Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Mountain Justice
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Recently, at another blog that was discussing the Beck snafu, an anonymous poster said they didn't understand why the emphasis on social justice. They asked...

"If we do what we do out of love for Christ, why not call it that? Why not call it Christian Charity? Are we so afraid of using the name of Christ that we have to hide under a thinly veneered humanistic term to accomplish His will? That makes no sense."

My answer to these questions...

First off, "Charity" can be a dirty word. It implies and, in the real world, often is a power hierarchy. We, the Good, Wealthy, Enabled Christians deem you, the Bad, Poor, UN-enabled needy, worthy of getting a gift from us. It places the recipient in a lesser place - more of a parent-bad child relationship than a brother helping brother equal relationship.

I don't know if the anonymous questioner is or has been a part of a church that engages in giving charity but if they are, I'd be willing to guess that probably not many of the recipients of charity are also members of their congregation. That is the typical situation, anyway.

If you are a recipient of charity, you are often shamed (I'm not implying any intent to shame on the part of the Giver, just a natural reaction) and it's hard to long be a member in equal standing in a congregation or group where one feels shamed - where one is in the needy child position.

At least that has been our experience over decades in our urban and "needy" setting of our church and the churches around us.

Which is not to say that there's not a need for traditional charity, just that it comes with a price tag attached.

Beyond that, we are told in the Bible (Micah 6) that God requires (requires) three things of humanity:

1. Walk humbly with God (our relationship with/worship of God)
2. Love mercy (ie, acts of mercy or charity), and

Typically, churches have been fairly good and mostly concentrate on the "walking humbly with God" (that being the focus of most churches) and relatively good at "loving mercy," (in most Baptist churches with which I was familiar, they tried to spend about 10% on missionary work which oftentimes includes "charitable" work), but VERY RARELY do churches talk about or engage in "Doing Justice." And yet, doing Justice IS an equal part of the three things that God requires of humanity.

So, there are some reasons for not limiting church work to simple charity. Biblically speaking, there's a whole lot more to it. And it has nothing to do with being ashamed of the name of Christ and everything to do with taking the Bible - and its demands for working for justice - seriously.


Alan said...

I see the difference between charity and justice as the old "give a guy a fish vs. teach a guy to fish" notion.

Dan Trabue said...

Yes, exactly. I agree.

And I think for most people, it is fairly clear that - while BOTH giving a fish and teaching to fish are good things to do - the more important of the two is the teaching a fella to fish.

Or, yet another way to look at it is...

Give a guy a fish and you feed him for a day;

Teach a guy to fish and you feed him for a lifetime IF he has equal access to clean fishing waters;

Ultimately, though, provide equal access to clean fishing waters and the fella can feed himself for a lifetime...

Where acting on behalf of access and clean water become matters of justice, too.

Edwin Drood said...

Who are these people that don't have access to the tools needed to succeed in this country?

This may come as a surprise to you guys but I was never academically gifted. When I look back at my own experiences there were always choices available. I did poorly in high school so I had to go to community college (payed for it with a part time job) . I couldn't afford a great four year college so I had to move to an area with a smaller affordable state school (100% funded with a Pell grant and part time job). One stint in the military later (got to cover up that GPA with work history) I'm working a typical corporate job making more than the average American.

I'm not rich by any means but I'm firmly planed in the middle class. How is it that those opportunities that I had of are not available to the vast majority of Americans.

Dan Trabue said...


Edwin, I'm glad you have been able to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (with some help from taxpayers, via a Pell grant and the community college you attended).

Do you have anything to comment ON the topic, or are you just here to say that if Edwin can make it, anyone can make it and that there is no need to be concerned about matters of justice?

Are you actually coming out against the notion of Doing Justice, as God says God requires in the Bible? You may not be that academically gifted, but surely you aren't so stupid as to think that being supportive of justice - especially for the least of these - is a bad thing?

Edwin Drood said...

