Where is Justice?
By Joseph Ellis
I hear two sides of Christian faith predominantly being expressed these days. The first has to do with Christianity being an inward experience that changes people from the inside out. The second is what was once called the “Moral Majority,” and consisted of people like Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, and institutions like Focus on the Family. Now days it also incorporates slightly more ambiguous characters like Sarah Palin and company. This side of Christianity is (publicly) less concerned with saving souls and more concerned with making sure legislation lines up with biblical ideals (or at least what they interpret the biblical ideals to be).
In the case of the first, it is alarming that the social lightning rod that was Jesus of Nazareth, who was a rising political star, often debated the law and tax code, and passionately made the case for social issues (like poverty) – this Jesus and his message could be reduced to an inward spirituality that makes you feel good. This theology is more reminiscent of an antidepressant commercial than the Gospel that spread like wild fire during the first century. What’s more, when this theology turns into practice it is about ministries that spread that good feeling and get people to sit in the pew. The disparity between this religion of marketing, being a good person, and feeling spiritually alive, and the Jesus who lost disciples to controversy, told the rich to give to the poor, and called out people in leadership who helped perpetuate injustice, couldn’t be greater.
The second expression is no better. They use moral issues to gain power and influence. Then, once they have this power, there is no concern for matters of justice; instead, they seek more money and power. They use their definition of what is right and wrong to compel their way of life on those who believe differently, and mistake Jesus for someone who preached American values.
What I don’t understand is why both sides continue to ignore matters of justice. Vast portions of scripture are designated to the topic (most of the prophets, proverbs, and the words of Jesus) and yet I have yet to hear a preacher, or church spokesperson, stand up against Corporate greed, home foreclosures, unemployment, low wages, and political corruption. For that matter, I heard shockingly few Christians (including myself at the time, sadly) speak out against Guantanamo Bay! The point is this: I don’t see Jesus represented today. For all of the WWJD, and books marketing how to live “the godly life,” I don’t see Christian leaders speaking up about issues Jesus would be talking about (or did talk about when he lived).
Faith must be more than God in your heart, or living morally. It must be vocal about the injustice our nation and world perpetuates. It must take a stand. It, at the very least, needs to represent Jesus.