Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social Justice: A Nice Idea That Destroys Humanity

Social Justice is an attempt to insert Christian charity into the concept of justice so that justice is then understood to include both the traditional Aristotelian-Biblical notion of justice and the Biblical notion of charity (love) within itself. To strive for social justice, then, is to strive for a society in which love has been institutionalized, which is to say, removed from the sphere of personal moral decision and incorporated into the impersonal, automatic functioning of the social system. If a woman loses her husband, she does not need neighbours or the local church to rally around because a welfare cheque automatically arrives in her mailbox from the government. What was once occasional, haphazard and personal has been rendered perpetual, organized and institutional.

This transference of the necessity of private charity into the realm of bureaucratic institutions is an attempt to implement a Utopia in which the social system is so good that no individual need be good. What goes naturally with such a society is the release of the individual for hedonistic satisfaction of the impulses of the lower nature – immediate gratification of the sexual urge being the primary form this lifestyle takes. Sex has been disassociated from family, economics, honour and duty and thus has been animalized. As the nanny state grows we observe that first the family becomes unnecessary and then, finally, the church becomes irrelevant. The all-powerful, provident, parental State now presents itself as the source of all goods and the provider of all needs. When the mask finally falls off, the tyrannous, ravenous Beast is revealed as the Idol which demands worship and stands in the place of God.

Social justice can have a perfectly innocuous and respectable meaning, which is totally different from that meaning described above. It can simply mean justice applied to social relations, as opposed to justice applied to the individual qua individual. It such cases it is basically redundant because justice is justice whether applied to the individual as individual or to the individual as a member of society. The traditional Aristotelian and Biblical notion of justice is “giving to each one what he is owed.” In fact, one can see from this definition that since there is a person who owes and a person who is owed, all justice is actually social. Prefixing the adjective “social” to the noun “justice” thus effects nothing except a redundancy unless the point is subtly to change the meaning of justice from “what one is owed” to “the right to be loved.”

No one has a “right” to be loved because to love is a free moral choice and to say that Person A has a right to be loved is to say that someone has the duty to love him. If Person A has the right to be married, then some person has the duty to marry him. But marriage is an act of persons who freely contract with one another and, in fact, one partner contracting out of duty or coercion actually annuls and makes invalid the marriage contract. So no one could possibly have the “duty” to marry anybody and, therefore, no one could possibly have the “right” to be married. Just so, no one has the “right” to be loved. Love is personal, free and the very opposite of a duty.

If love can be combined with justice in the way that those who promote the idea of social justice advocate, then either love will be reduced to justice, which will result in a hard and rough set of social relations or else justice will be reduced to love, which will result in justice being turned into sentimentality. Sentiment is meant to temper and supplement justice, not define it. And love must pick up where justice leaves off if society is to be leavened by personal relationships based on charity.

In literature, the best depiction of a society in which the idea of social justice has completely triumphed is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. There is no crime, no poverty, no sickness, no unemployment, nothing to fear and nothing to live for except mindless, sensual pleasures. It is far more horrifying than the “hard totalitarianisms” of the twentieth century. It is dehumanizing and animalistic. Social justice sounds nice, but turns out to be the destruction of our true humanity. “There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is destruction.”


Doug Johnson Hatlem said...

Ignorant, hateful and an affront not only to women, Yoder, and those of us in the trenches doing "social justice" work (rather than just reading books about a mythological dystopian future - you need Jesus to put some mud on your eyes so you can see what a dystopian present looks like); this is also an affront to Augustine, Aquinas, and the broad scope of Catholics and Evangelicals in church history. For instance, do you know what Aquinas says about those like you who have more than they need, Mr. Carter? He says you are a thief. And you are. You steal from Toronto's poor by feeding your fat belly with food that should go to the poor, then engaging in fascist "christian" political justifications for voting to keep more of your money from going to the poor. I actually work at a church that cares for the poor. We're funded privately and could never do all the work out there ourselves because it's already hard enough to beg the twinkies out of the hands of people like you to get the relatively minimal amount of work done that we do.

Fyodor Lewis said...

Doug, I think you missed the main thrust of Dr. Carter's article. He was not critiquing the work you, and many like you, do in the field of "social justice". Rather, Dr. Carter seems to be critiquing the assumptions and ideas that social justice is currently built upon.
I'm sure Dr. Carter would join me in saying that you and your church is doing great work among the poor that is necessary and important. However, great works of charity are only charity if they are done freely. Otherwise you are just being coerced by guilt, the government, or some other force outside of you.

It says in the Bible that we are to be cheerful givers. How can we give cheerfully if we don't give out of our gifts willingly? If, instead, we are forced by the government to give won't this lead to resentment and even hatred of the one receiving the gifts?
Ayn Rand, who clearly misunderstood the Christian concept of charity as a form of coercion, seems to look down on those who would request or accept 'charity'. In Atlas Shrugged, 'charity' becomes a means of control where people barter influence and "favors". The inevitable outcome in her fictional society is a world where the best most intelligent people are indifferent to the suffering of their fellow humans, while the rest of humanity takes advantage of each other with their 'need' and 'generosity'.

True Godly gifts aren't announced, forced or held for ransom; they are free, personal and without expectation of recompense.

Were social justice to be mandated in the extreme, as in Brave New World, what would develop would be neither social, nor just. To be social their must be relationships, relationships cannot be mandated and regulated, relationships develop naturally from interacting individuals. For justice their must be a law that protects freedom of choice (up unto a certain extent).

Doug, the world needs more generous people like you to help it but the only way that is possible is if they honestly want to give. Coerced gifts often lead to oppression and mutual hatred. Jesus knew the will of God in Gathesemene but ultimately he chose to do it. Taking up your cross is call that no government can enforce.