Reflections on faith and social justice

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time.  I’m deeply interested in the intersection of Christian faith and social justice issues (health, poverty, etc.) — obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this!  I hope to post more on this in the future, but for the moment I’d like to point you to a couple other bloggers whose insight and eloquence on this subject I very much admire.

Public Health & Human Rights: Thoughts on health, rights, and faith

First, check out this phenomenal blog by Nathan, who works in the public health field.  I haven’t read nearly as much of this as I want and hope to, but what I’ve seen is great.  His posts are knowledgable, insightful, and understandable.

Most directly related to the topic of faith and social justice, take a look at these posts: Human Rights and the BibleIs there a place for faith in public health?  Here’s an excerpt from the first:

[T]he Bible is filled with examples of a God who cares for people and who demands action to care for those in need–social indifference is not an option. From the beginning of the Bible until the end, it is clear that God blesses people in order that they might bless others. And, there is a clear message of inherent human worth or dignity.

In my view, the two unique contributions of faith to the topic of human rights are that 1) Biblical faith clearly argues for a needed basis of human rights, namely humans created in the image of God, and 2) a perspective that human rights is about others more than it is about me.

Provacative stuff.  I especially admire this post because I think Nathan looks at a subject many others have addressed with a perspective that’s both broader and more specific.  His emphasis on care for others above and beyond care for self is, I think, an important part of what faith contributes to social justice.

A Theology of Social Justice

Here’s a thoughtful post from Lindsey Talerico.  It definitely offers some food for thought.  Here’s an excerpt:

I have long since read in the Bible the acts of justice our Jesus lived out in his lifetime. He was a man who inspired and breathed life into everyone around him. He breathed a new kind of air. A just kind of air. A breath unlike that of the kings and the judges and religious leaders of that day who maybe ruled with sovereignty but did not rule with grace. […] For the Christian, everything is seen in light of Jesus and his teaching or ministry.

Many thanks to Nathan and Lindsey for sharing their thoughts and allowing me to share them further.

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~ by h.e.g. on July 21, 2008.

2 Responses to “Reflections on faith and social justice”

  1. How is AIDS a social justice issue? explain.

  2. Chris,

    This is a *huge* question, but here are a few (very incomplete) thoughts.

    Social justice is partly about making sure everyone has access to the things (material and otherwise) that they need, and aren’t being prevented from getting these things by social forces outside their control. For example, social justice advocates are concerned that everyone should be able to receive health care. Yet in many societies some people don’t have access to health care, medicines, etc., due to factors like poverty, lack of health workers or infrastructure, discrimination, and so on. This isn’t just or fair: in a sense, people are being passively injured or allowed to die (because they aren’t getting the treatment they need) for no fault or reason of their own.

    Because the AIDS pandemic tends to be concentrated in relatively poor parts of the world (e.g. sub-Saharan Africa) and often in marginalized groups of people (e.g. injection drug users), all kinds of social justice problems arise. For example, many would say that it is unjust that wealthy Americans who have HIV have relativey easy access to the antiretroviral therapy that keeps them healthy, but huge numbers of people in many other parts of the world cannot get the same medicines because they are far too expensive for them to afford.

    In short, HIV/AIDS is a social justice issue because its spread and the impact it has on people are in many cases linked to social injustices. Those of us who are motivated by a desire for greater social justice feel that there is much that can be done to change the way societies deal with HIV/AIDS, making policies and actions more fair, compassionate, and–in short–just.

    I hope this helps: like I said, it’s a big question and not one with an easy answer! This is just the tip of the iceberg. If anyone else has thoughts to add, please share them!

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