The meaning of social justice (that you weren’t told)

I once read this point about Tony Campolo:

[Tony] Campolo in particular, and the religious left in general, make much of the notion of justice, especially that elusive concept, social justice. They accuse those on the religious right of ignoring social justice, and failing to reflect biblical concerns in this area.

Let’s take that one step further (by going one step back):

The trouble with “social justice” begins with the very meaning of the term..

It is allowed to float in the air as if everyone will recognize an instance of it when it appears. This vagueness seems indispensable. The minute one begins to define social justice, one runs into embarrassing intellectual difficulties.

It becomes, most often, a term of art whose operational meaning is, “We need a law against that.” In other words, it becomes an instrument of ideological intimidation, for the purpose of gaining the power of legal coercion.

Quote sources

  1. Muehlenberg, B. (2007). Religion and the Political Spectrum. CultureWatch. Available http://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/09/13/religion-and-the-political-spectrum/. Last accessed 18th Jul 2015.
  2. Novak, M. (2000). Defining Social Justice. Available http://www.firstthings.com/article/2000/12/defining-social-justice-29. Last accessed 18th Jul 2015.
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