What is social justice and how does it relate to liberation theology? How do sin, love, grace, and human freedom affect social justice? What restricts freedom and social justice? And how does all of this play a role in the Kingdom of God? Social justice is a concept of a society in which every human being is treated justly, without discrimination based on financial status, race, gender, ethnicity, etc. Grace is a gift from God that we don’t deserve, which helps us choose the good, therefore it promotes social justice. On the other hand, sin, which can be regarded as a lack of love and care for “others,” distances us from social justice. Therefore, love and grace are essential aspects of social justice and without them there could be no social justice in the world. Liberation theologians, major supporters of social justice, have multiple elements in their beliefs that respond to major social justice issues such as: unfair distribution of wealth, goods and services; oppression of people based on gender, race, and ethnicity; and the unjustness of social structures and institutions towards the underprivileged. Lastly, the ends of God’s kingdom and the ends of social justice are one in the same: Humans acting out of love to serve and give everything to those less fortunate and in need. In this idea of social justice is the belief that every human is entitled to specific political, economic, social, and human rights. However, in reality many people are stripped of these rights, leaving them without power and privilege, in other words leaving them less than human. They are subject to political structures making decisions for them, which is unjust because political figures with power, acting on behalf of those without power, don’t always make decisions that promote the well-being of the underprivileged. Laws passed by the government can be seen as “organized violence made to serve the interests of individuals… So everyone exists in a world in which he looks out for himself, each insists upon his rights, each fights for his existence and life becomes a struggle of all against all even when the battle is involuntarily fought (Haughey, 96)”. For example, most laws promote an “eye-for-an-eye” type of legal system. This encourages people to retaliate or “get even” with others, which is seen so often in America’s lawsuit-happy citizens. This is obviously in contradiction to the ends of social justice, which promote love and brotherhood. Social justice is not an “us versus them” mentality; rather it is a “were in it together” mentality where the powerful and powerless work together. Obviously those who are in need are the poor and oppressed: women, African-Americans, Jews, Latin Americans, etc. However, due to the fact that these people are in these oppressive situations, they gain insight into the injustices that surround them specifically, and society in general. Although they are made poor by those in power and the structures, institutions, and organizations run by those in power, they still possess “strength to resist, capacity to understand their rights, [and the ability] to organize themselves and transform a subhuman situation (Boff, 1)”. The poor and oppressed are held above the rich and powerful, in other words are given preferential treatment. Due to their oppression in life, they have more faith in Jesus, and therefore when the Kingdom of God comes the social order will become inverted. Those who are rich and powerful, mainly from oppressing others, will have the benefit of material objects in life, but will receive no further consolation in God’s Kingdom. Those who are financially distraught and oppressed can offer the powerful people insight into injustices that are overlooked all too often. It is the job of both of these groups, the powerful and powerless, to make strides together towards a more just and loving society that allows everyone to participate; Not some one-sided social order...
Cited: 1. Haughey, John C. The Faith That Does Justice: Examining the Christian Sources for Social Change. Broadway, New York: Paulist Press, 1977.
2. U.S. Catholic Conference. To Campaign for Justice. Washington, D.C.: The Bobbs Merrill Company, Inc., 1982
3. Gutierrez, Gustavo. A Theology of Liberation. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1971.
4. Cory, Catherine. Landry, David. “Augustine of Hippo.” The Christian Theological Tradition: Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.
5. Boff, Leonardo. “On Development and Theology.” Introducing Liberation Theology. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1986
6. Dazet, Paul. Love Wins: God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed. January 15, 2008.
7. Wolff, Edward. “The Wealth Divide: The Growing Gap in the United States between the Rich and the Rest.”
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