I applaud the rise of social justice Christianity, at least up to a certain point. Some of this movement is a politically left response to the political right. This always causes me to pause and look for the holes in the argument, of which I see a number. When the point becomes the politics of left or right then I have my serious doubts about its value or real effectiveness. We are charged, very clearly, to love justice and mercy. We are also called to live out the faith in the public square. This means we cannot be silent about concerns that are on God’s mind. I believe these include life and freedom at the top of the list.
In my recent work in the Read the Bible in 90 Days program I have been in the prophets of the Old Testament the last week or more. Their message is strong and deeply convicting. My friend Anthony Bradley raises some really good questions about the pro-life issue and the role younger “missional” Christians have taken in remaining outside the political part of this struggle to save lives, especially in urban New York City where Dr. Bradley lives.
I am not sure that Anthony has written the definitive response to this point but he should be heard and his views discussed and debated. I wonder what you think about his reasoning. A good number of comments can be found on the World Magazine page where his article appears. There you can see how some have already responded to this article. Insightful agreement and disagreement is welcome here too.
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Was social justice Christianity ever not there? I grew up in a fundamentalist church in the South that would have beaten pants off any emergent, bringing in the kingdom of god type of movement – feeding, clothing, housing, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, etc. They did it all. And along the way they thought we should beat the Communists, which we did, too. Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about.
I agree with Anthony Bradley and an academic study that was conducted a few years ago actually demonstrates that religiously conservative people are the most generous givers to charity. They also tend to donate their time more generously as well. These findings were detailed in the book titled “Who Really Cares?” by Arthur Brooks. Would be fascinating to see you read and review that book some time, Dr. Armstrong.
I know Arthur Brooks and the thesis of this book and his overall work. I met him personally at Wheaton College a few months ago when he debated Jim Wallis, an excellent event at which Brooks did a great job. I believe the “facts” oppose the claims of those on the far left who sincerely believe that they care so deeply about the weak and poor. Some do give but many want the government to do it for them.
Now, if Jim Wallis is serious about engaging the other way of solving these problems he needs to debate the one person who can go toe-to-toe with him and show why he is wrong about so many of his solutions. I refer to Fr. Robert Sirico of Acton Institute, who Wallis does not appear to want to talk to in public. Maybe he knows what might happen. Sirico would be civil and gracious but he would expose Wallis on the issues in a completely Christian way.
Fascinating that you got to engage with Brooks and that he was at Wheaton. I wish I had been able to see that debate. I did hear that he is not a Christian, which some have noted actually lends more credibility to his findings. Is that true, or is Brooks also a Christian?
I love your idea of having a substantive, courteous and collegial debate between Dr. Sirico and Dr. Wallis – perhaps you can coordinate that, Dr. Armstrong!
Arthur Brooks is a Christian, a practicing Catholic from what he told me personally. His grandfather was a dean at Wheaton College in the 1940s. He was Methodist. Brooks grew up in Seattle.