As long as we can identify demographics within society that have higher potential to gain access to wealth, education, safe living environments, healthy food, and other varying benefits of what could be considered base standards of modern life, there is a need for social justice work.
The compound term social justice can be defined by simply considering what the two individual words mean. “Social” has to do with a collective group of people, and “Justice” is fairness and impartiality. Social justice is fairness and impartiality in regards to how access is granted to privileges and opportunities within society. The work of social justice ranges in the form it takes, but always serves to address address inequality in an effort to eliminate it. Specifically in relation to where I live in Rochester, but all over the United States and abroad, the quality of education that children receive is often predicated by their zip code. With access to learning being dictated by where a child lives, the residual effects of poorly educated communities lasts generations and spills into every aspect of life, perpetuating both poverty and negative stereotypes about the demographic. Those miseducated people have limited access to wealth, limiting their access to proper medical care and healthy food choices, bringing them into a downward spiral.
For Christians and people of faith, considering that God made humanity in God’s image means that a demographic’s race, gender, sexual orientation, level of education, nor any other factor should cause intrinsic value to decrease. Sinner or saint, Christian or nonbeliever, poor or rich, authentic Christian faith promotes the worth and value of every human being, and as long as societal structures say otherwise, this work has a place in our midst.
While the tendency to “get mine” is so prevalent, where the concern for one’s own well-being can be so great that it overshadows any concern for someone else, I appreciate the words of Isaiah 1:16 &17.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
The word of the Lord comes to the people to:
1) stop doing evil and
2) learn to do good!
We can heed those instructions today to see a change in our society. Acknowledging and ceasing the evil that is a play from our behavior or the behavior of people we could influence, then taking the time to learn to do good, could have a positive effect on the communities in our societies that are oppressed.
While social justice is needed in many areas of American and world society, the issue of education being a privilege versus a right that everyone has is an area where I think social justice work can have a positive, residual effect on other areas of life. The weakness that so many demographics have in society can be reversed with education. Knowledge is power!
As communities and congregations, we can empower those who we have access to through learning enrichment and tutoring. Even without assistance from other agencies, if the church would intentionally supplement the work that teachers do in schools, students would have a consistent place to get the help that they need, and the result could be entire communities rising through generations of properly educated people. A potential plan to achieve this could include community GPA friendly competitions and an intensified presence of church leadership in schools.
Social justice work includes giving a voice to the voiceless, and speaking truth to power against the powers within infrastructures that oppress people. Yet, social justice work can also be done by reversing the negative trends through empowering the oppressed in society to overcome.
We owe it to God, to our sisters and brothers, and to ourselves, to serve one another as we continue to work to achieve social justice. What are your thoughts?