What is the Social Justice Agenda? (Part 2 of the Evangelical Leadership Summit)

AEI what is the social justice agenda

The phrase “social justice” brings up a lot of bad connotations.

You’ve got the social justice warriors on twitter (God bless their pee-pickin’ hearts).

You’ve got that whole redistribution of wealth worldview.

And, you’ve got every irritating personality trait imaginable.

Yeah, social justice doesn’t have a good history. But, have you tried to push your way through all the trash? Have you ever tried to understand the underlining principle behind social justice?

“The underlining principle is stealing, that’s all. Period.”

Yeah, you could say that, but you’d be wrong.

Redistribution of wealth is a means, not an end.

The real end is something quite different.

Side Note: I went to AEI’s Evangelical Leadership Summit a two weeks ago. I have a lot of notes and thoughts on the conference which I want to share with you. This is combination of notes, my personal views, and the views of the panelists.

What is the Underlining Principle of Social Justice?

I think Arthur Brooks put it best when he said social justice is…

“An overt moral emphasis to the vulnerable.”

At its core, social justice is about focusing on the downtrodden in your community. It can be the poor, it can be the widows, it can be kids in bad schools.

Social justice covers a multitude of social hardships.

The important part is that you can be for social justice and not be for redistribution of wealth policies.

It’s possible.

Jim Wallis’s Social Justice

Spoiler alert… Jim Wallis is a progressive social justice liberal Christian.

However, he did make some excellent points during the panel. Some of which surprised and impressed me.

Even though Wallis is a fan of government welfare, he made a good point regarding its effectiveness.

Safety nets might help keep people out of poverty, but it won’t stop poverty.

Now, you and I could argue about the legitimacy of the first half. That’s a given.

But what we can’t argue against is that welfare can’t stop poverty. It might help some people here and there, but it’s not a long term fix to the issue of poverty.

That’s something people on the left don’t acknowledge. And, Wallis called them out on it, something I enjoyed hearing.

christian vocations jim wallis

Here’s some other things Wallis said during the discussion that I found worth mentioning. I’ll add some commentary to each of them.

We need to listen to poor people. Ask them directly: this is key. Who’s going to know what the impoverished need? Bureaucrats, or the poor themselves? I’m going to choose the poor.

Principles: Work, Family, Education: Totally agree. Work ethics, strong family structures and a good education are hands down some of the best ways to alleviate poverty.

In God’s economy there is enough if we share it: assuming that we live in an economy where there’s a limited amount of wealth. The wording of this phrase didn’t settle well with me. Sharing is great, voluntary sharing that is.

A living family wage: where business leaders voluntarily pay family wages because of their faith: voluntary being the key word there. Although, most supporters of a “living wage” want to force companies to adopt it. Also, who defines what a living wage is?

Marriage is an anti-poverty measure: Again, totally agree.

Education reform is the new civil rights issue: I’m hesitant to quickly label things as “civil rights issues.” Education is a problem for everyone. Our education system sucks. Can we stop comparing issues to past issues and just fix them.

Use businesses to change social problems and alleviate poverty: I think businesses help poverty more than most people think. But, we have to make sure we’re not forcing them to help.

Business or economic activity doesn’t end poverty alone: nothing on its own can alleviate poverty (except for God that is). Economic activity helps a ton, but it’s a combined effort of numerous sections of society.

A New Social Covenant: Human dignity, the common good, stewardship: Again, who defines “the common good”?

Arthur Brook’s Social Justice

I’ve heard Brook’s talk before on social justice. He comes at it from an out of the box way. And it’s great. I love that stuff.

But during the panel with Jim Wallis, Brooks seemed to lower himself to “yes man” status.

Yes, I understand that you agree with Wallis on a lot of things, but can we move past that?

Not only did he talk a lot about how similar his and Wallis’s views were, but he didn’t focus enough time on his personal views on the subject. Something I was looking forward to hearing.

minimum wage laws arthur brooks

Some of his main points were these…

  • There’s been a reduction of hunger poverty in the world. Caused by globalization, property rights, and free trade.
  • We are given special abilities and talents. We need to use them to help others.
  • If you love the poor, you must be for fiscally sane policies.
  • “I write music for the glory of God and for the benefit of man.” – Sebastian Boch. Meaning, what’s our goal in what we do? Is it to make money and be famous, or to glorify God and help mankind?

Criticizing Government Welfare? Anyone, Anyone, Bueler?

Arthur Brooks didn’t talk much…that was a bummer.

But that wasn’t the only letdown.

What really caught my attention was a lack of attention on the issue of government welfare.

No one criticized it during the panel. In fact, no one criticized it throughout the entire conference.

I was surprised. I mean, AEI is an economic organization. Welfare is something you criticize a lot in economics.

But nobody made a peep. Not one…

Now I do understand that they could have been leaving the issue on the sidelines because they already cover it in general.

Maybe they thought everyone already knows about the dangers of government welfare. We don’t need to beat a dead horse.

But when you’ve got people like Jim Wallis there, it’s helpful to clarify on some things. Mostly that you don’t appreciate the government taking money from one group to economically enslave another (all in the name of helping them).

I also appreciate what Brooks was trying to do. Which was, create an environment of open mindedness and common ground.

Yes, you might disagree with Jim Wallis on a number of issues, but in the big picture, we agree on a lot.

I appreciate that move, and I understand why Arthur Brooks would shy away from actively attacking the welfare state.

The question I was asking myself is, does Brooks actually believe in a minimal welfare state or not?

Who knows? I hope he doesn’t, but then again, I’m pretty sure he’s not that economically free.

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About John-Pierre Maeli

Keeping it simple and crystal clear, because anything else is useless. I'm here to not only inform you, but to also connect with you. That's what The Political Informer is all about. Feel free to follow me on either Twitter or Google+ Let's talk!

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