Christians and Economic Justice

by Mo Johnson (Montclair, VA)

Luke 4:

17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them,

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

After reading the above passage -- how can anyone doubt that economic justice was important to Jesus? In fact, it is one of the central themes in the Word of God -- from the prophets through to Jesus. Those who spoke for God, spoke up for the poor; the oppressed and for economic justice. Jesus said God anointed him for this very purpose (certainly for other purposes as well, but this was the first "gospel" or "good news" Jesus spoke of).

Today, in America we are witnessing a massive shift of wealth and power away from the poor and middle class to the rich. American workers are more productive than ever; working harder than ever; producing more and more efficiently than any other workers in the world. Each year we see productivity gains -- last year it was about a 6% gain in productivity. Productivity gains directly result in increased net income for the businesses receiving those gains.

Yet, of that 6% gain, only about .3% of it was passed on to the workers who produced it. The rest (about 99%) went to the owners of the businesses (mostly rich people -- yes, I know most of us own a few shares of this and that -- but the vast majority of that wealth went to the already super-wealthy).

We see what is happening in Wisconsin. Public workers are being squeezed to give back wage gains and benefits they had earned. The problem is NOT that these teachers, bus drivers, police and firemen earn too much. They all earn decent salaries with decent benefits. Enough to raise a family and live a decent life.

Yet, we are told they earn too much. More must be taken from them because, after all, workers in the private sector don't earn as much or have as many benefits.

And, that is the real problem. Not that public workers earn too much. Rather, the problem is that workers in the private sector have largely lost their negotiating power. Businesses don't need them as much due to technology and access to cheaper labor in our modern global economy.

And we see the gap between the rich and the rest of us continue to widen. Workers have no choice but to take whatever they can get because good jobs are hard to come by.

Now, I am not saying the answers to this problem is easy. In fact, I do not have the answer. I have some ideas, but certainly not the answer.

All I am saying here and now is that it is disappointing that the "christian" church generally is silent about all this. Generally, the modern church dwells on spiritual matters and dreams of the heaven to come -- while ignoring what is happening to God's Kingdom; God's people -- on earth.

It seems that the rich not only use the government for their purposes (i.e. bailouts for the wealthy) but now have taken control of the theology of the church and distorted it so that we no longer think much about how to strengthen God's Kingdom on earth.

This makes sense, unfortunately, since money is the root of all evil and it takes money to build human institutions -- like churches and seminaries. So, over time, money has flowed to institutions that the money was comfortable with. And, inevitably, our politics and theology has also changed so that it generally supports the rich over the poor.

Our theology now mostly says -- "don't worry about the world or social/political issues (well maybe abortion and homosexuality since those pose no threat to the rich) -- but otherwise, let's just make our theology dwell on the spiritual, the afterlife, otherworldly things. Forget God's Kingdom on earth. Forget about building a more just and righteous society.

Modern conservative/evangelical theology has become a (maybe the) key weapon the rich use to prevent christians from doing as Amos, Isaiah, Micah and Jesus did -- calling for justice and righteousness -- here and now!

It really would be the Christian thing to do.

Please Read These Other Related Pages:

Comments for Christians and Economic Justice:

That's Why the Social Gospel Has Been Almost Stamped Out - by MOJO

Just wanted to clarify that of course living in America most of us are rich when compared to most of the rest of the world. So, we mostly all have contributed to discouraging preaching and theology that tells us to sacrifice and support those less fortunate than we are. That's just human nature.

If Jesus were here today, I wonder how many of us would want to hear his message? Most people (even Christians I think) in America oppose sacrificial social policies that would protect God's creation; help immigrants; care for the sick, etc. We'd probably say, "oh that's impractical Jesus, surely God doesn't expect us to really sacrifice for others? Nah, God is only interested in our spiritual, theoretical lives."

Anyway, the great weight of human selfishness has drastically altered our theology to something very different from what Jesus preached.

Naturally, the more money you have, the more influence you likely will have on various aspects of our culture -- including seminaries. Seminaries need money to build buildings and pay their professors. Without that, they die. Preachers have to keep their congregations happy. So, it's like evolution, the institutions most adaptable to selfish human desires will thrive; the others will die out. That's what's happened to a great extent.

That's why the social gospel has almost been completely stamped out.

Here's a possible explanation for the decline of liberal mainline churches.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Like This Site

+1 Gospel Politics

Like This Page