The year of 2017 in some ways could have been the year of the social justice warrior (SJW). There are many ideas as to what a SJW is, but I would simply define it as someone who believes that they see social injustices in the world and fight for justice. Often this is done on the behalf of someone else. The millennial generation is almost defined by being SJW, or at least in part.
From the outset, let us say that this is a noble thing. Not just noble, but this is part of the Christian ethic. Psalms 82:3 says, “Give JUSTICE to the WEAK and fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute (ESV, highlights mine).” Justice is part of the image of God. Looking out for others weaker than us and those who cannot defend themselves it part of the Christian walk.
So why do so many Christians seem to look down on the idea of the social justice warrior? I think that the issue in itself has to do not with the warriors or the social ethos, but what we believe justice is.
Many who disagree with the social justice warrior maintain that the SJWs do not understand justice, and therefore, do not understand injustice. If we are confused about the idea of justice itself, we will then not be able to understand what is socially worth fighting for.
Now, I won’t be able to conclusively speak about justice in such a short blog, even the definition. Justice is a multifaceted idea, and has been debated and discussed for millennia. From Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, to Thomas Sowell’s The Quest for Cosmic Justice, man has continued to search and debate true justice.
We must have a working definition of justice, or understand it’s foundations. Without having a working definition, we can’t have a conversation. If we speak different languages, we will not be able to have a conversation.
WE HAVE TO HAVE A WORKING DEFINITION OF JUSTICE
In some ways, some SJWs don’t want to have this conversation, because I believe some of them know their foundation is weak. If you believe what you are really fighting for is justice, you should have nothing to hide. What we cannot have is abstract terms so that some may hijack the meaning of words, or the ideas we are discussing.
Before we define justice, let’s talk about what justice is not. Justice cannot be mere declaration. By that, I mean that you cannot just have something as just or unjust simply because some have declared it as such. It is not fair to say that this is all SJW, but we do see this happening often by this generation. Just because you are angry with something, and you say it is unjust, doesn’t mean that it is.
JUSTICE CANNOT BE MERE DECLARATION
This reminds me of “The Office” S4E7-8, the “Money” episode where Michael walks around the office yelling “I declare bankruptcy.” Michael makes the mistake of thinking that declaration equals definition. That if he says that he declares bankruptcy, it is so, and his problems will go away. To often, SJWs like Michael think that declaring something is enough to make it true.
Often the emotional appeal that they live by or their loose definition of justice is not thought through, but they are fanatically energized by someone else trying to control them. Mob rule takes over, and the whims of the crowd become the deciding factor of how they and others should live, not justice itself.
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Remember, justice is multifaceted, but let me try to lay out a basic definition. Justice is someone being able to own themselves and their possessions. This is a workable, concrete definition by which we can logically measure justice or injustice. It is not abstract. The political theorist, Matt Kibbe, says that this means to simply live by two rules: don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff .
JUSTICE IS SOMEONE BEING ABLE TO OWN THEMSELVES AND THEIR POSSESSIONS.
If we were talking about justice as a definition or idea, without anyone thinking about the outcome of what they were going to sign up for, all would sign up with this truth of owning oneself or their own possessions. Who does not want to keep what is theirs, or have control over their own person? The issue becomes when someone else wants something that is not theirs or wants to control someone else.
One of the issues of justice is that some have mixed up the ideas of justice, fairness, and equality. These are separate ideas, while closely related, and often, when someone is discussing justice, they are really talking about fairness or equality. I will discuss this at some time in the future.
A basic explanation of misunderstanding these words is that if Joe has five apples, and Sue has two apples, they both do not have the same amount of apples. While they do not have equal possessions, this may have nothing to do with the justice of those things.
Maybe Joe planted an apple tree on his land and picked five apples off of those trees and Sue came in the middle of the night and took two apples off of Joe’s tree without permission. While some may look at the apples they have and see inequality because Sue has less apples, the reality is that Sue is the one in this scenario who actually has committed the injustice.
The problem we have is that people use the word justice to mean equality. They do so as “social justice warriors” to attempt to create change. They are not looking for pure justice itself. What they are talking about is “distributive justice,” which is really not justice. They have created this term for their own use, corrupting the idea of justice, to appear just.
If “distributive justice” is done by force instead of through voluntary means, we have not created justice. We may have created “equality” but the two terms are not interchangeable. The definition of “distributive justice” is used to attempt to mislead people in an understanding of justice.
So if someone is taking away or damaging something belonging to someone else, or the person themself, we have injustice. If these kind of injustices are being done, then by all means SJW, mount your horse, grab your helmet and sword, and charge the crowd.
Too often the modern SJW is not fighting for someone to keep their possessions or have ownership over themselves. In fact, often they are fighting against justice. They are in combat against justice, as they attempt to take others possessions away from someone in order to give it to others.
I plan to write several articles as follow-ups to this blog post. First, how does Jesus discuss justice in one of His parables. Second, is justice the highest Christian ethic? Third, do we always have to execute justice? Lastly, does justice sacrifice charity at it’s altar? These will be among some of the ideas we will work out in “the gymnasium of the mind”, as my professor Dr. Shumaker used to say.
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