Is Social Justice a Codeword?

Or is it?
Or is it?

One the neat things about finding a new voice and reaching out to a new audience is that when you’re struggling for a topic, you can get in your WABAC (pronounced “way-back”) Machine and revisit previous posts. Today, as the title indicates, we’re going to talk about social justice. It’s been almost two years ago since I wrote the original post and a few things have changed. First, as I mentioned in the opening sentence, I’m trying to reach a new audience. Second, I’m reaching out to them in a different way, one that I hope isn’t quite as angry and condemning. Third is that Glenn Beck’s presence on the national stage is significantly diminished. That one is kind of a double-edged sword because, while he isn’t on TV saying things guaranteed to raise the hackles of any progressive worth their salt, his absence means one less source of blog fodder. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t resurrect some of his greatest hits, starting with “Social justice and economic justice, they are code words“, which he said after urging viewers to “look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can”. The implication being, of course, that they’re code for socialism. God, I miss that guy.

I’m going to start with a couple of definitions.  According to, social justice is “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.” Socialism is “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Now, I’ve been going for a long time and while I have heard a lot said about social justice, I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard a pastor (or anyone else) advocate the governmental or collective ownership of anything.

The thing is social justice was a huge part Jesus’ ministry here on earth; the Sermon on the Mount is riddled with it. Don’t believe me?  Look at the Beatitudes.  Those nine statements turned Jewish society of the time on its ear. If you’re still not sold on this justice thing, remember what Jesus said in his first sermon (Luke 4:18-19),

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And, if that’s not enough, read Matthew 25:34-46. Here’s an interesting exercise: the next you read any of the Gospels, try looking for words about social justice. It is eye-opening to say the least.

So, is social justice a code word? Yes, but when you decode it, you’ll find it might not mean what you think.