Monday, November 24, 2008

Social Justice Perspective (J. Philip Wogaman) #1: Introduction & Basics

The social justice view essentially argues that churches should strive for social justice by influencing public policy. It is grounded, initially in Wogaman’s account, that the state is society acting as a whole. This does not mean that we necessarily agree with every aspect of what’s done by our nation, but we participate in it nonetheless as participants in our society. This unified society is grounded on influencing others’ values to determine the majority values. Wogaman emphasizes, “anything that is actually valued by people is potentially a source of influence and therefore political power” (p. 217). Obviously people’s values are influenced by faith.

Theological Basis for Social Justice
The idea of rendering each their due is important biblically and in the social justice perspective. This plays itself out in biblical retributive justice, but Wogaman also uses the workers who get paid the same wage in his argument (Mt. 20.1-16). Ultimately, all are due punishment for sin, Wogaman argues, but God has given grace and invited people into life with Him. Likewise, the key component of social justice is that none would be marginalized, but all are included in the process and all have a voice. We are a communal people and all have a right to belong to a society and make their voice known in that society. We are individuals, Wogaman doesn’t go Marxist (and makes a point to say so), but we are less than human if we are not both individual and communal. In his discussion of liberation theology and Marxism, Wogaman notes that, in the emphasis to stem the tide of structural sin, not enough attention was paid to personal sin. The pendulum had swung too far away from the individual.

I was leery of this perspective, coming from a more evangelical, rather than mainline background, but I appreciate Wogaman’s balance between the communal and individual. I take some issue, but there are some interesting insights in this.

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