All for One and Theft for All—The Fallacy of the Social-Justice Movement by Carl Teichrib is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are available. Our booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of this new booklet. To order copies of All for One and Theft for All—The Fallacy of the Social-Justice Movement, click here.
All for One and Theft for All—The Fallacy of the Social-Justice Movement
By Carl Teichrib
Author’s Note: Volumes could be written on the different historical and philosophical applications of social justice, and we could easily find ourselves lost in a tangled maze of ideologies and nuances. Hence, this booklet seeks to examine the core element of social justice as a current social-economical-political movement.
[W]e must understand that the only road to peace and social justice is socialism. . . . With the exploiting classes there will never be social justice; without social justice there will never be peace.1—Celia Hart, a socialist author
[I]t is necessary to understand that every modern theory of social justice is ideological. No matter how reasonable or rational it may be, every modern theory of social justice is the rationalization of the interests of a particular group or class.2—William E. Murnion, a socialist professor
[A]ll modern trends point to the specter of a terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity.3—Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, political scientist/ philosopher
A boiling, seething emotion rose from my chest into my throat. An avalanche of angry words tumbled from my small mouth. My indignation could not be quenched. A final declaration sounded with thick certainty. “When I’m older, I’m going to do something about this.” I was only about ten years old when I said these words, but I had seen enough to know. Gross injustices had been observed.
I well remember the bitter experience. Me, a sensible farm boy—and my grandparents, owners of a small fabric shop in a sleepy prairie town—had traveled to the claustrophobic city of Winnipeg. The purpose: to visit textile outlets and make purchases of cloth. After two days of warehouses and shop floors, I knew this was the end of the world. Working conditions were deplorable: Too little sunshine, poorly chosen paint colors, and smelly old merchantmen.
“Here’s some candy, kid.” It tasted stale. At one critical point Grandma had to shush me. Didn’t she know? Didn’t anybody care? The lone Pepsi machine we had passed in the darkened hall wore a sign of prophetic importance: “Out of Order.” And I was dying of thirst.
Yes, the textile industry—indeed, the entire business world—was out of order. How could anybody work in these depressing places? Boredom alone had to be killing people; it was killing me!
As we loaded up with fabric and left this urban wasteland, I caught a glimpse of something else. A brick-lined smokestack was silhouetted against the evening sky, and smoke—or steam (it didn’t matter)—was belching forth to choke out nature’s life. That’s when I lost it. Didn’t those people know what they were doing? Didn’t anybody in the government have a brain? Not only was the city a depressing place and the warehouses terrible for workers, but the factories were going to kill everything! When I grew-up, I was going to put a stop to this madness. Others would join in this desire to change the world. We would save the worker from his intolerable slavery and rescue the environment from the hands of greedy merchantmen. Justice, or vengeance, would be served—whether at home or abroad. Grandma soothingly patronized me. Grandpa, lips tight, said nothing.
Looking back, I marvel. As a young mind, I had a keen sense of “social rights” and “justice.” And I was a prime candidate to have swung to the more extreme side of the leftist camp. In fact, my impressionable mind was already moving in that direction. Unaware that I was mimicking a Marxist approach—social revolution through mass action—I was emotionally convinced that radical surgery was the only recourse. Where had this come from?
My parents and grandparents were no-nonsense farmers and business owners. They worked very hard at their respective livelihoods, were quick to help anyone who needed assistance, and contributed to the local community in different ways—including, on my mother’s part, teaching English to Laotian immigrants (those were the days of the Boat People). Both my parents and grandparents emphasized Christian ethics and values, to stand up for the underdog, and remain independent in the face of peer pressure; “You were born an original; don’t die a copy.”
The church I attended had Mennonite roots but didn’t cater to leftist ideologies. In fact, it had separated itself from a Mennonite denomination in part because of a growing socialist slant in the larger body. At heart, we were probably the only non-pacifist Mennonite church in the district.
Television? No. At that time, TV consisted of Bugs Bunny on Saturday evenings and Dad trying to watch The Lawrence Welk Show while we kids faithfully re-enacted Wile-E Coyote cliff-falls from the top of the couch. There just wasn’t much time for television.
