Putting The “Justice” Into Social Justice

If you pay any attention to the modern world you’ll notice a buzzword floating around that might be a bit confusing for literalists like me. When I hear a term I pick apart it’s meaning just to be sure it’s being used correctly. Probably the most overused buzzword floating around right now is “social justice.”

Recently there was a meeting headed by John MacArthur to come up with a Christian response to the term. The group came up with a 14 part “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel”. I plan on combing through it over the next few days and give a good summary of what I agree with and disagree with. From my initial scanning I will say I am not totally sold on it.

The more I research the term the more nebulous it’s meaning. Just like the term “toxic masculinity“, the definition of the term “social justice” seems dependent on one’s political beliefs.

What’s my definition of “social justice”?

The “social” part is not hard to understand and for the most part I think people use it correctly. It’s pretty hard not to. “Social” just refers to people. The term clearly refers to how we treat people.

The “justice” part is much harder to understand.

“Justice” is defined by the Google as: “just behavior or treatment”, “the quality of being fair and reasonable”, “the administration of the law” which is somewhat helpful, if we can define “just”, “fair”, and “reasonable.”

“Just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair” which seems clear right? It’s also defined as “(of treatment) deserved or appropriate in the circumstances.

So who decides what is fair? Fairness is a rather subjective thing. “Deserved” is also a relative term, especially in this day and age of entitlement nonsense.

These definitions are pretty cut and dry when speaking in legal terms. When a civil violation or a criminal action takes place fairness and a deserved retribution can usually be pretty easy to parse out. In “Social Justice” however, fairness and deserts can mean just about anything.

That leaves us with “morally right” and “appropriate in the circumstances”.

As a Christian, I have a basis for the moral treatment of others in scripture: “Treat others as I would have them treat me” “Love my neighbor” and “love my enemy”. To be socially just I must take pains to ensure I am loving those around me. Add “appropriate to the circumstances” and this becomes a slightly more difficult task.

Social justice as a Christian requires a great amount of discernment and attention to individuals. We cannot approach the subject as the pagan world does with blanket platitudes and government programs. We have to be involved with individual members of all classes, races, genders, religions, and whatnot.

To be just we must know what our neighbor deserves (love, first and foremost) in their individual circumstances. We must treat our enemies with love, understanding that they may deserve different things than our family or neighbors (again, they deserve love, but tempered with caution).

Social justice is a silly term for Christians to use. We have had the golden rule for millenia, why use such a trendy buzzword?

I’m just going to keep on treating others with love and kindness.

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Worthless and Worthwhile Words

What passes for civil discourse these days.

Words words words. It is an understatement to say modern political discourse has devolved into vulgarity and platitudes. Of course, politics are simply following culture. Our culture finds entertainment in sex and poop jokes. It thrives on pornography and degrading, dehumanizing violence. It is telling to me that the most viewed page of this blog so far has the word “butthole” in it. A lot of people entered that word and the word “wife” into Google to get to it. For the record, don’t actually do that…
This is nothing new really. All cultures display some level of their depravity in a public way. Unlike many commentators, I will not lament the downfall of our civilization. So many people, and sadly, many Christians, think that what our culture does is completely new and unheard of. This is laughable when one considers history. Our culture is no more depraved than the Romans or the Greeks. Our culture is merely showing signs of age. Cultural dementia typically sets in around the 200 year mark for advanced civilizations like ours.

However, it’s not just dementia for our culture, it’s schizophrenia. We are perfectly willing to accept depravity from certain people, but if someone not on the approved list shows the least bit it’s to the chopping block for them.

Language use is the most telling sign of this schizophrenia. We laugh, smile, and dance when certain people use certain words or phrases. When non-approved people use the same words or phrases our culture warriors call for their heads.

Now, do not think that I am squeamish when it comes to words. Firefighters swear worse than sailors most days. There are words and phrases used on the fire line that would make a sailor blush. I’m not one to get wound up about words. However, there is a difference between words used to make a strong point (as sailors and firefighters use them) and words used exclusively for shock value and offense.

It would be nice to see some words that are used exclusively for vulgar or profane purposes removed from our common vocabulary.

Certain words for female genitalia for example. I do not care if it is feminists or if it’s Trump, certain words are degrading and disrespectful to women no matter who uses them. Making a “cute” hat and giving it a vulgar name does not win people over to your opinion, it mainly makes you look like a jackass. And no, the word is not vulgar because genitalia are vulgar. It is vulgar because it has been used as a derogatory term for weak people for years. It used to describe a wimp (scaredy-cat basically) and eventually became a term for female reproductive organs. Using the term for your genitalia is essentially agreeing with those who call women weak and useless. If you want to reclaim your genitals, at least use correct terminology and proper names (i.e. stop calling the whole area your “vagina”; learn the correct words).

The “N” word. Can we either tell rappers to knock it off or allow white people to say it too? It’s a word reserved for a special group, and this is hardly fair (isn’t fairness what everyone wants today?). Throwing this word around does not make black culture respectable, it just sets it back several generations.

In fact, it seems there are a long list of words and phrases that are perfectly acceptable for some but not for others. Rappers, pop singers, movie stars, feminists, and certain politicians get a free pass to use many of these words. Anyone outside of these specific groups gets lynched (can I say that?) and demonized if they dare even hint at them. Either the words are offensive all the time and should be eliminated from use in civil company, or they are not and should be freely used by everyone. Don’t be hypocrites; either stop using these words entirely or stop demonizing the “unapproved” list of people when they use them.

By the way, your reckless use of words will lead to an even worse world than the one you were protesting. Continuously using degrading language cheapens you and those who you claim to support. When you make certain words a common part of your vocabulary, you make those words more acceptable to use by your enemies. If you think you are somehow winning a word back from bad people by making it more acceptable in common speech, you have to accept the fact that you are also making it more acceptable as a derogatory word. Eventually, when people become numb to hearing these words, harsher, more degrading words will be substituted in.

If you are going to use strong language, at least learn how to do it right. Screaming expletives or using vulgarity just to be shocking is not making your point; it’s making an ass of yourself. Using certain words as the only adjectives or metaphors in your vocabulary just makes you look ignorant or at the very least uncreative. Fighting vulgarity with even stronger vulgarity is an exercise in stupidity. Learn to use pointed words at the right time. Offend people with your ideas, not the vulgarity of your language or actions.

Also, if you are going to use “big” words, learn to use them correctly. Take out a dictionary before you start spouting off. For example, a “bigot” is someone who will not tolerate others having a different point of view. To tolerate means to allow. Most of the times I have heard the word “bigot” lately the only real bigots were the ones throwing the word around. People hopelessly ignorant of their meanings throw around terms like “Racist”, “Hate”, “Fascist”, and “Phobic” in the hopes that they will strike a chord somewhere. Listen, it helps your case if you know what your words actually mean. If you just go around using emotionally charged words because they sound scary or “intelligent”, your message will fizzle out and nothing you fought for will remain.

I expressed an opinion on Facebook answering a post about abortion. I was very quickly called a misogynist, a jerk, and all kinds of unsavory words. I’m not sure where this got the woman who slung these insults at me. She knew nothing more than a script. “If someone disagrees with you, throw these terms at them”. I asked her to be civil; she called me a Nazi. This kind of rhetoric makes words meaningless. I eventually walked away from the conversation because there was no reasoning with that kind of crazy.

If you protest, choose your words for effect, choose them for meaning, and choose them wisely. Offend people with the radicalness of your ideas, not the vulgarity of your language. Most of all be kind. There is no sense in being a bully to others to make your point. If you can’t win them over with rational, sane, simple kindness, you’re probably not going to win them over anyway.