Saturday, May 05, 2007

Social Justice and "Sticking It to the Man"

Sheldon Vanauken's book, A Severe Mercy, is a profound true story of love and loss. Vanauken and his wife were personal friends of C. S. Lewis, and the influence is noticeable throughout the book. The book has virtually nothing to do with social justice, except what is quoted below, but I found Vanauken's comments interesting. He writes,
I was one of those caught up in the mood and action of the 1960s, especially the Peace Movement. Christ, I thought, would surely have me oppose what appeared an unjust war. But the Movement, whatever its ideals, did a good deal of hating. And Christ, gradually, was pushed to the rear: Movement goals, not God, became first, in fact--not only for me but for other Christians involved, including priests. I now think that making God secondary (which in the end is to make Him nothing) is, quite simply, the mortal danger in social action, especially in view of the marked intimation of virtue--even arrogant virtue--that often perilously accompany it. . . . Hating the opppresors of my neighbour isn't perhaps quite what Christ had in mind (234-35).
I've often thought along similar lines. Social justice is good and necessary for Christians to engage in. But the occasional motivation check is vital. Are we motivated by a love for Christ, or by our own sense of disenfranchised bitterness? Too often those we purport to serve end up being little more than a means by which we can "stick it to the Man."

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