Public school? This was the late 1970s, and an environmental curriculum was already in play. In the local high school, The Environmental Handbook was used as a text, complete with overtly anti-Christian, anti-family, and anti-capitalist rhetoric. The Environmental Handbook, for all practical purposes, was a Marxist/Trotskyite call to radical green action—“nothing short of total transformation will do much good.”4 Other school texts, such as the Prose of Relevance and Worlds in the Making, shaped minds to accept quantum cultural shifts, including the move towards socialist and technocratic ideals.
Elementary school and junior high also witnessed a steady stream of transforming curriculum. I remember hearing about the growing problems of over-population and the destruction of the ecosystem caused by human greed and pollution. Injustice was occurring in different parts of the world. Nuclear annihilation was around the corner. Whether overt or subtle, the message was clear: The old ways of how society functioned could no longer be tolerated. Too much was at stake, and it was up to my generation to fix the world’s problems. Whether the teachers knew it or not, we were being shaped to change the system. Thus, a variety of cultural and social alternatives entered the classroom—including Marxism. The mood of my childhood education was shaped by what had occurred less than a decade earlier.
The late 1960s and early ’70s was a hinge time for Western society, and the ripple effect spread far and wide. This was the era of the New Left, with its vanguard techniques and its challenge to cultural norms. Radicalism clashed with conventionalism, the drug culture blossomed, and Eastern forms of spirituality entered the mainstream. In America, the welfare or “servile state” was greatly expanded, including experiments in community housing. All of this was coupled with the Vietnam War, which first demoralized France and then the United States. During this time, “peace” groups parroted Soviet propaganda; capitalism was equated with “war mongering” while socialism reflected equity and peace. The liberal-minded West embraced this trend, even though Frederick C. Barghoorn, a Yale professor who had been interned by the Soviet government in 1963, had warned America about the use of “peace” as a method in furthering Marxist ideology. Published one year after his arrest and release, his book Soviet Foreign Propaganda provided an important warning:
It should be emphasized that all of the Soviet leaders, from Lenin and Trotsky through Stalin and Khrushchev, strove in their peace propaganda to appeal both to revolutionaries seeking the overthrow of constitutional democracy and to western businessmen, liberals, pacifists, and the general public whose non-dialectic conception of peace was limited to the simple absence of armed conflict.5
Liberals and pacifists of Western nations were viewed as important players in the cause of international Marxism. Their importance came not from an understanding of the Moscow-Hegelian-Marxist program but from their ignorance. Convinced of holding the moral high ground and blinded by a sense of enlightenment, these individuals advanced the Communist agenda by acting on the emotion of the ideal. In other words, they were emotionally drawn to a Marxist-oriented “social justice” cause—the “plight of the worker,” economic and social inequalities, the desire for class-based justice, and the “struggle for peace.” These individuals would then become activists, educators, and cultural trendsetters. And they demanded social transformation that would, invariably, have an anti-capitalist and anti-individualist tone. The boys in Moscow grinned.
The only way of “assuring lasting peace in the world” from the Marxist perspective, explained Barghoon, is the “elimination of capitalism.”6 Peace, solidarity, and justice throbbed with a Leninist heartbeat throughout this turbulent time period. Capitalism, with its emphasis on private property and free enterprise, was considered the prime cause of social strife. Socialism, with its emphasis on community and social order, was the path to progress. This leftist ideology was solidly embedded in education during the 1970s, and from that point on its fingerprints can be observed in practically all major institutional systems, including schools and churches.
Retna Ghosh and Douglas Ray, in the preface to their 1987 book Social Change and Education in Canada, provide a short outline of social theories that shaped modern education. This included Herbert Spencer’s social Darwinism, the conflict theories of Karl Marx, modernization, and the concept of human capital with its emphasis on workforce development. Each impacted the Canadian school system, as did technocracy and a host of other philosophies. And while the system may see distinctions in these theories, the classroom was far more blurred. Indeed, any of the above—or a mix of all—shaped the student’s worldview. But rarely did the student understand the ideal behind the curriculum. As Ghosh and Ray explained:
Social change, whether gradual or revolutionary, is inevitable and brings with it new patterns of social interaction. The place of education in this process is both complex and critical.7
For a young mind in the late ’70s bombarded by a host of conflicting educational patterns, the emotional tug attached to exploited social issues seemed the most relevant. No wonder my trip to Winnipeg ended with a Trotskyite call for revolution.
What has any of this to do with “social justice”? Everything.