I have no problem with people helping each other out. I do have a problem with excessive entitlement programs. My point is the ones that we have in place are more than enough. Beck's snafu was related to churches that want to get legislation passed that will force people to be "charitable" through taxes via government spending. The link you sent me about "the third way" would force people to be "charitable" by reallocating resources from the haves to the have-nots. If your saying that people are against willful and voluntary charity then you misrepresenting there point of view.

Alan said...

"'charitable' through taxes via government spending."

Like the tax money I spent for your pell grants and college education (if you think your tuition dollars actually paid for your education you're mistaken). Or the tax money we all spend for free public K-12 education. Or the tax money I spend to provide fire services for everyone else. Or the tax money we all spend on ER visits to make sure people who can't afford health insurance don't die.

Cry me a river.

If you're going to criticize this "redistribution of wealth" which went to fund your education, Eddie, then I have one question for you, "Can I have my money back?" Of the items listed above, it seems to be the biggest waste of money.

Alan said...

"don't have access to the tools needed to succeed in this country"

BTW, I'm pretty sure Jesus never mentions the USA by name. Working for social justice transcends national boundaries, which is why usually even the most radial fundie denominations send missionaries to other countries, not just to evangelize, but to work with the citizens there to help them find a better life. Too bad that in your education you didn't learn a little geography and find out that the USA is not actually the center of the universe.

Dan Trabue said...

Your problem in communicating like a normal adult, Edwin, is you make too many assumptions and speak too broadly about things you appear to know too little about.

1. No one here has mentioned entitlement programs.

2. Beck's quote does not appear to be pointed only to the "bad" churches that believe in social justice, but to ALL churches that believe in it. You (and perhaps Beck) appear unable to differentiate between the two or identify WHY some churches that believe in social justice are bad. Do you think Beck was only speaking of SOME of the vast group of churches that believe in social justice? On what do you base that?

3. Regardless, the point of this post is that we ARE to do justice. It is a HUGE part of what God's followers are to be about, according to Micah (ie, God, who is quoted in Micah).

4. It does not appear that you are prepare to call God names or otherwise belittle/defame God for demanding that we "do justice." That was the point of this post. There's nothing on this post about "entitlement programs" (you know, programs like the Pell Grant, which allowed you to go to college, right?)

If you have a problem with some specific "entitlement programs," then I suggest you comment here when I talk about them (which is just about never, thus far). Otherwise, it appears we are in agreement that justice is, indeed, a good thing.

5. Don't argue with someone who's not disagreeing with you. If you want to disagree, disagree against what someone actually believes and is talking about rather than what your gut feeling is that they mean.

Regardless of whether you're academically gifted or not, you're not "smart enough" to know what I'm thinking beyond what I've said.

Dan Trabue said...


Beck's snafu was related to churches that want to get legislation passed that will force people to be "charitable" through taxes

Then why didn't Beck say that? Do you have any evidence that this is what he meant, or is that just a hunch on your part?

Taxation isn't forcing people to be charitable. It's part of the social contract on which our great Republic is based. We have common needs and sometimes, gov't is the most apt agent to provide those needs. Sometimes not.

But, again, since no one here is even talking about taxation on this post, I would just ask if you have any thoughts on, you know, what I've actually written?

[HINT: There are no "code words" in what I've written. I've written what I mean. Do you have any comments on what I've actually written? Is God, for instance, mentally unbalanced for placing "Doing justice" right beside loving mercy and walking humbly with God? Is God a numbskull? A poopy pants? A socialist?

Dan Trabue said...


If you're going to criticize this "redistribution of wealth" which went to fund your education, Eddie, then I have one question for you, "Can I have my money back?"

Now, THERE'S an idea? What if we continue to fund some of these programs, BUT if someone demonstrates that, for instance, their taxpayer-paid education didn't "take," we can ask for a refund from that person...?

Edwin Drood said...

So you honestly think that there are people who are against churches giving to the poor.

Dan Trabue said...

No, Edwin, I DON'T honestly think that there are people who are against churches giving to the poor.

