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Breaking Bad: The Church and Social Justice

4 ½ min

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world;

Red and yellow, black and white,

They are precious in His sight,

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

A Sunday School teacher at the Methodist church in Boonville, North Carolina taught my class this song in the late 1950s, when our state, like most of the South, still practiced racial segregation. The irony was lost on us eight-year-olds.

Later, the third line of this stanza changed to “Red, brown, yellow, black, and white,” but the sentiment remained the same: The Almighty is color-blind.

How about us? How are we doing? With today’s animus against white people, it seems the irony remains alive and breathing.

In her article “Jesuit-Led Parish Asks Parishioners to Pledge Affirming ‘White Privilege’ Must End,” Dr. Susan Berry examines the particulars of this pledge and includes this statement from the Church of St. Francis Xavier’s parish council:

It is uncomfortable and often distressing for white people to recognize that simply being white confers a presumptive superiority at the expense of people of color. ‘Slavery ended in 1865.’ ‘My family never benefited from black or brown labor.’ ‘I’ve worked hard for everything I have.’ These reactions seek to end the conversation. They seek to sidestep personal complicity in perpetuating the systems and institutions that support racial inequity. However, these reactions also confirm the speaker’s recognition that racial inequity exists – in housing, health care, education, the enjoyment of personal rights, and income, to name a few contexts.

In other words, no matter what you may say, if you’re white then you’re a racist. Which sounds, well, weirdly racist.

Several years ago, I attended a Catholic church in Asheville, North Carolina. The homilies delivered by one of the priests reminded me more of my college sociology class than an exhortation of righteousness. The priest said little about living out our faith as Christians, about marriage and family, or about avoiding sin and leading virtuous lives. Instead, he addressed the evils of capitalism, social injustice, and the historic wrongs committed by Christians.

Every month or so, he would inject racism into his sermon, reminding us of the evil of judging others by their skin color. Ours was a parish of whites and blacks – the majority of the Hispanics attended a separate Spanish Mass – yet whenever the priest, who was white, trotted out his race homily, some of my friends and I felt as if he were addressing only the whites in the congregation.

What happens when our churches promote such ideas about race?

In “Mere ‘Christianity’: How Social Justice is Corrupting the Faith,” Ben Hall analyzes the embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice ideals by some Christians. He demonstrates that social justice is both a religion unto itself and a totalitarian ideology unable to “tolerate the presence of dissent or opposition,” and recommends that Christians “should be very skeptical of any movement that prioritizes the political above the spiritual.”

Christians who align themselves with a group like Black Lives Matter have either failed to investigate that Marxist organization – which calls for sweeping changes, including to the nuclear family – or else have consciously decided to place politics above their religious beliefs. Either way, as Ben Hall points out, they have corrupted their faith.

They have undermined reality and objective truth as part of the bargain. Conceits like “systemic racism” and “white privilege” exist for the most part only in the minds of those advocating them. If we ask these folks where they see these theories in play, they may regurgitate some academic gobbledygook, but no solid evidence. Where in any part of today’s society do we find systemic racism? Where do we find white privilege? Speaking of which, is not that term itself racist?

The parish council missive cited above blames race for inequity, whereas in truth other factors bring it about. What about an educational system that denies school choice, which allows individuals – “red, brown, yellow, black, and white” – to improve their lot through learning? What about a free market system that ships jobs overseas or hires foreign workers, thereby denying employment to American citizens? What about a culture that promotes victimization and virtue signaling instead of individual responsibility?

And one more thing: faithful Christians owe no one an apology regarding social justice. For 2,000 years, they practiced the Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, give shelter to the traveler, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Long ago, Christians established hospitals, hostels, and universities, and took care of their sick or elderly neighbors. They founded anti-slavery societies and advocated for the poor. Today that tradition continues in the work of organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and the Salvation Army, and in the thousands of food and clothing banks and other such Christian agencies around the country.

Regardless of the political party, Christians should be wary of aligning their faith with those for whom politics is paramount.

“If you lie down with dogs,” the old adage runs, “you’ll get up with fleas.”

Given today’s radical politics, Christians, and indeed those of other religious faiths, should keep another bit of advice in mind: If you lie down with wolves, you may not get up at all.

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Image Credit: 

Flickr-Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA 2.0

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick

Jeff Minick lives in Front Royal, Virginia, and may be found online at jeffminick.com. He is the author of two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust on Their Wings, and two works of non-fiction, Learning as I Go and Movies Make the Man.

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doyhawk
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I had forgotten this from Catechism classes: Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, tend to the sick, give shelter to the traveler, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Thanks for putting action to word...
 
 

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Rowana F
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Thank you for this excellent article. It's full of truth, including the final two quotes.
 
 

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