Catholic Social Justice
In today’s Christian world—and Western culture in general—there’s a myriad of changes taking place, and with it comes new language. “Social Justice” is certainly in the spotlight. Jim Wallis of Sojourners played a huge role in introducing the concept to millions of Christians as did many emergent/progressive figures like Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne and countless others with the help of numerous large Christian publishing companies—all seeking to reframe Christianity in a social-justice context. Today, the Christian Reformed Church has an Office of Social Justice; the Salvation Army has The International Social Justice Commission; and a fast growing number of Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities now have social-justice programs as do many, if not most, denominations and ministries.
But where does this term come from, and what is its dominant history?
“Social justice” appears to have been first employed in the early 1840s by an Italian Catholic theologian and Jesuit, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio.8 As Daniel M. Bell points out in his book, Liberation Theology After the End of History, D’Azeglio’s concept was “justice as a general virtue that coordinated all activity with the common good.9
The notion of virtue is important, for it brings a flavor of charity. Taparelli’s vision circled around justice as a system of moral norms that included individual rights and the freedom to associate. The greater whole of the community—the “sum total of individual goods”10—would thus benefit. This form of “justice” was also known as economic justice and looked upon wealth redistribution as a coordination of rights. Direct government administration should be avoided wherever possible, for Taparelli recognized the danger of centralization.11
In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued his encyclical Rerum Novarum, which dealt with the conditions of the working class, the right to private property, and the workplace relationship. Leo XIII rejected Communism and the greed that arises from an amoral application of capitalism, instead advocating that worker and employer should come to an honest agreement regarding labor and wages. At this point, Catholicism rejected Marxist-based socialism.
Decades later, Pope Pius XI penned his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. In it, he denounced Communism and at the same time embraced wealth redistribution—the sharing of benefits—as a function of social justice (#57). “By this law of social justice, one class is forbidden to exclude the other from sharing in the benefits.” While this idea started to stretch the earlier limits of Catholic social justice, he at least recognized that all sides of the class divide could be negative players: the rich withholding the wages due the worker, and the worker demanding all from the rich. That aside, the free-market system wasn’t an acceptable means to build a civilization on social justice:
Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching . . . [F]ree competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life—a truth which the outcome of the application in practice of the tenets of this evil individualistic spirit has more than sufficiently demonstrated. Therefore, it is most necessary that economic life be again subjected to and governed by a true and effective directing principle. (#88)
In reading through the encyclical, an unsettling doublespeak emerges. Communism is chastised, yet the free market is evil. In this dialectic, the end result is that “certain kinds of property . . . ought to be reserved to the State.” The “public authority,” according to Pius XI, should maintain ownership of enterprises that advance the “general welfare.”(#114-115). A slide down the slippery slope had now begun in earnest; “social justice” would become the excuse par-excellence in calling for a global collectivist system.
Speaking on Pius XI’s views regarding economic justice, Pope John XXIII pointed out that “man’s aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order, with its network of public and private institutions, in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interests of the common good.”12 Furthermore, in 1963, John XXIII advocated a “universal authority” to ensure this “common good.”13
This was the era of Vatican II. Speaking of the changes that occurred during this period, Professor Philip C. Bom tells us, “It could be characterized as a shift from anti-Communism toward pro-commonism of a new world order.”14
In 1965, Pope Paul VI made similar comments at the United Nations, openly suggesting “the establishment of a world authority.”15 Why? Because a world authority is needed to establish and maintain an international “common good.” That same year, Paul VI’s document Gaudium et Spes—Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World—recognized that the Catholic Church has an important role to play in constructing “a peaceful and fraternal community of nations.”(#90) In that vein, he recommended in Section II titled “Setting Up an International Community,” the creation of a Catholic organ designed to promote “international social justice.”(#90). Individualism was upheld in the document, but it must support the greater good. Communistic collectivism in production was considered erroneous, yet a form of social collectivism was deemed necessary. An excerpt from paragraph 65 demonstrates this social-justice relationship:
Citizens, on the other hand, should remember that it is their right and duty, which is also recognized by the civil authority, to contribute to the true progress of their own community according to their ability . . . those who hold back their unproductive resources or who deprive their community of the material or spiritual aid that it needs—save the right of migration—gravely endanger the common good.
Here we see a swing far past the earlier idea of a charitable virtue. The implication is forthright: you will participate. In the context of this particular document, that participation includes the demands of a global community and world civil authority.
