Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charity and Justice

My Christian Fellowship has just completed its reading and discussion of Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity. Toward the end is a section entitled "Practicing Compassion and Justice" (pages 200-204), and I will share with you what we shared in my group.

Borg writes that the practice of compassion is the way in which Christians pay attention to God and participate in God's passion--the redemption of the world. Borg emphasizes the last word because in traditional Christian interpretations, God seeks--and therefore, so should His followers--the redemption of individuals. "God loves the world," Borg says, and the world is God's passion.

Borg goes on to say that the compassion Jesus taught works on two levels. Compassion directed toward the individual, the victim, is charity. Compassion directed toward society, social reform, is justice. Charity directly helps the victims; justice asks, "Why are there victims?" and works to transform the system that produces victimization. Both are good; both are critical. Christians are real good at charity, Borg says, but pretty weak on justice. One reason? " never offends; a passion for justice often does."

What would happen if Christians, as individuals and as a group, shifted their emphasis from mostly charity to a balanced 50-50, charity-to-justice giving model? Borg challenges the reader to try it out. Rebalance your giving of time, talent and treasure to offer 50% to charitable causes that support the less fortunate and 50% to causes that strive to change the social system which produces economic, educational or social inequity. Borg suggests adding to your current donating level instead of dividing the current level in two, but hey, any movement toward the justice side would weigh in as a positive ripple.

Can you do a 50-50 balance? Are you doing it now? Share some of the efforts in which you're involved. Let us know how your rebalancing is going.


1 comment:

  1. I can't saw I work for a 50-50 balance. Because of time limitations , I have made a conscious choice to lean heavier on the justice side. I have found this to take up a much larger proportion of time to work on a few issues. When I started getting interested in working for justice, I was overwhelmed by the amount of problems and need there is but for myself I needed to break down my focus to something I was able to comprehend. For myself this meant choosing one, "global poverty" and trying to educate myself on the issues by finding out what organizations are already doing and trying to find more local ways I could participate. I made everyday changes such as looking for fair trade items and connected with Bread for the World. Unfortunately, as I got deeper into the area I found how hard it was to limit the area from other current issues such as, healthcare, just to name one. Two organizations I have found helpful being connected with are CRF and Sojourners. I also stay connected by using Network, a social justice lobby group.

    My overall experience has been positive. I have participated in web cast, joined letter writing campaigns and try to work to educate others in social justice issues. But unfortunately, social justice tends to require change in lifestyles which a lot of people, including myself, are afraid of. It threatens us by asking us to rethink how we look at our role in the problems that previously seem to be at a safe distance apart from us. In other words, it gets personal.

    Social Justice is also harder to get agreement on. What are the problems, causes and best solutions? People immediately start guarding against "soft-hearted liberals". I have found the most direct controversy is coming to terms with one core issue. Is God's purposed served best by prioritizing economy or people. In other words, should our policies support what is best to maintain the accepted view on what makes a strong economy or should we place the needs of the world population first. I am having a hard time finding a way to balance this myself.

    Unfortunately I have not found a safe way to work for social justice issues. It also goes back to politics which for myself was something I previously avoided getting involved in. But although my progress has been slow, at least I can see some forward movement.