“In that bracing moment, my heart cries for out for bloody justice to be done on the earth,
and for the helpless victim to be avenged.
Did I just become some kind of liberal?”
njustice is real, and it is morally appalling. I know this to be true. But do I believe it in my heart?
If I’m being honest, I get cynical about certain “justice” issues (as they are pegged), and particularly the people who promulgate them in the public square and on college campuses. Quite often, my vision of these issues becomes colored by the frailties and imperfections of the Social Justice Warriors themselves (forgive the pejorative-sounding term). When I watch these Warriors, I see a utopian vision for society that contradicts the biblical view of a fallen world that groans under the weight of sin. When I listen to them, I hear the idolization of social and political goals at the expense of the gospel, the message that ought to animate the deepest passions of every Christian heart. The gospel of Calvary is too ethereal, we are told — we must move on to more urgent and practical matters like providing affordable housing and solving world hunger.
I also associate the Social Justice Warriors with bad economics and poor policy solutions, because, well, they seem so reliably to go hand in hand. They often seem impervious to the fact that redistributionism has failed communities around the world — that it tears apart social fabric, stifles the incentive for excellence, breeds social envy, and ensures economic equality at the grave expense of actual economic well-being. The Social Justice Warriors also often exude a kind of youthful sexiness that flavors their message of social change, sometimes overpoweringly so. This can make Team Justice less appealing to those who truly desire a vision of the Good but have little taste for the vanity of self-congratulation.
These manifold shortcomings seem, more often than not, to bleed into one another as parts of a seamless whole. This is not always the case, but in my experience, it often is.
So I get cynical about it all. Not just about Social Justice Warriors, but about the issues themselves. Yes, I realize that’s a non sequitur. An imperfect advocate for an issue does not render the issue unimportant — not in the slightest. But my heart seems to lead my brain in this area, and my heart has no problem embracing non sequiturs.
But then, I see the Planned Parenthood videos, and everything changes. Suddenly, in a flash, I remember.
I remember just what it is to look bald injustice in the face, to see the image of God in human beings desecrated and demeaned. I remember what it is to see the weak cut down by the strong. In that bracing moment, my heart cries for out for bloody justice to be done on the earth, and for the helpless victim to be avenged.
Did I just become some kind of liberal? All of a sudden I’m feeling the pangs of moral outrage, watching a fully formed, live fetus being poked at with a scissors like a worm in a science lab. I want to pull my hair out and weep. I want to mourn for the abject wickedness of mankind, and for the soul — no, the thousands and millions of unborn American souls every year — being snuffed out while the law looks the other way.
All of a sudden, justice has lost its abstractions, its political connections, its youthful sexiness and self-glorifying vanities. Injustice is once again real to me, and I know that it matters.
In all truth, that existential zeal for justice (or at least some vision of it) is neither a liberal nor a conservative impulse. It is a gift of common grace to everyone who bears God’s image, one that we appropriate with a great deal of inconsistency and according to differing visions of the world.
We really have two problems here. First, we find authority in different sources of truth (be it Scripture, culture, or our own fickle intuitions), and so we arrive at very different visions of the world and of what justice is. But beyond this, even among those of us who presumably hold to the same Christian vision of the world, we remain remarkably selective and inconsistent in the way we apply that vision in public policy. We seem inescapably influenced by non-biblical visions of justice, from all ideological sides.
But my goal here is not to weigh the merits of differing visions of justice. We will engage that task a great deal in the days ahead at Ecclesiam. The point I want to highlight here is rather singular. When I see a video of an aborted child being abused and discarded as though it were nothing more than a cancer — even as its heart is still beating — I feel the zeal of all who cry out for justice. It is a universal cry, and in that moment, I know those Social Justice Warriors at a deeper level. My heart feels in that moment what they feel on any number of other issues, issues that perhaps I need more exposure to. Some of these people may be quite wrong in their worldviews and in the solutions that they propose. I believe many of them are. But I know what they feel, and it is not trivial. I know that in a fundamental way, they are like me, and I like them. They are image bearers of the living God, and their yearnings must not be trivialized.
Daniel Davis is lives in Washington, D.C. and serves as Editor-in-Chief for Ecclesiam. He graduated from Wheaton College in 2014 with a B.A. in History, having minored in Political Science. He loves theology, history, philosophy, and politics, and he enjoys engaging those subjects from a biblical worldview. His work has been published by The Federalist, Townhall and Values & Capitalism. His views are his own and in no way reflect those of his employer. Daniel is an active member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter at @JDaniel_Davis.