Social Justice

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I appreciate Nicole dropping by and leaving an occasional comment. A couple of times she gave me an AAAACCCCKKKK! for my spider pictures. But even my spiders seem to be better received than my recent mention of ‘social justice.’ Perhaps I’ve been using the term wrong.

To me, ‘social justice’ would be a condition in which the fabric of society is just in all of its relationships. It provides a goal which will never be perfectly attained, but should always be pursued.

Nicole suggests a dualism where, though Christianity requires social justice, government does not. In fact, she sees the idea of government pursuing social justice as the essence of liberalism and its end result, socialism. Certainly, on the liberal side, there are those who believe social justice is entirely the realm of government, and Christianity should be barred from any participation. I think both sides miss the point. Government and Faith-Based efforts must work hand-in-hand.

Government can never be neutral. In situations in which the current fabric of society is less than just, for government to stand by and allow the status quo is to support social injustice. As a Christian wanting to live my faith with my whole self, I cannot compartmentalize myself into a faith-person who works for social justice, and a secular person who votes against it. Some Liberals would have me do the same thing, claiming that Separation of Church and State requires me to set aside my faith before I enter the polling place. I cannot do that. I am an integrated being, attempting to put Jesus Christ at the center of everything I do.

Government and the Church have overlapping concerns. For example, our nation incarcerates people at a higher rate than any nation on earth, except possibly mainland China. This comes with both civil and spiritual issues. Far-and-away, the most successful programs to overcome recidivism are Faith-Based (and here I would include even Muslim programs). For various Liberal groups to oppose these is to argue that a life spent in prison is better than a life spent in religion. That is bizarre. The same is true for programs to restore lives that have been destroyed by drugs, or programs to reduce rates of adolescent pregnancy.

Both the Church and the Government have vested interests in promoting literacy—equally—among all segments of our population. Education began in this country because the Church recognized that (all people being equal before God) everyone needed the skills to read the Bible for themselves. Government came along later with the realization that in a democracy, every voter needed the skills to read a newspaper. However, it is a fact in our country that children in poor neighborhoods are not born with the same realistic odds to learn to read as children born in wealthy neighborhoods. I have taught in both Church schools (where parents could afford to pay tuition), and public schools (where not all parents could send their children to school even with breakfast). I have also sent my own children to public schools that had better programs and facilities (but equally talented and dedicated teachers, struggling to make do)than the schools across town. That, to me, is a social justice problem.

The short term—and then only partial—solution may be vouchers. Long term, however, we have to fix our public schools. As a school teacher, I believe our number one shortcoming in public education is that we have insufficient means for dealing with unruly students. One disruptive student reduces learning slightly. Every additional problem child reduces it geometrically. I have seen horrendous situations where parents could offer no help, and administrators had insufficient leverage. At a certain point, good kids who are trying to learn are sitting in classrooms where no learning is going on. That is a social justice issue. The solution is not moving the good kids with vouchers, but removing the disruptive kids to alternative programs.

But as a democracy, we cannot accept that a troubled youngster could be written off for life at age twelve. The alternative programs cannot be dead-end programs. They must be better funded than the regular program, and with access to the best teachers. They must have meaningful carrot-and-stick incentives over both students and parents. Their goal must always be to return the student to the mainstream program, and not just move them on to adulthoods in prison. That will require major government funding. It may also require a lowering of the Church-State wall. The Church does not have the manpower to carry even the largest part of this burden, but where the Church can, government must be open to the reality that—just as with reducing recidivism—religion may have the best answers.

I shan’t go on. If Nicole and I still disagree, we may have to agree to disagree. And I suppose its time for me to find another beautiful spider portrait.

Posted by Brian at 10:57 AM  

1 comments:

I agree with you in principle, Brian. And wouldn't it be wonderful if the government and the church would/could work together to help education, restore discipline in public schools, and teach the truth about our history which would expose the fact that church and state as it is twisted today was never meant to be?

However, as the different political platforms exist today, there are severe differences in interpreting what a truly good education is, and, so far, throwing millions and millions of dollars at education has produced exactly more of the same disabilities and inferior education, not to mention the hypocrisies which exist when public schools can teach about Islam, Mayan, and Hindu cultures and religions in this United States, but they may not teach about or speak of Christianity!

As this society/culture leans farther to the left and even as the politics insist providing "funding" as the answer to every issue, social and otherwise, I do place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Christians including myself who have failed to seek after the Lord's heart and pray diligently for this country to return to God ordained character in this wonderful nation.

Nicole said...
January 17, 2008 at 3:12 PM  

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