Here's a clue to cue you in to how you might understand that I don't think that:


Really, Edwin, it seems like you are engaged in a conversation with someone who isn't here. WHY would you even ask that question?

Has ANYONE said that there are churches opposed to charity? Is that what you think the point of this post is?

Where do you even get that?

Edwin Drood said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Edwin Drood said...

ok Dan I give up,

Hey Alan I'm sure I pay more taxes than you (as if you even make enough to pay taxes) so your probably getting it back.

Dan Trabue said...

Edwin removed his comment (in response to my question, "Then why didn't Beck say that?")...

Because the term "Social Justice" is universally accepted as passing of entitlement programs through legislation.

Which is a good thing, since it is an entirely unsupportable and not a bit nutty claim.

When you say "universally accepted," Edwin, it appears you mean "universally accepted by Beck and me and some of my buds - but I can provide no source to support the nutty claim that it is universally accepted as such."

You are arguing against phantoms, Edwin, not anyone here. Perhaps it is wisest you give up on the arguing against strawmen who aren't even here and holding these conversations with yourself.

If you'd ever like to come back and, you know, talk about what I'm actually talking about, you're welcome to do so.

Dan Trabue said...

Edwin actually (and unintentionally) makes a fairly decent point in favor of "entitlement programs." Edwin said...

Hey Alan I'm sure I pay more taxes than you (as if you even make enough to pay taxes) so your probably getting it back.

Which, of course, is ridiculous for what he's saying - he doesn't know how much Alan pays in taxes or not, and it wouldn't matter regardless, we're not in a taxpaying pissing contest here.

However, the GOOD point he makes is that EDWIN HIMSELF received "welfare" from the state - gov't assistance in the form of a Pell grant - and what did Edwin do? He turned around and used his education to get an apparently decent job so that he can pay back into the system that helped him when he needed it.

While we're not talking about "entitlement programs" today in this post, Edwin DOES make a solid case in support of it, demonstrating that at least some of them are functioning exactly as they should be.

If I ever actually DO a post on "entitlement programs," I'll be sure to invite you back, Edwin, to testify in favor of them as you did so eloquently today.

Edwin Drood said...

So why do we need more social programs when the ones we have are working.

Excessive entitlement programs are the problem. Nobody is against the Pell grant or any other program that allows people to work hard and succeed. You have this attitude that if someones against one social program then you must be against them all, why else would you even bring up the Pell grant.

My understanding of "Social Justice" comes from the Green Party, it's one of their 10 values and several books that have been written on the subject and they all include excessive taxation, land grabs and communal ownership. What I gather from you is that churches are using the same term but only by coincidence. I guess that just going to be a point where we disagree.

Do you know why the churches choose the term "Social Justice" to me that implies some injustice has taken place and needs to be corrected. What was the injustice?

Edwin Drood said...

FYI, I came across a decent post titled "social justice" VS. social justice it does a much better job of defining my defense of Glen Beck and my hatred of "Social Justice" and my love of social justice.

It also answers you question to my deleted post.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Edwin . . .

No one is talking about social programs, taxes, Pell Grants, or anything else like that.

We are talking about the Divine Ordinance to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

It is you, and Beck, and others like you who seem to think that we are all a bunch of socialist anti-American traitors to Divinely-ordained capitalism with our talk of social justice who are confused.

The Biblical witness is clear - we are to live serving others, making the world a place where the Divine Presence is felt and known in those places and among those society says have no place. I'm not sure why this is so difficult for you to understand.

Dan Trabue said...

Edwin, do you have any idea how bizarre this conversation seems to us? Imagine it as if it were an actual face to face conversation between two folks who barely know each other...

Dan: "Yeah, so I think the Bible is clear that the notion of Doing Justice is right up there in importance with charitable acts and worshiping God. That is why my church and many others speak of Social or Economic Justice so much, because it is such a central biblical teaching."

