What do you think of the left wing Christians who are calling on Christians to stand up for “biblical justice”?
Yes, we’ve been hearing a lot of this recently, especially from more “progressive” (left-tending) Christians calling on people to vote “God’s politics” and stand up for “biblical justice.” On the one hand, I along with everyone else applaud such rhetoric, for what Bible-believing Christian in their right mind would take a stand against “biblical justice”?
At the same time, this rhetoric, used in a political arena, frankly bothers me. Here are three reasons why:
1) Do we need the Bible to tell us this in order to stand for justice? Don’t non-Christians also stand for justice? Don’t all decent people stand for justice? What’s uniquely biblical about this?
2) What political mileage can you really get out of the Bible’s call to stand for justice? For example, the main criteria for justice today centers on political freedom and personal rights. But where in the Bible do we find any interest in these concerns? Yes, everyone is made in the image of God. But nowhere does the Bible talk about people having “inalienable rights” because of this. (This was an Enlightenment concept, not a Biblical one). In fact, when the idea of political freedom and personal rights first began to be seriously considered in the Enlightenment period, it was mainly Christians who opposed the idea! How can anyone support the idea that people should have a say in who governs them, they reasoned, when the Bible clearly says that GOD establishes the “governing authorities” (Rom.13:1). It’s also interesting to realize that the same Bible that tells us God calls us to stand for justice is the Bible that endorses male domination, construes women to be property and encourages (in the OT) and allows for (in the NT) slavery!
So honestly, can you really base a modern ethic of justice on the Bible?
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe people have inalienable rights. I believe justice includes supporting equal rights for all and supporting personal and political freedom. But I believe this because I’m an American, not because I’m a Christian.
3) What political disputes are solved by appealing to biblical justice? What’s the point of appealing to biblical justice? Are there political opponents out there that stand against biblical justice? Is there an “Anti-Biblical Justice Party”? No. Everybody stands for “justice,” they just define it and apply it differently. So everyone can appeal to the “biblical call for justice” for support, if they want to. In fact, just over a hundred years ago slave owners could appeal to it to support slavery. People who think women should be subservient to men can appeal to it as well.
Which means that while appealing to the Bible’s call for justice may make us feel like our views have more authority, it actually gets us nowhere.
For example, I’ve recently (July, 2007) gotten several mailings from left-wing Christian organizations asking me to stand with them for “biblical justice” and “peacemaking” by opposing the war in Iraq and calling on our government to pull our troops out now. Sounds righteous enough. Let’s march!!! But, on the other hand, one could argue that this move might prove to be the most unjust and war-encouraging thing we could possibly do! Sure, it would save American lives, but why think American lives are more valuable than Iraqi lives — or even the lives of terrorists? So, in the name of standing for “biblical justice,” one could argue that our troops should stay as long as is needed to ensure stability.
Now, we could debate the merits of pulling out verses staying endlessly — as with most other political matters. Fine. But my point is that appealing to “biblical justice” to support our views won’t help the matter. To the contrary, it just invites the typical divisiveness of the world’s politics into the Church.
So, it seems to me that trying to root a political position in the “biblical call to stand for justice” is:
1) somewhat disingenuous, since you would have stood for the “justice” position you believe in anyways;
2) somewhat disingenuous, since the freedom and rights you’re standing for aren’t in the Bible; and
3) very unhelpful, since everyone on all sides of the debate can make the exact same claim.
I say let’s just come clean and let common decency define “the justice” that governs politics. And in the meantime, how about we followers of Jesus just do the one thing we’re supposed to be doing: imitating Jesus’ self-sacrificial love to all people at all times.
Whatever “biblical justice” means, we’ll certainly get it covered if we are aiming at replicating Calvary.
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