Although Pope John Paul II was perceived as more conservative, he too espoused a globally minded social-justice agenda. This was evident in his endorsement of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which gravitate around wealth redistribution. (Note: While the Millennium Development Goals outwardly demonstrate some admirable targets—education, eradication of poverty and hunger, improved health—the methods are suspect.)16 And as the most notable geo-political pope of the twentieth century, John Paul envisioned “a globalization of solidarity.”17 In discussing globalization as a unifying factor, he said:
For all its risks it offers exceptional and promising opportunities, precisely with a view to enabling humanity to become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity and solidarity.18
Furthermore, the U.S. Catholic bishops, operating under John Paul’s reign, were open regarding social justice—“the common good”—in their 1986 letter, “Economic Justice For All”:
The common good may sometimes demand that the right to own be limited by public involvement in the planning or ownership of certain sectors of the economy. Support of private ownership does not mean that anyone has the right to unlimited accumulation of wealth. (#115)
Interestingly, Catholic commentators from all sides of the political spectrum described the bishops’ document as “pro-capitalist.” However, a cursory read demonstrates that “Economic Justice For All” is pro-socialist. Yes, the responsibility of the individual is highlighted and private property is validated. However, it’s the bishops’ economic justice that displays a different set of cards, with its call for collective, government-directed programs aimed at curing social ills. Individuals, therefore, are obligated to participate under government dictates. In other words, if you can contribute to the common good, then you must contribute. This is reminiscent of the Marxist maxim: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Writing for the Journal of Business Ethics, William E. Murnion gives a straightforward assessment of the bishop’s text: “[T]he conception of justice it espouses is . . . clearly socialist, and communist at that.” Murnion conceded that the bishops were not “crypto-communists,” just that their “conception of social justice is indeed identical with the communist principle of justice even though the bishops have arrived at it from a route entirely opposed to Marx’s.”19
Finally, from the Catholic perspective, Pope Benedict XVI amply demonstrated his affinity to social justice through his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Here, social justice is recognized as an issue of prime economic and political importance, one that goes beyond the free-market approach. According to this encyclical, economic redistribution is justice. The Pope also recommended that the United Nations be reformed, along with the global economy, so that a “true world political authority” would emerge “with teeth.”(#67) Why? To “seek to establish the common good.” (#67).
Although some older Papal teachings uphold private property and reject Marxist socialism, such as Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, the Roman Catholic hierarchy over the past hundred plus years has increasingly bridged “social justice” with economic and political collectivism. In this sense, the Holy See has become a cheerleading squad for the United Nations’ system of socialist management. As Professor Bom explains in his book, The Coming Century of Commonism, “Slowly, step-by-step, stage-by-stage, the Catholic church-state champions the U.N.’s agenda for a New International Economic Order.”20
Pope Francis, the current pope, openly embraces social-justice concepts and has frequently called for “global wealth redistribution”21 for the common good. He supports the U.N.’s efforts and agendas to control wealth and its redistribution; and in a 2020 encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, he exuded socialism (and at times bordering communism) suggesting that capitalism is ineffective and criticized individualism in favor of its opposite, collectivism.
Parallel to the modern Catholic version of social justice is another historical movement giving active energy to the term. And if the Papal idea of social justice found itself on the slippery slope to collectivism, this parallel movement intentionally aimed for the bottom of the hill.
Marxist Social Justice
For generations there has been an activist side to the idea of wealth redistribution. This popular front, with a web of splinter groups, organizations, and fellow travelers, used “social justice” as the rallying cry for cultural transformation. In fact, this movement is very much alive today and continues to use the term as an effective banner. These social-justice flag wavers have been the most vocal preachers of collectivism—the followers of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and dozens of other socialist and communist leaders. Communists and social radicals have been, hands-down, the winners when it comes to employing this term. The Socialist International has always used it, as has Trotskyite organizations, Red factions, and a multitude of socialist political parties.
The idea of social justice within a more political context goes back a long way. In 1848, the Society of Fraternal Democrats, an international body that rubbed shoulders with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, published a veiled threat against the British system:
Let the privileged classes renounce their unjust usurpations and establish political equality and social justice, and England will have nothing to fear against a world in arms.22
Under Communism, wealth redistribution was to be used for social ends. In this structure, private property for personal gain was viewed as the cornerstone of the class system and was seen as the cause of social injustice and strife. Wealth redistribution, therefore, was aimed at producing a society where all people were economically equal. Hence, the abolition of bourgeois property (that of the capitalist class) was the key component of Communism. Once the proletariat (working class) had attained political power, a more just social system could be birthed.