Ed: "If people would just work hard and use Pell grants, like I did, they could succeed just fine!"

Dan: "Ummm, okay, I agree that hard work and gov't assistance can and does help many people succeed. So... does that mean you agree that Doing Justice is a central biblical teaching?"

Ed: "I'm okay with people helping others out, but I DO have a problem with excessive entitlement programs."

Dan: "ummm, okay. I'm not really talking about "entitlement programs" - excessive or not. So... you agree that doing justice is a central biblical teaching?"

Ed: So you honestly think that there are people who are against churches giving to the poor.

Dan: ?? I'm sorry, Edwin, are you talking to me? I haven't said anything like that....

And on it goes. It sounds like you're having a conversation with some other people, making arguments against some other points than the ones made by people here.

Do you see how weird that would be in a real conversation? How it would cause people to sort of stare at you with a puzzled look on their face, then look around to see if there's someone else you're speaking to?

[Hint: One way to have a conversation is to actually address points actually made and to answer questions asked.]

Dan Trabue said...

Edwin, your link to Doug Payton's essay (and I've actually read Doug some before and he seems like a decent sort of conservative fella) is not especially helpful.

Doug says...

I really don’t think Beck said what his detractors say he said.

Beck was talking about churches/denominations for whom one of their driving forces is implementing aid to the poor and oppressed via government force...

What he was saying is that churches where the phrases "social justice" and "economic justice" figure prominently are the ones trying to "spread the wealth around" via legislation

And I can read where Doug says that, but I see no evidence that this is what Beck was speaking of. He offers no further quotes from Beck to support his hunch.

It may well be that Beck was trying to suggest not ALL churches who believe in social justice, but that's not what he said, as far as I can tell. And I can see nothing from Beck's text that I DO have to suggest to me that's what me meant.

Now, I think Doug is guessing that perhaps that's what Beck meant, that this is what is reasonable to him. Maybe so, I don't know Beck that well. That being the case, I'm just going by what he actually said. If he DIDN'T say that, he or someone could provide the full context and clear it up.

If he DID say that but didn't really mean it, he could clarify and apologize for stating his position poorly.

You see, Edwin, the difference between many of us here and many of you in Beckworld, is that we expect to be held accountable for what we actually say and hold others accountable for what THEY say, assuming that they mean just what they said. We're not into this mind-reading thing so much, guessing that someone might actually mean something other than what they said.

So, I ask you again, do you have any comments ON THE TOPIC of this post (that being that Doing Justice is a central biblical teaching)?

Dan Trabue said...

Oh, and I do see from Doug's post you referenced that Beck HAS back-pedaled from what he said, suggesting he didn't mean ALL churches that believe in social justice, just the "bad ones." Beck's people said...

"Like most Americans, Glenn strongly supports and believes in ’social justice’ when it is defined as ‘good Christian charity,’" he said. "Glenn strongly opposes when Rev. Wright and other leaders use ’social justice’ as a euphemism for their real intention — redistribution of wealth."

So, returning to the point of THIS post - Beck appears to have it wrong. He is conflating charity with justice, which are two separate biblical themes and two separate real world themes. My point in this post is that the Bible teaches them as two separate and essential ideals that God's people are to implement in their lives and communities.

So, I'm glad to see Beck has back-pedaled and clarified he meant something other than what he said. I am sad to see that he still does not seem to have an understanding of what most faith traditions who emphasize the biblical teaching of justice are speaking of and that, instead of apologizing, he uses his clarification as an opportunity to try to demonize someone else.

Dan Trabue said...

As an aside, I see from Doug's website that the HERITAGE FOUNDATION has a study you can purchase called, Seek Social Justice.

I wonder how they handle it?

(I don't wonder enough to actually purchase the thing, mind you...)

Dan Trabue said...


My understanding of "Social Justice" comes from the Green Party, it's one of their 10 values and several books that have been written on the subject and they all include excessive taxation, land grabs and communal ownership. What I gather from you is that churches are using the same term but only by coincidence. I guess that just going to be a point where we disagree.

