Friday, January 4, 2013

Whither Social Justice? Conversations with my Nephew

One of my nephews always prompts me to think deeply about issues by his thoughtful questions and analyses.  Recently he emailed me about a Jesuit organization called "Ignatian Social Justice" which got me thinking about what exactly does "social justice" mean and why does my spidey sense start tingling when I hear the phrase?

Here is part of my reply to the email:

I always get a little nervous when I see the term "social justice" being used as the goal of an organization.  What exactly does that mean?  Even Wikipedia says it has "taken on a variable meaning depending on who is using it."  (no kidding!)  And whenever a Catholic group uses it, I see the word "political" jumping out at me.
One of the definitions of justice is "administering of deserved punishment or reward."  But who decides what is "deserved"?  Only God is the author of true justice and he is the only One who administers true justice.  Everything we do is a feeble reflection.  
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord instructs us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, etc., etc.  But the Church has always called these the "corporal works of mercy" - not justice.  To my mind, mercy takes a lot more humility than justice.  Mercy puts you in a position of saying, "there but for the grace of God go I."  Justice puts you in a position of determining who to punish and who to reward.
Those that promote "social justice" always seem to be in danger of being a little too proud (in my humble opinion - ha ha!).  To go help the poor or the suffering is good and noble, but do it quietly and then get out of the way.  Don't make a whole movement about it.  We already have a movement - it's called Christianity!  And why don't we see very much about Christ or the Church or God in any of the descriptive materials from these groups?  
The fact that they have to go around calling it social justice instead of corporal works of mercy also seems to me to be a symptom of modernism.  Everything in the past was bad or stupid, everything modern is good and intelligent.  I sort of fell into this trap myself at one time.  It's what the culture sells and it's easy to buy.  The problem again is lack of humility.  We know better than all of those simple people who came before us. 
So, enough with social justice....let's stick with Christianity.  (again, in my "humble" opinion ) 
Aunt Marilyn

And then, after thinking about the right way to put the evangelical counsels into practice, I came across an article on a group called Mary's Meals, who seems to have it just right:

Mary's Meals Vision Statement

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.