Friday, June 11, 2010

Christianity and Justice in Society

I am taking a seminary class this summer on the subject of Apologetics, which is essentially the defense of the Christian faith through rational thought. I've been reading a number of books and articles in conjunction with the class and one of the authors I've enjoyed the most is Rev. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York.

I appreciate Keller's thoughtful and sincere thinking as it pertains to doubts about the Christian faith and highly recommend his book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. I've already quoted him on this blog a couple of times recently but I just finished the chapter entitled, "The Church is Responsible For So Much Injustice," and appreciated Keller's response to this legitimate question.

Keller argues that the greatest critique of so-called Christians that have done evil in the name of Christ has not come from those outside the Church but has come directly from Christianity itself. In formulating his response to this question, Keller offers several examples of Christians who actively led in the crusade against the injustices of their day and even gave their lives as a result.

Notable are the models of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"When Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted racism in the white church in the South, he did not call on Southern churches to become more secular. Read his sermons and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and see how he argued. He invoked God's moral law and the Scripture. He called white Christians to be more true to their own beliefs and to realize what the Bible really teaches. He did not say "Truth is relative and everyone is free to determine what is right or wrong for them." If everything is relative, there would have been no incentive for white people in the South to give up their power. Rather, Dr. King invoked the prophet Amos, who said, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24). The greatest champion of justice in our era knew the antidote to racism was not less Christianity but a deeper and truer Christianity."

"The famous Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer was pastoring two German-speaking churches in London when Hitler came to power. He refused to stay at a safe distance and returned to his country to head an illegal seminary for the Confessing Church, the Christian congregations that refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Nazis. Bonhoeffer wrote the classic The Cost of Discipleship, in which he critiqued the religion and church of his day. In echoes of Jesus and the prophets, Bonhoeffer revealed the spiritual deadness and self-satisfied complacency that made it possible for so many to cooperate with Hitler and turn a blind eye to those being systematically marginalized and destroyed by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and hanged.

In his last letters from prison, Bonhoeffer reveals how his Christian faith gave him the resources to give up everything for the sake of others. Marx argued that if you believe in a life after this one you won't be concerned about making this world a better place. You can also argue the opposite. If this world is all there is, and if the goods of this world are the only love, comfort, and wealth I will ever have, why should I sacrifice them for others? Bonhoeffer, however, had a joy and hope in God that made it possible for him to do what he did."
In order for injustice to be addressed, we don't need Christianity to be abolished. What we need are more followers of Jesus that are fully devoted to living as He lived with love, truth, compassion, courage and grace. The Christian faith is not tied to a particular political party or the exclusive property of a specific ethnicity or culture. It is not a hateful, arrogant faith. Jesus himself said that others could tell who His true followers were by the fruit that was produced in their life. And the fruit that he said should be most evident? Love.

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