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible. Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property.23
Arousing Envy—Disguised as Virtue
This concept of social justice, the raising of an “oppressed” class through the degradation of another class, is a reactionary process based on the arousing of envy. At this base level, and in other respects, Communism is directly linked to the French Revolution—an event that had sparked worldwide revolutionary fervor, and one whose shots are still echoing today. Austrian philosopher and defender of freedom, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, provides historical context:
. . . how many people were murdered or killed in battle because of the ideas of the French Revolution in their various stages, guises, and evolutionary forms, because of the ideas of equality, ethnic or racist identity, a “classless society,” a “world safe for democracy,” a “racially pure people,” “true social justice achieved by social engineering.”24
Weaving the thread of envy and social change, Kuehnelt-Leddihn reminds us:
In the last 200 years the exploitation of envy, its mobilization among the masses, coupled with the denigration of individuals, but more frequently of classes, races, nations or religious communities has been the very key to political success. . . . All leftist “isms” harp on this theme (i.e., on the privilege of groups, minority groups, to be sure, who are objects of envy and at the same time subjects of intellectual-moral inferiorities. They have no right to their exalted positions. They ought to conform to the rest, become identical with “the people,” renounce their privileges, conform. If they speak another language, they ought to drop it and talk the lingo of the majority. If they are wealthy their riches should be taxed away or confiscated).25
This method of arousing envy, often disguised as virtue—“we’re doing this for the poor and oppressed”—is built upon a sense of moral superiority and indignation, which then ferments into loathing and “social action.” At this point, the emotion of the ideal becomes the driver of transformation. Perched on this self-constructed high point, we quickly sanction socialism (the theft of all for the “greater good”). Or, not content by the slowness of socialism, Communism is pursued through revolution (the gutting of one class for the “greater good”). Either way, collectivism is instituted, which is the empowerment of those who claim to guide the general good. In all of this, they say, democracy takes on a purification role, expressed as “Mob Rule.” Whoever controls the biggest mob through the emotion of the ideal is the one who rules. Social change then occurs either through the ballot box or the barrel of a gun. It doesn’t matter: the Mob has spoken; “equality” will be enforced, and we can bask in the “warm herd feeling of brotherhood.”26
Literary critic and former Marxist, Herbert Read, well understood these connections:
Communism is an extreme form of democracy, and it is totalitarian: but equally the totalitarian state in the form of fascism is an extreme form of democracy. All forms of socialism, whether state socialism of the Russian kind, or national socialism of the German kind, or democratic socialism of the British kind, are professedly democratic, that is to say, they all obtain popular assent by the manipulation of mass psychology.27
Over the years, Communist and socialist leaders have rallied the masses with the message of inequality (“oppression”) and the social-justice solution: economic equality, which, they say, will come about and “bring the end of inequalities and establish real social justice.”28 In the current climate of the 2020s, Critical Race Theory has been resurrected and is being introduced to millions (including school children) to help bring about the socialist, Marxist plan for Western society.
In 1898, Eugene V. Debs—later dubbed “America’s greatest Marxist”—equated a collective society, industrial freedom, and social justice.29 A few years later, during World War I, he noted that permanent peace based on social justice wouldn’t occur until “national industrial despotism” was replaced by “international industrial democracy.” Economic profit was anathema to peace, and the ending of war could only come with the ending of “profit and plunder among nations.”30 A new order was needed where one class was stripped and replaced by a more progressive and global apparatus.
V.I. Lenin and his gang “came to power with an ambitious program of measures designed to ensure social justice and improve the lot of the poor.”31 Maxim Gorky, a friend of Lenin, couches this in glowing words of endearment:
The heroic deeds which [Lenin] achieved are surrounded by no glittering halo. His was that heroism which Russia knows well—the unassuming, austere life of self-sacrifice of the true Russian revolutionary intellectual who, in his unshakable belief in the possibility of social justice on earth, renounces all the pleasures of life in order to toil for the happiness of mankind.32
The result was disastrous. Mervyn Matthews tells us, “The efforts to banish ‘capitalist exploitation’ had all but destroyed the wealthier classes without benefiting more than a tiny proportion of the poor.”33
But it did benefit Lenin and company. Never mind the mountain of corpses; progress always comes with a price. By 1922, the Russian Revolution had cost the lives of six to ten million.
