Social Justice

This is Part 3 in a six-part series on hrcf’s emphases and distinctives. See Part 1 and Part 2.

Theology: Jesus is restoring us to God’s creation order, so we emphasize Christian restorative justice. We hope to honor the dignity God has given each person, since He made us all in His image. We also honor the creation order as the normative state of relations between persons.

Jesus’ vision for relationships is not necessarily reconcilable with socio-political interests, cultural trends, or short term self-interest, but we are called to pursue his standards above these other considerations. His vision testifies to the coherence of Scripture.

Biblical basis: Genesis 1 – 11 narrates how God’s concern for each human person is higher than any given social order.

Shane Claiborne speaking at a Veritas Forum that HRCF co-sponsored at Harvard in 2009

Shane Claiborne speaking at a Veritas Forum that HRCF co-sponsored at Harvard in 2009

And God in Christ Jesus, in his life, teaching, example, and atonement affirms the extraordinary worth and value of each person to himself (1 Jn.2:2; 2 Pet.2:1; 1 Tim.4:10; Ti.2:11; 1 Tim.2:3 – 4; 2 Pet.3:9; Ezk.18:23, 32 – 33). Regarding relationships, Jesus restores people to God’s creation order in marital relations and sexuality (Mt.19:3 – 12), in economic relations (Mt.19:13 – 30), and in relations of power (Mt.20).

Practice: We appreciatively critique other forms of social justice – meritocratic, distributive, libertarian – as being helpful but incomplete forms of justice. In particular, we critique the penal substitution atonement theology for elevating meritocratic or retributive justice to the highest justice within God.

We are also concerned about the conflation of nationalism and Christian faith that exists in the political right in the United States, and the pressure of individualistic, secular liberalism upon Christian faith from the political left.

We seek to tell a broader story. Hence, we consider the global church and the global context, not just the American church and American context. We value the witness of the global church wherever we see Christians attempting to live according to Christ-centered ethics. For example, we frequently mention the early church’s categorical stance against war and their radical ethic of giving, the medieval Catholic critique of slavery, usury, and the ‘free market’, the Anabaptist critique of the union of church and state, the contemporary Catholic social teaching about Christian ethics, the witness of the European church in human rights and the Black American church in civil rights, and the insights of evangelically-oriented liberation theologians.

We contribute a biblically Christian critique of the structural and institutional inequalities within various fields (e.g. health care, education, business, finance, law and policy, international relations, the modern prison system) as we perceive biases against the poor, weak, foreigner, enemy, and stranger.

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