23 June 2010

Defining social justice

Christianity Today carries an interview with my friend and sometime co-conspirator, Gideon Strauss, the new chief executive officer of the Center for Public Justice. I was struck by this exchange:

Define justice. How does it differ from public justice and social justice?

In the biggest sense, justice is when all God's creatures receive what is due them and contribute out of their uniqueness to our common existence. We are called to do justice in every sphere of our lives: how I love and educate my daughters, collaborate with my colleagues, interact with neighbors. Public justice is the political aspect—the work of citizens and political office bearers shaping a public life for the common good. Social justice is the civil society counterpart—nonpolitical organizations that promote justice (emphasis mine).

At Redeemer University College we have seen an increasing interest amongst our students in social justice. In fact, we now have a social justice major, an annual social justice conference and a course in the Religion Department devoted to the topic. Although I am happy to see this enthusiasm develop, it is not necessarily clear to me that everyone knows how the adjective social is intended to modify the noun justice. I quite like Strauss' definition, as it nicely captures the truth that all of us are called by God to do justice, not only within the context of the state, but within the various communal settings for which we bear responsibility.

Crossposted at First Things: Evangel

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