students together, offering a rigorous liberal arts education to the underserved, serving a high proportion of students from single parent/divorced homes, producing students who are capable of succeeding in college—naysayers have become champions for the school."
Taft points out that one Indianapolis newspaper "includes a weekly social justice calendar. This calendar lists activities addressing hunger, war, racism—all problems that stem directly from the Fall." She argues that Christians should have a gospel-centered perspective on these issues "and should be leading these discussions in the community. Instead, in most communities, the Christians are the ones absent from those discussions. We should be SETTING the social justice calendars of our cities."
True. When police don't take action against drug dealers in poor neighborhoods, that's a social justice issue. When children of impoverished parents have no choice but to go to a rotten public school, that's social injustice. When governments take taxpayers' money and discriminate against effective, strongly biblical programs that many taxpayers value, that's social injustice. When prisoners are merely warehoused, that's a social justice issue.
"Social justice" has been so twisted by the left that it now offends many conservatives and older Christians, but the term can help many younger Christians focus on what is truly just or unjust in particular proposals. "Social justice" is worth a rescue attempt.
Reprinted with permission of WORLD Magazine. To get more news and views from a Christian perspective, call 800-951-6397 or visit www.worldmag.com.
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