justice is more than equality

your kingdom come your will be done

*october’s syncroblogy–other bloggers writing on the same topic–is what is social justice, really? i’m way off on a blog groove these days, but this is a topic i really love.  i’ll post a link list tomorrow morning so you can can check out a variety of other posts on the same topic.

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my dad was a true-blue hippie in berkeley during the 60’s 70’s. when it was his weekend to take me (my parents were divorced when i was 5) he used to take me down to telegraph avenue and sell spoon rings on the weekend wearing these really funky leather hats. part of that culture was a desire for social change, and as i grew up, i was the one who would join causes, sign up to save the whales and for equal rights for women, and become a member of the ACLU (i have a really funny story about my husband jose finding a membership card in my wallet when we were dating; he was at the naval academy at the time–as conservative as conservative can be–and it was almost a deal breaker for him. oh, how things have changed!).

when i started at a christian college, i was a tried and true democrat, but by the end of it, i had become more conservative in my views and my focus had turned away from issues of the world and more toward issues of a career and making money.  i really consider it all just a part of my ongoing development, and by the time i got married a few years later and immersed myself in contemporary christian culture, my focus turned more toward issues of saving-the-church-from-the-world.  i tore up my ACLU card, switched political parties, hosted letter writing campaigns at our house to keep morality in schools and vote out those crazy liberals who were ruining the USA’s moral fabric. yikes! that was 20 years ago now, but i bring it up for an important reason–to me, back then, i was engaging in social justice. i cared about my country and wanted it to be different.  my zeal didn’t come from selfishness but from a place of deep concern about the morality of our country. i wanted a better future for my kids.

what has radically shifted that i didn’t consider then, though, is how small my view of justice was. my perspective on the world back then was limited; i didn’t take into consideration the millions and millions of people around the globe who had far more pressing issues to consider than whether harry potter was of the devil. they were starving, having their genitals mutilated, and forced into slave labor, but i was so focused on what was right in front of me that i didn’t even consider the wider issues.

over time, as i grew in my faith and intersected with more people living in poverty and pain, my eyes and heart were opened to the issues of my childhood. i began to notice the inequality of the systems, how people with privilege and power could open doors but those without it would never be able to catch a break.  how biased people were against the poor and made deep assumptions about their character because of it. how women were subjugated underneath men over and over again. how racism was rampant.  how vulnerable so many people (especially women and children) really were with no advocates or protection in sight.  how truly unjust system are against those on the margins.

Jesus’ wild and crazy call that “heaven on earth” was possible now got under my skin. of course, i know everything can never be made right this side of life, but i take his words very seriously. and i believe he empowered his people to participate in this kind of  change.  our faith isn’t just for us; it’s fuel for social change. for creating a new reality for people who are hungry, hurting, and marginalized.  for restoring dignity and hope where it’s been lost. for bringing the good news into hard places.for righting the tilted systems that are biased against the poor and vulnerable. for not only advocating for change, but participating in creating it.

to me, the best image of what social justice really is can be found in this image that floated around facebook a while back. it has stuck with me since i first saw it because it is a reminder that real social justice is much more than just equality. it’s a taste of heaven on earth.


yeah,  i’m pretty sure in heaven, everyone gets to see the game. let’s be part of making more of that happen here, now, too.

to me, social justice is about figuring a way together to break down the divisions and differences and widen opportunities for everyone.

social justice is about sacrificing our power for the sake of someone else’s who has less in any way we can.

social justice is about creating more just and fair systems, on small and big scales (this is why justice & equality in the church is so important, beyond just gender. goodness gracious, if we can’t live it out in our little pockets, how in the world can we expect to influence the wider world?)

social justice is about empowering others to step into their dignity and value.

social justice is helping all people–yes, all people– find their voice and use it.

social justice is about using our influence to influence change on behalf of the marginalized–in groups, systems, and politics.

social justice is about pockets of love and freedom–where walls are broken down, dignity and hope is restored, and people are valued properly.

really,  social justice is sacrificing our time, hearts, resources, power, votes, egos and comfort to build bigger step-stools so all of God’s children can play. 

that’s my best shot in the moment on what social justice is, really.

what do you think it is?


other synchrobloggers wrestling with what social justice is this month:


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • I found it funny with wht you siad about being conservative. Is this the way it goes in America, – you become a Christian and the first things you do are watch Fox News, vote republican and get a gun? ;).

