• Dan Freeborn

Critical Social Justice and the Bible

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 2:12, English Standard Version (ESV)

The idea of modern-day Critical Social Justice (CSJ) is often delivered under the guise of righteous and moral obligation. That is a terrifying prospect because it sounds so good. Because it sounds good, we're quick to adopt its mandates whether out of blind reverence or fear of rejection. We jump on board. But until we've thoroughly researched, questioned, and discovered what the mission of the modern movement is truly about, at its very core, I'd argue that we're just being drug along in its wake. After we've done our due diligence and fully examined the implications - that's when we finally decide to climb on board or voluntarily jump ship. It is irresponsible for proclaiming Christians to usher in the acceptance of a worldview that is constructed outside the foundation of Biblical Truth, relies on group experiences as ultimate, and has worldwide and moral implications that impact the work of the Gospel. Dr. Voddie Baucham, Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, clearly articulates why the progressive definition of social justice is troubling: "Social Justice is not a heart issue, it's a state issue" (watch or listen to the link that you just glossed over). The Bible warns against false teaching and when it comes to this topic, we have to be diligent in understanding what the true meaning of the worldly terms are and equally as diligent in securing our assurance of the Biblical meanings: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths," 2 Timothy 4:3-4. The Dichotomy of Two Religions: Christianity does not allow for selective submission based on which of God's instructions we do or do not want to follow at a given time. We are held to a much higher standard. A kingdom standard that reflects the Maker himself and requires of us: whole submission. Critical Social Justice is a religious phenomenon of its own and lures individuals with calls for compassion, brotherly love, and empathy. This can be especially dangerous for Christians. Although those things may not necessarily be wrong on their own, in the context of CSJ they become weaponized as seductive and enticing nuggets for Christians to latch onto so not to be characterized as bigots or unloving. Good intentions don't justify conforming or partial subscription. CSJ is a lens by which society is viewed as a power struggle - a hierarchy of oppressors vs. the oppressed that is determined by intersectional theory, or intersectionality. Intersectionality (Merriam-Webster): the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups This narrative promotes that heterosexual, white, Christian, men are the most oppressive and therefore hold the most power. According to intersectionality, anyone who doesn't possess those characteristics is seen as oppressed and depending on the number of characteristics a person possesses that do not align with the description above, they can experience different levels of oppression. For example: a black, heterosexual, woman is considered to be more privileged than a black, homosexual woman, and a black, transexual woman would be considered the most oppressed of the three. CSJ does not require its followers to actively submit to all of its claimed truths like Christianity does. Because of intersectionality - the inseparable entanglement of different people groups - it is impossible to seek justice for one of the oppressed groups exclusively. Even if we personally only support one or part of one of the many rally cries (i.e. racial justice) but denounce calls for another (i.e. transgender justice), by default we’re supporting both of them because intersectionality inevitably links the oppressed groups together as one. It's a treble hook of an ideology. Although we may have only bit onto one of the conjoined tines, it’s still part of the whole hook and we’re caught nonetheless. A Challenge for Christians: Christians, we need to be hyper-aware of what the world means by the term "social justice", we need to be confident in our understanding of our definition, and we have to be prepared to clearly articulate this in conversation. God's justice is an indispensable part of his character (Deuteronomy 32:4, Colossians 3:25). "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27, ESV). Because of this truth, God's justness should be reflected in us (Micah 6:8). To be clear: seeking justice for those that are truly oppressed is not wrong. We should train our eyes to recognize injustice and be brave enough to confront it with the goal of reconciling the oppressed to God through love and grace. Biblical justice is real and so are injustices in this world, however we must be keenly aware of the methods employed that tell us how someone (people) is being oppressed and the way in which they can be set free. We may think "many blacks are still oppressed today," or "females appear to be disadvantaged compared to men". In some cases that is very likely true BUT that is not what the narrative says. The narrative says ALL are oppressed that do not fit the identity mold at the top of their hierarchy: no exclusions. It's this nuance that has disastrous implications. Think hard about this: If by default, we subscribe to CSJ and submit to believing that all humans belonging to certain people groups are inherently more oppressed than others simply based on the way God created them: skin color, male or female, able-bodied or disabled, etc. or any combination of the long list of many, then God must be unjust. That is what's at stake. Dan

Another resource that I've found helpful when exploring Critical Theory through the Christian worldview is Neil Shenvi Apologetics. Especially: 1. Are Social Justice, Critical Theory, and Christianity Compatible? 2. Important Articles on Critical Theory