Image from here: The Theological Wanderings of a Street Pastor: Charity vs Justice.
I loved this statement and wanted to repost because it seems that Christians are quite comfortable with charity, but seem to get a little uneasy when some ask the deeper questions. I have asked lots of questions, the answers to which are matters of justice. In the process of asking these difficult questions, I have become more politically minded, and more sure about my political position. (I’m still a baby thinker though and have so much more to learn – if only I could read all day…sigh)
It’s seems to me that it is inevitable that if you ask questions about poverty, access to education and medical care, about disparity in health status and life expectancy that you are going to encounter issues of justice. It goes beyond charity (which is good and right) and starts to become political.
The fundamental evangelical movement in America, and by and large the churches I have been involved in, (mainly influenced by evangelical fundamentalism) have a strong right wing position. Could it be that a theology of a rewards based relationship with God, and an emphasis on human effort (prayer and programs, pressing in and going hard after God) to advance His Kingdom, results in a political view of rewarding the successful and favouring the strong? What political position would result from a theology of a God who speaks on behalf of the widow and orphan, the poor and down trodden, the oppressed and broken? (And worth thinking about: What kind of theologies spawned Nazism, apartheid and the absolute destruction of indigenous peoples that we have seen over and over again throughout history? Extreme Calvansim perhaps? I don’t know, I’d like to find out. I think most can agree that it was a faulty theology that justified slavery, where many Christians were vocally in support of it at the time)
The thing I have found difficult to swallow in the preaching of the church background I’m from, is the emphasis on success, prosperity, and positivity. I just can’t close my eyes to the fact that 925 million people in the world don’t have enough to eat. I’m not sure the prosperity message would go down too well in the developing world, and yet we know throughout scripture that God’s heart is towards the poor, the broken, and the oppressed.
Our western culture by and large IS an oppressor. Our greed for cheap luxury goods keeps people poor, and robs countries of their natural resources. Our demand for trinkets and latte keeps people producing electronics, coffee and chocolate instead of food for their own people. Yes, we rich nations give a lot of aid. But stop and think about why Africa or Asia needs aid in the first place? Yes there is corruption and poor governance there, but don’t you think some of Africa’s troubles has to do with the hundreds of years of exploitation of it’s people and natural resources to make the west rich? The breaking of indigenous cultures under the oppression of racist policies? The breaking of families: fathers away for months or years at a time working for a pittance in diamond and gold mines to make a few white people rich? Hell Yes. So, granted, we rich people give aid and our wealth allows us to do a lot of good in the world, but let’s stop and think about how we got rich in the first place. I’m not talking about the last 5 -10 years. I’m talking about looking for a moment at the history of the worlds richest countries, and their track records of justice or lack of it.
I know that our understanding has evolved over the years. I know that many wrongs were done by people who had the best of intentions and who thought they were doing good. It’s my hope that our theology, our knowledge of God and his goodness, will inform us and transform the way we live…and I hope for justice. I hope that of all people, that Christians will be known as those who stand up against injustice. God forbid that we would find ourselves in bed with the oppressor (again).
Some related stuff I’ve been reading:
- Video: Michael Moore on Capitalism
- Ten Propositions on Political Theology – Kim Fabricius
- Justice Powered by Faith: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Jewsish Question (PDF)
- Why Dietrich Bonhoeffer Matters