“I, the Lord, command you to do what is just and right. Protect the person who is being cheated from the one who is cheating him. Do not ill-treat or oppress foreigners, orphans, or widows; and do not kill innocent people in this holy place.”
For better or for worse, Christianity and political/social conservatism seem to be inextricably linked. The general sentiment among far too many Conservative Christians is that America used to actually be a perfect, shining city on a hill, and nothing was really wrong with America until those gosh darn liberals came to this country and started creating all kinds of issues.
This phenomenon defines the approach of Christians to social justice issues. When the Left raises issues within our society, the Right seems to have a tendency to bury its head in the sand and tell everyone to stop complaining and deal with it -as if the issues being raised never existed before people started speaking out over them. There is a smug arrogance about conservatism which dismisses and scoffs at any issues or solutions proposed by those “despicable” social justice warriors.
The reality is that the fight for social justice in the United States is indeed horribly misguided, but this is not the fault of those gosh darn Liberals. The blame lies with the Christians who have forgotten their duty to care for the poor, the destitute, and the helpless. Far too many Christians have traded that duty for the tired conservative dogma that everything would be okay if we just went back to the way things were supposed to be when we were supposedly a “Christian nation.”
The prime example of this in my experience is the general reaction to Lady Gaga’s Oscar’s performance which was aimed at raising awareness and support for victims of rape (particularly on college campuses). After watching the performance, I was personally moved. Sure, I might not agree with all of the sentiments expressed by Lady Gaga’s performances (such as support for the ethical merit of the lgbt+ lifestyle), but even I can admit and loudly support the idea that nobody should ever be sexually assaulted whether they are sober or intoxicated, gay or straight.
Unfortunately, the vitriol which I witnessed from Conservative Christians on social media was nothing short of disturbing. Almost every comment on threads centered around sensationalized conservative blog pieces was about how college students must not have anything better to do than complain about …rape. Some of the responses were less detestable. They pointed out some possible weaknesses in the current idea of “rape culture,” but they didn’t stop with the logical extensions of those critiques. Rather, they used those perceived flaws to discredit the entire anti-rape movement.
This is the kind of lack of nuance which makes me embarrassed to be counted among conservatives. The reality is that Christians should be at the forefront of any movement to remedy problems within our society. Rather than mocking, deriding, and discrediting entire social movements which are aimed at fixing very real issues altogether, Christians should be the ones defining what it looks like to effectively fight those issues.
But the reality is that Christians have failed to do this. Buying into conservative dogma, fundamentalist Christians are all too quick to dismiss racial issues, cultural issues, and general questions of equality within our culture. Rather than fighting to define what equality should look like, Christians have surrendered the fight for equality to the Left, and have somehow become shocked when the current fight for social justice reflects the values of the Left.
Rather than smugly mocking the current debates over issues of gentrification, the privilege of some races over others, the treatment of women in the workplace, etc., Christians should be involved in the conversation of which issues are truly valid, and working earnestly to find solutions for them. Safe spaces and cultural appropriation might be absurd ideas, but flawed ideas like these should only motivate Christians to participate in the debate over social justice rather than driving them away from it and leaving it to the whims and values of the Left.
This does not mean that the government will be used to solve every issue. That is the kind of Progressive ideology which Conservative Christians should be pushing back against. But that doesn’t mean pushing back against “social justice” in general. This is not a call to suddenly give in to the Left on every issue of social justice. It is a call to meet the Left at the points where the issues lie, define the terms, and win the debates while showing that Christians and Conservatives can be open to hearing and willing to resolve deep, troubling issues within our society.
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