Social Justice Is a Secular Religion
I have been hammering on this theme for a while now, and there is good reason for that. I remember listening to some sermons and podcasts over 10 years ago where some Christian leaders were trying to point out the problems with the social justice movements happening in North America, in particular how they affect and infect the Church. At the time, I remember thinking to myself, “there definitely is something off about all this, but I don’t really see what the big deal is”. There were then—and are now—other Christian leaders who fully embraced the social justice movement and, even more the point, argued that it was demanded of us as believers to do so. To be honest, it felt like a lot of this went right over my head and I ended up not really doing much about it.
All of that changed for me when George Floyd died. The subsequent Black Lives Matter movement absolutely forced me to no longer stay on the fringe of these issues, so I finally dived in full force. I read and listened to absolutely everything I could get my hands on from a variety of different perspectives. But, most importantly, I started investigating text books and primary source literature about social justice. This is when the light bulb finally went on for me. The reason I had trouble making sense of social justice movements was simply because I never took any sociology classes in college or university. These places are the training grounds for social justice activists, where they gain a certain understanding of the world and everything wrong with it. Once I was finally able to bring clarity to various terms and concepts, everything fell into place.
Therefore, I have a lot of sympathy for those who either reject my arguments or are suspicious of them. I was in their shoes not long ago. It took me a long time to make sense of it all, and it helped hearing it from a variety of different angles. That’s why I keep harping on this issue. I’m certain there are those out there who, like me, will take some time to be able to wrap their heads around this subject.
Here I am again shooting at the same target from a different angle. I’m arguing that social justice, as it is being lived out in real-time, functions exactly like a religion. It is not a fringe activity that can be tacked on to the life you are already living. It actually demands to be at the centre of your life, because embracing social justice demands embracing a certain view of the world, yourself, and those around you. I have created the following chart to help show the ways social justice parallels Christianity. The point is to demonstrate that the more you embrace social justice ideology, the more your Christian faith will be forced out of your life. Put simply: they are competing worldviews. To the degree that you accept one, you must reject the other.
This is not to say that Christians don’t care about justice or compassion. Don’t misunderstand me. Scripture calls us to love our neighbours and seek the well-being of others. Yet this is not the same as secular social justice. Social justice as the world defines it is very different than helping the oppressed from a Scriptural perspective. I will elaborate in a future post more about this difference, but just know that here I am arguing against social justice the way the world defines it, not the way well-meaning Christians use the term.
|CHRISTIANTIY||ASPECT OF RELIGION||SOCIAL JUSTICE|
|Born into a sinful nature||Original Sin: What is the main problem?||Born into a dominant group|
|Individual made in God’s image||Identity: Who am I?||Member of a group|
|God’s Word||Truth: What determines reality?||Personal experience|
|The Bible||Scripture: What writing is authoritative?||Critical Theory literature|
|10 Commandments||Ethics: What moral code should I follow?||Political Correctness|
|The Church||Community: Who are “my people”?||Members of my group identity|
|Rebuke||Discipline: How does the community respond to unacceptable behaviour?||Cancelled|
|Confession to God and offended party||Repentance: How do I restore myself?||Public apology and work on yourself|
|Born again||Conversion: How do I label my change?||Woke|
|Grace||Salvation: What overcomes my failures?||Works|
|Baptism & Communion||Sacraments: How do I acknowledge my beliefs publicly?||Virtue signalling|
|Glorify God||Life Purpose: What is my mission in life?||End oppression|
|With Christ in paradise||Heaven: What is the best possible outcome?||Social equity|
|Apart from Christ forever||Hell: What is the worst possible outcome?||Social disparities|
|God / Final judgment||Judgment: Who/what assesses my life?||The court of public opinion|
|Love God, love others||Great Commandment: What is the highest good?||“Do better”|
|Share gospel & make disciples||Great Commission: How do I evangelize?||Education & activism|
|Christ||Saviour: Who do we put our hope in?||Humanity|
Since unfolding the details of this chart would take a book-length explanation, I’ll chip away at it over time. Drop your comments, questions, or critiques by leaving a comment below, and I’ll do my best to respond to them. Stay tuned for more info coming.
WOW, You cut to the quick of the matter. thank you for the side by side comparison.
I feel pressured by some very passionate Christians to jump on board with the social justice movement, and I just don’t feel the unction to do that. I’ve wondered why. Thank you for helping to clarify my reservations.
I listened to a sermon by John McArthur . the purpose of the church is NOT to change culture. the purpose is to spread the gospel.
I have a problem with the constitution in the statement “men are created equal” whoa. I look around, and it’s obvious we are not equal in shape, in function, in ability. I read the Word and agree, we are equal ‘in value to God’, our Creator who created us different, and gave us different gifts. Likewise, we should value each other as humans, as each person is worthy of life. – just a thought.
Yes, there are many Christians who are passionate about engaging in social justice movements. Just keep in mind that the main issue revolves around language. Many social justice terms sound biblical (help the oppressed, be a voice for the voiceless, pursue justice etc). The problem is these words are defined differently by social justice than they are by Christianity. Common language, different meaning. See this resource from Neil Shenvi, for example, and check out some of the links where he gives quotations from social justice literature, and then see for yourself how they use the same words but infuse different meaning. My experience is that most Christians simply aren’t aware of this, or have mistakenly applied cultural definitions to Scriptural ideas. https://shenviapologetics.com/intro-to-critical-theory/
Great summary of a complex issue! I certainly agree that one of the reasons it’s such a problem is that it’s a complex theory that most people don’t understand. I think the danger of the theory was evident following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent BLM movement. The theory was simplified for social media and used as a club, with no room for conversation.
Do you think that part of the attraction of social justice as a religion is the narrative it provides for followers? For example, identifying as oppressed gives a sort of meaning and purpose in life. That is, overcoming the oppressor. And the oppressors (usually white men) that follow the religion get to feel virtuous simply by recognizing their privilege.
Hey Graham! I think there are a few reasons social justice is so attractive. For those who are oppressed, like you said, it can provide purpose and meaning to their lives. It can also be a handy scapegoat to avoid personal responsibility (“hey, you are struggling because others are keeping you down, not because it’s your own fault”). Still another reason it may be attractive to an oppressed person is because it gives them licence to act wickedly. Consider what Ariel Atkins said (BLM leader in Chicago) about looting: “If some decide to loot a Gucci, or a Macy’s, or a Nike, because that makes sure that person eats, that makes sure that person has clothes … That’s reparations. That is reparations. Anything they wanna take, take it, because these businesses have insurance. They’re gonna get their money back. My people aren’t getting anything.” So the worldview of social justice can actually JUSTIFY the ungodly behaviour of the oppressed. What oppressed person wouldn’t want to steal from or violently hurt your oppressor if you are told it’s perfectly fine for you to do so?
It is different for the oppressors though (like whites). I don’t think the attraction comes from feeling virtuous because of privilege. It’s likely the opposite. It is feeling virtuous because you “check your privilege” and become a woke ally for the oppressed. In the social justice world, that is the only way for a white person to become a “good person”. They have to lay aside their privilege and fight for the oppressed. It’s akin to religious repentance. I’m sure there is also a lot of social pressure. If you push back against, say, Black Lives Matter, you’ll be labeled a racist. To avoid that, I think some white people just support it to escape any persecution that might come their way.
“Conversion: How do I label my change? Woke”
A woke person would not claim this label. It’s considered pejorative. Worth removing this row IMO