The Gospel and Social Justice

One of my struggles with Christian social justice warriors is how they relate social justice to the gospel. This is a difficult issue to raise, as 99% of the time I'm in agreement with the public calls for social justice on a variety of issues. What concerns me, however, is the path we walk in the church toward those calls.

One of my post-progressive criticisms of progressive Christianity is how it equates social justice with the gospel, collapsing the gospel into the container of social justice with no remainder.

The issue here goes to a point I've raised before about means and ends. Many progressive Christians use Jesus as the means to reach social justice ends. We call and act for social justice because of Jesus. And that's true. But the temptation here is that, when Jesus is reduced to being the reason or means toward a greater end, Jesus becomes instrumentalized, treated as a tool, and as a tool superfluous and discardable. Because in the end it's only the end that matters, not how you get there.

Now of course, progressive Christians can object to this. As long as we're working for social justice these theological quibbles can be deemed irrelevant. Worse, raising these quibbles is likely a reflection of my privilege.

Perhaps, but I'm going to stand my ground on this one. For reasons I've learned from the incarcerated and the homeless. The gospel is much bigger than social justice, though social justice is a huge, urgent part of the kingdom's business with the world. Thus my constant chatter in my church when sharing with our SJW members that social justice is a means toward the kingdom, not the other way around. This looks like a subtle distinction and ordering, but the two are regularly flipped. And it's critical to get the ordering right to keep social justice from falling into idolatry.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Social justice is a hammer. The gospel is the entire toolbox, the building materials, the blueprint, the workers, the architect, and the people living harmoniously in the house together.

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