1. Churches have been using the term social justice forever.

2. The Green Party has been using it the last few decades, at most.

3. Therefore, when CHURCHES are speaking of social and economic justice - churches that have been doing so certainly for over 100 years, and probably for over 2000 years - you might think that they might be speaking of something other than what the Green Party has been speaking of. You might realize that more than one group can refer to that to mean more than one thing. You might further realize that there is no ONE meaning for the term.

At least reasonable people can see that. There is no need to disagree, it is what it is. You can disagree with reality if you wish - that reality being that there is no one single definition of social justice and that wikipedia is probably not the safest place to find One True Definition of any term. But why disagree with reality?

Anonymous said...

"1. Churches have been using the term social justice forever."

Forever seems like a mighty long time, are you sure about this.

Edwin Drood said...

This is quite bizarre for me too. You think Glen Beck wants people to leave their churches if said churches give to the poor? You've said you will remain convinced that Beck hates giving to the poor until I can prove what he didn't mean to say (logically impossible by the way).

Given the two options:

Beck thinks you should leave your church if they give to the poor and call it social justice.


Beck thinks your should leave your church if they participate in activist programs lobbying for legislation and call it social justice.

Given Beck's MO, I think it's safe to say the second is the more truthful and the first can be easily dismissed.

Really this is just you wanting to pounce on Beck for using a term that you define differently. A simple google search for the phrase "out of context" focused on your blog yields results with you defending the good Rev. Wright's quote "god damn America". Four times you said in post and comments that it was taken out of context. Can you not give Beck the same benefit of the doubt? Why the bias?

Dan Trabue said...

1. The Beck post was the previous post. This post is on a different topic, sort of related, but not about Beck. If you want to talk about Beck, it would be more appropriate on the last post.

2. You say, and I quote...

You think Glen Beck wants people to leave their churches if said churches give to the poor? You've said you will remain convinced that Beck hates giving to the poor until I can prove what he didn't mean to say

Read this carefully and strive to understand the meaning of the words, Edwin:


That is not in my words. Rather, I quoted Beck (on the previous post) saying what he said - that people should leave their churches if they talk about social justice.

If you read the words, you will see that the word "Poor" does not appear in that sentence.

You also said that I said that I "will remain convinced that Beck hates giving to the poor..."

I did not say that. I did not imply that.

I don't know WHOSE words you're reading or who you are arguing with, but it's not me.

You appear to be having a conversation with someone not in the room, here, Edwin.

Any further nonsense comments based on non-conversations will be summarily deleted as a waste of time. You're being ridiculous.

Try this Edwin: Say, "Dan, when you say '_______' (and fill in the blank with my actual words), I disagree because... (and provide a reasonable response to the words you just quoted)."

If you can't do something like that, then it's time for you to go back to school for some remedial conversation help.

Dan Trabue said...


Can you not give Beck the same benefit of the doubt? Why the bias?

Yes, I can. I have.

I have posted Beck's clarification saying he didn't mean what he said and said that was a good thing. Now, we all agree that Social justice IS a good thing (or at least Beck and I agree - I still have no idea what you think because you are writing in a nearly incomprehensible manner).

Where Beck has it wrong, from a linguistic and biblical point of view, is that he is conflating two different terms - he appears NOW to think that social justice = charity. They're two different concepts.

As to giving Beck the benefit of the doubt, I searched for more context but there was nothing that I could find to suggest he didn't mean what he said. But, once he clarified, I posted it and backed off the initial criticism.

I offered anyone out there the opportunity to clarify his initial comments and no one did, so it appeared to me that he meant what he said.

Alan said...

"as if you even make enough to pay taxes"

Evidence. Put up or shut up. Go ahead, Eddie. Give me the evidence.

Do you even know what the word "evidence" means? Apparently not.

"so it appeared to me that he meant what he "

Yup. If he didn't mean exactly what he said, he wouldn't have had to backpedal.