Currie & Casper
Viewpoint: Social Justice
by David Currie
When Ken picked this topic, he did not add anything to it so I guess we are free to say what we want about social justice. Since my Ph.D. is in Christian Ethics, I have always been very interested in social justice for I see social justice as the intersection between Christian faith and politics.
Social justice is "justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society" or so starts the article on Social Justice on Wikipedia. To me, social justice seems like something we as Christians should be very interested in and committed too.
Most Christians believe it is our responsibility to care for our fellow human beings, especially those less fortunate than our selves. Many Christians who are politically conservative feel that the church should bear this responsibility and that the government should have no role in social problems.
I understand this perspective and certainly believe believers should be involved in helping the poor, standing up to racism, pushing for peace, but the reality is society’s problems cannot be solved by the church alone because of two things: (1) the problems are too big; (2) the problems in our society are often systemic in nature.
The Civil Rights movement was a great example of social justice. Racism is morally wrong and we must resist it as believers but it was also institutionalized in our society. Not only did people need to change but the laws of our country needed to change.
Another example is poverty. We must not only help the poor personally but work for changes in society that help the poor help themselves. Better educational opportunities, raising the minimum wage so that those working to support their families are paid better, a fair tax system, a fair criminal justice system and I could go on and on. These issues we help solve personally but we also work for systemic changes politically.
History shows many believers were active in trying to end the institution of slavery as well as encourage slave owners to treat their slaves in a humane manner as long as the institution was lawful.
For me Social Justice is how we as Christians put “feet to our prayers,” working to change things that are morally wrong. Persons working to end abortion are working for their understanding of social justice as are persons working to end capital punishment. We pray for things to change and we work for things to change.
Christians like Walter Rauschenbusch in the early 20th century led in The Social Gospel movement, to be followed by the Niebuhr brothers Reinhold and Richard, who were heroes of mine. I wrote papers on all three men while in seminary. I would urge you to read some of their books if you are interested in this topic.
David R. Currie is the new Tom Green Democratic Chair. David is a native of Paint Rock in Concho County where family came in 1879, and continues to ranch there as well as in the Christoval area where he and his wife Loretta live. Married for over 30 years, they have a blended family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
He is a graduate of Howard Payne University and also has masters and doctors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminiary in Fort Worth where he did his doctoral work on agricultural policy and the Bible and received his degree in Christian Ethics.
He is a former pastor, staff member of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission which focuses on ethical issues and religious liberty and retired Executive Director of Texas Baptist Committed. He was also sheep and goat specialist with the Texas Department of Agriculture in the 80's when Jim Hightower was Ag. Commissioner.
David is the author of two books, On the Way and Songs in the Desert as well as hundreds of articles that can be found at www.txbc.org.
He is currently the president of Cornerstone Builders and Angelo Granite Worx, and managing partner of Stonewall Ranches development company. He has served three terms as president of the San Angelo Home Builders Association, served on the Better Business Bureau board, as a board member of Howard Payne University, The Interfaith Alliance, The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is current Vice-chair of the San Angelo Adult Literacy Council. He and Loretta are members of Southland Baptist Church.
by Ken Casper
What is justice? Like truth and pornography, we can’t define it exactly, but we’ll recognize it when we see it.
Or will we? We have other words we can use. Fairness. Equality. The right thing. But what exactly do fairness and equality mean?
From my research, social justice is best described as: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” It encompasses such institutions as education, health care, labor relations and social security.
Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what Christianity teaches, to love thy neighbor as thyself, to share and share alike?
Not exactly. Aside from the fact that President Obama says we are not a Christian nation, Christianity is a moral code of personal redemption, not a political or economic system. Jesus separated church and state when he said, “Render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God, the things that are God’s.” (Matt 22:21) As Christians then, we are answerable to God for fulfilling our personal moral obligation to help our neighbors. That’s not the same as a legal mandate issued by the state to pay for other people’s lifestyles.
According to political philosopher John Rawls and others, social justice strives to achieve its goals through progressive taxation and the regulation of markets to ensure fair distribution of wealth, equality of opportunity, and no gross inequality of outcomes.
More nice sounding phrases. But who determines your ability and your needs? Who decides what constitutes a fair distribution of wealth? For that matter, who sets the standard of wealth? Who is the judge of what constitutes a gross inequality? According to social justice advocates, the government is in charge.
Now if that doesn’t scare you, nothing will!
History shows us that governments are good at taxing, but they do a very poor job of spending our money efficiently. For all its lofty goals, socialism produces two classes, the haves—the government elites—and the have-nots—the rest of us.
According to Al Sharpton we’ll have social justice when everyone lives in the same house. I guess Bill O’Reilly would like that since he comes from Levittown. Personally I’d prefer to live in one of George Soros’s houses.
Let’s examine the components of social justice more closely.
Progressive taxation: is a dis-incentive to hard work, inventiveness and generosity, because it operates on the principle of diminishing returns. The more you earn, the bigger a percentage the government takes away.
Regulation of markets: In 1776, the year of our independence, Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations in which he demonstrated that capitalism and the laws of supply and demand operate naturally and spontaneously. Attempts to centrally control the marketplace have aways failed, resulting in shortages, higher prices, inflation and unemployment. Sounds remarkably like our current economy, doesn’t it?
Fair distribution of wealth: Is it fair for one person to keep eighty cents of every dollar he earns while another person gets to keep only forty cents? Is it fair that the IRS gives unearned-income tax refunds to illegal aliens even though they haven’t paid any taxes? Is it fair that elected officals retire on 100% pension for the rest of their lives after six years in office while their constituents have to work until they’re 65 or 70 to get a Social Security check that doesn’t amount to half the politician’s?
Equal opportunities and no gross inequality of outcomes: Here’s the crux of the matter. Those two statements are contradictory. Equal opportunity allows people to fail as well as move ahead. Equal outcomes means effort doesn’t count. Why should anyone strive to do better? Why not just sit back, sip a latte, and wait for the government check that’s paid for by someone else’s labor?
The goal of a society should be the eradication of the need for welfare, not labeling people as members of politically “disadvantaged” groups. Playing favorites is the opposite of equality. We have third and fourth generation welfare families. That’s wrong. Unfortunately we have politicians and bureaucrats whose power base and job security hinge on perpetuating dependence.
When does personal responsibility reap its just desserts? It seems to me that would be fair.
To be clear, I have no problem with helping people who can’t help themsleves. It’s the right thing to do. Widows and orphans, the sick and the handicapped deserve our assistance. America is not just the most prosperous nation on earth, it’s also the most generous. That’s not an accident. Hard work and compassion are at the core of our Judeo-Christian ethic. But the resolution of social injustices is not to be found in extracting “charity” at the point of a gun, which is what punitive taxation amounts to.
The truth is: there is no such thing as social justice. There is socialism, an utterly failed system, and there is justice. The two are incompatible.
Ken Casper was born and raised in New York City a long time ago. After graduating from college, he entered the Air Force and was assigned to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for training. He served overseas tours of duty in Japan, Vietnam and Germany, as well as stateside assignments. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1993 and from Civil Service at Goodfellow in 1997. In 1998 he published his first novel, A Man Called Jesse. Twenty-four books followed, including Upstairs at Miss Hattie’s. During those years he became good friends with Dr. Pres Darby. In 2011, shortly before Pres’s death from ALS, they published a joint novel, Mankillers, a Civil War thriller. Since then, Ken has published three Jason Crow mysteries set in West Texas.
A staunch conservative, Ken was the second president of the San Angelo TEA Party, 2010-2011. He has remained active in local politics ever since.