Monday, September 21, 2009

Social Justice vs. Mercy

For some readers who have read of my opinions regarding the Catholic "social justice" set, my apologies. This is one more post on the topic.

I've written before of my disdain for the "social justice" agitators in the Catholic Church because I think they're confused. The downside is -- they're also very vocal and to the undiscerning ear, sound Biblically correct when thumping for the cause. It has irritated me for quite some time and, as often is the case, I ponder it until I can figure out why it irritates me.

I've noticed that those who push the "social justice" agenda usually lean left in many of their views. Along with social justice is an obsession with ordaining women as priests, approval of homosexuality, and a frequent attitude of dissent with Rome. Those traits are enough to make me suspicious and warn me that they may be in deep, spiritual danger. I have pointed out that all too frequently, a focus on "social justice" can distract a person from true spiritual growth. As I've said before, Jesus didn't die on a cross for a cause. He died for the sin of the world and to bring us salvation.

I've discovered another reason why I react so strongly toward this deceptive "cause." And it's because of this: Mercy.

I haven't yet found an online Catholic Bible with study aids, so I used the Blue Letter Bible. I did a simple search on the words "Justice" and "Mercy." In the Bible, the word "justice" occurred 28 times. "Mercy," however, is mentioned 276 times.

Why bring this up? Because I believe that we as the Body of Christ are called more to show mercy, than justice.

Who, really, can dispense justice? In John 14:27, Jesus says this:

"And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."

We are to follow Jesus' example, which included not judging others (regarding the state of their soul) but to love one another and show mercy. Yes, we need to be discerning and wise observation of spiritual things is necessary. But we are not to demand justice from a fallen world. Life, as we know it here, is unfair on many levels. Evil men acquire wealth while good men go poor. Dishonest men succeed while honest men fail. Greedy organizations thrive while selfless ones wither. Is it our job, as the Body of Christ to right all the wrongs in the world?

Someone may say, "Well, aren't we to called to defend the defenseless?" I'm not sure about that. If someone has relevant Scripture verses, please share them in the combox. I know in Psalm 82, there is a plea for justice but the plea is made to God our Father. On numerous occasions, Jesus would show mercy to the sinner and would turn the other cheek when treated unjustly.

There is something arrogant about thinking I can change the world into acting justly. The world hates true justice. It is why the devil worked so hard to prevent Jesus Christ from being born, let alone live. He knew that judgement was coming but it came in an unexpected way. Only by sacrificing His own life did Jesus accomplish the justice that was required by His Father.

I can't help but wonder what this country would look like if those who are so focused on "social justice" causes instead focused more on showing mercy and forgot the whole legislative process after all. Laws are written and forgotten - but the mercy of God is unending. Many of our saints became saints because they consistently showed mercy. Even Mother Teresa, whom some would call an activist for the downtrodden, was known for her mercy. I'll close with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes:

I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.


X said...

I like that quote! Also you've given me something to think about. I might just send this post to my uber-liberal democratic friend.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

Amen, Mary Rose!

Minkykat said...

Ya know, I was just thinking on this topic this very morning coming back from mass. We had ended the service with yet ANOTHER athem to "social justice".

I had the car radio turned to a Proestant church station. They were playing great old hymn after old hymn...
"To GOD be the glory great things he has done..."

And it hit me. The old hymns of years ago all stressed to GOD be the glory, to GOD be the praise and worship. Most of the new "hymns" are nothing more than banal Sunday School athems that stress how good is MAN for wanting to care for his brother and how we should be "one" with the people.

I agree with you; maybe if we focused more on God and his mercy to say nothing of his glory, maybe justice would follow in its own way.
Seems to me like they have the cart before the horse.
Thanks for this installment!

X said...

I sent your post to two friends and here is what K. had to say:

"Mercy is a virtue twice-blest; it blesses he who gives and he who receives... it is enthroned in the hearts of kings." That little tidbit, probably misquoted, from the Merchant of Venice was floating around in my mind the other day. Funny, that you should send me an email dealing with the same subject. My other thought was the Pope's latest encyclical also deals with it. From what I recall he mentions that mercy and justice are inseparable, and that love (which plays into mercy, no) should always be the basis for justice (ie. giving what is rightfully owed). Something like that. Yes, definitely food for thought."

And M. said this:
You might send this on to 2 city councillors who are Catholic. It would be interesting to see how they feel about their positions as counsellors for the people of this city.

Development and Peace is also really involved with social justice. Who is the lady that started the food program for kids in school, (Agnes?)or something along that line. I wonder how she would feel about this. It might be interesting to get their input.
I would also say Birth Right is involved in social justice for the unborn of society.

X said...

Mary Rose, after thinking about this post, and mulling over what my friends said, it makes me feel that you are tired of fighting the system. Now, I know that just can't be true! But that is what the post made me feel. (I know..feelings bad, reason good...but I can't help feeling what I feel!)

Mary Rose said...

Angela, very interesting thoughts! I have been thinking about what your friends said, too.

I am not saying that as a Christian, I should not stand for what is right according to God's Word. So if I sounded as though I wanted to throw any type of strong activism out the window, my apologies. I certainly believe in the ongoing battle for the unborn's rights in our society.

Again, I'm still feeling my way through some things since returning to the Catholic Church. I have always admired the Catholic Church's stance on issue of life. I agree with Pope Benedict that as Christians, we are to engage in the public square regarding such important issues as the sanctity of life and respect for religious viewpoints.

Any Catholic who has a role within a society's government has an awesome opportunity to share their perspective. Our county was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and I do believe there is a place to take a stand for those principles.

What I am referring to with the "social justice" set is (to me) a distinctive Marxist agenda. Many of those involved with social justice focus on class consciousness, pressing the awareness of those who "struggle" and attempts to find justice for them. This is the area I question.

When injustice persists, there is, of course, a growing discontent among those who are wronged. Moses took up the cause of the Israelites, who were definitely being treated unjustly. So there are times when God does call us to confront society's injustice.

But there's something I can't quite put my finger upon with some of the activists within the Catholic Church. I absolutely disagree with anyone trying to mix Christianity with Marxist or Communistic ideology. I believe as Christians we are to show mercy to those who are oppressed but I'm not sure how effective it is to continue to rail against the system.

When Jesus came, His apostles wanted Him to topple the system, but He made it clear to them that wasn't His mission. I think about the world's system quite a bit. Greed and power run it. As Christians, I believe we're to confront it but unsure about finding justice.

You may be right. I might be tired of fighting the system. But I also look at my time and energy and with prayer, ask God to show me the best way to use both. So far, I've not seen the point of fighting against the system but then again, it's most likely not my calling. Not everyone is a Moses. :-)

For those who are, and have God's Kingdom in mind when doing it. bless them and my prayers are for them. Just watch out for the Marxists. ;-)

Rachel said...

It's too bad that "social justice" in Catholic circles often means agitating for abortion, women priests, homosexual marriage, and other wrong stuff. It ought to mean things like fighting for the innocent unborn, or protecting the conscience rights of individuals and institutions.

When I research religious orders, I avoid the ones that have the phrase "social justice" on their front page or in their mission statement. It's code for "We hate the Church."