    When I hear the term social justice first of all what I thik of is throwing out all presuppositions and assumptions. Some of the “poorest” people are the financially rich. Their dependnce on money means they are a slave to whatever dictates money has over them. Same with power, sex etc.

    So yes those not in a position to meet their needs lets say worldy power, are dependant on thaos with power. Yet those with power are dependant on channeling that power to serve those not in positions of power to not be a slave to worlly power. And the sence of real power being avaiable to everyone – not dependant on status in the world. So – those with worldy power are blessed becuase they have that power. Thoew without worldly power are blessed because by the principles of the beattitudes, God is with them and with that are the resources of God.

    So in this sense and in an etwrnal sense justice in God’ prodidence is there already. although it will take thw working out for all of us for it to be actualised – and sometimes that is inconvenient to having our lives the way we want them and a need for surrender of giving up our lives so we may live.

    That’s my twopennyworth 😉

  • A friend of mine sent me a shot of that poster a few months ago, which he found hanging
    on the wall of a Connecticut school. I have a
    suspicion that it can be found in lots of classrooms across the country.
    Seldom has progessivism been so neatly captured.

    Oh, c’mon. It’s nice that the short boy can now watch the ballgame. What problem could anyone have with that?

    Well, let’s imagine this was a real situation, and the boys, hoping for a
    better view of the game, scamper around and find three boxes. The
    tallest boy, realizing that his short friend still won’t be able to see,
    gives him his box. Anything wrong here? Absolutely not. It’s civil
    society in action, where people help others of their own volition.

    The problem is that that’s not what the creators of this poster meant,
    not at all. The words don’t read, “It’s nice to help your friends.”
    Rather, they speak of “justice,” clearly meant as an imperative. You
    see, liberalism never trusts people to do the right thing, so the force
    of law is deployed to guarantee a desired outcome. Coercion is always
    the first and last answer, in this case spoiling the opportunity for the
    tall boy to do something nice for the short boy – not because he had
    to, but because he wanted to. The civil society is undermined.

    Let’s imagine further. HUD issues a federal regulation that boxes must
    be provided for short boys at all sporting events. Further, the boxes
    must meet various federal safety codes, lest a boy fall from one that
    was sub-standard. Come the inevitable box shortage, it happens that at
    some ballparks there aren’t enough boxes to go around. Protests ensue,
    with angry demands for “fairness.” Realizing they may have a federal
    lawsuit on their hands, but unable to procure enough compliant boxes,
    the ballpark owners consult their lawyers and decide to raise the fences
    high enough such that no one can see over them, tall or not. Problem

    And there is progressivism, in a nutshell. Equality created through
    coercion by dragging those at the top down. It never works out like the
    poster, where all are raised to the highest level, and it isn’t supposed
    to. In real life it is so much easier to bring people down than raise
    them up. Just ask Bill de Blasio, New York’s radical mayor-in-waiting.

    The poster also suggests that justice and equal results are the same
    thing. This is a dangerous concept that has justified more tyranny,
    mostly of the Marxist variety, than just about anything over the last
    century. Looking again, the tall boy definitely has an advantage when
    faced with a tall fence, but what of other contexts? Perhaps the short
    boy is a brilliant student. What measures will be suggested then to even
    that score?

    Don’t laugh. At a school one of my children (briefly) attended, parents
    were told not let their kids study anything above and beyond the
    curriculum, lest they get ahead and damage the self-esteem of the other,
    less motivated kids. Can’t make this up.

    Despite decades of evidence as to its disastrous effects, the
    intellectual left has never abandoned its Marxist longings. They won’t
    call it by its name, of course, but the primal urge is still there, and
    the agenda still being pushed. Sometimes even in cute posters for our


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