Decades later in the Americas, Castro summed up the Cuban revolution “as an aspiration for social justice.”34 Che Guevara couched his bloody revolution as an “armed struggle for freedom of rights and social justice.”35 This crude theme is common to all leftist uprisings because it rests in the heart of all leftist ideologies. Socialist author Celia Hart put it this way:
With the exploiting classes there will never be social justice; without social justice there will never be peace . . . Never before has the world needed, as now, to remember November seven [the anniversary of the October Revolution]. Never before must we understand that the banner of Bolshevism never died . . . And let us shout to our enemies, regardless of whether they call us terrorists, that we will not fight for the imperialist war, or for the miserable peace of injustices; we will fight together for the socialist revolution in permanent combat. Workers of the World, Unite!36
It’s a radical call. Today we see social justice linked to a myriad of radical movements, including environmentalism. Nice sounding, morally high terms arise from this Marxist-green marriage: “Eco-justice,” “green justice,” and “climate justice.” How does this look?
In 1990, the Manitoba government, in partnership with UNESCO convened the prestigious World Environment Energy and Economic Conference. The theme was provocative: “Sustainable Development Strategies and the New World Order.” A report was released with the findings, titled “Sustainable Development for a New World Agenda.” Chapter 2, “Towards a Global Green Constitution,” fleshed out a section with the subtitle “Social Justice.” Population control, green energy regulations, and accounting systems that suggested “an official global policy of one child per family” and the “principle of global economic equality” would be central to the “green government,” the text reported. Human rights would also be at the forefront.
“Intolerable attitudes” wouldn’t be tolerated, all in the name of protecting the oppressed. Now, real oppression is evil. Nobody in his or her right mind wants oppression to occur or flourish. But social justice ala collectivism is the most dangerous form of oppression imaginable. Moreover, the truly downtrodden—like the peasants of the old Soviet Union—rarely have their load lightened under social justice. Instead, with the destruction of the creative capital inherent in a free market, the plight of the poor continues. In fact, life often becomes more difficult.
No wonder F.A. Hayek called Marxist-based social justice a “pseudo-ethics”—one that “fails every test which a system of moral rules must satisfy in order to secure a peace and voluntary co-operation of free men.”37
Getting Our Terms Right
“My church has a social justice mandate . . . This is something I support.” Sounds nice, but can you tell me what you mean? The usual response I get, thankfully, centers on feeding the poor, helping at a homeless shelter or safe house, assisting the elderly, working with troubled teens, or supporting an orphanage.
Sorry, that’s not social justice. The dominant social-justice concept for the past 150 years has been centered on the sliding slope of papal-advocated wealth redistribution, alongside a Marxist version of collectivism. Feeding the poor and assisting the helpless, from a Christian perspective, isn’t social justice—it’s biblical compassion, a generous act of love. Such acts of compassion engage individual lives and are based on the Christian call of loving others more than self. This is the heart of compassion: An individual sees a need and operating out of love, reaches to meet that need. Churches too are to function in a similar manner. A need is evident, and moved by compassion, the congregation works to solve the dilemma. Coercion never enters the picture, nor does a political agenda emerge, nor is a call for economic equality heard.
The biblical parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates true compassion (Luke 10). A Jewish man has been beaten, robbed, and left to die on the road. Various people pass him by, including the religiously pious. However, a Samaritan traveler sees the individual, and although the Samaritan is culturally alienated from the Jewish man, he recognizes the desperation and individually takes action—dressing his wounds and providing a place of rest and refuge. And the Samaritan pays for it himself without demanding remuneration or compensation, either from the victim, his family, or community, or from the government or ruling class. However, if the Samaritan were a supporter of the dominant theme in social justice, he would have acted with a different motive for different ends. The Samaritan would have used the occasion to lobby for social transformation:
- The robbers were really victims of an unjust economic system and had acted in response to the oppression of the capital class.
- In order to bring justice to this oppressed class and to steer them back to a caring community, equitable wealth redistribution should take place.
- Who will pay the victim’s medical bills? The community or the rich.
In the social-justice framework, another agenda lurks behind the tragedy: A political/economic cause is piggybacked and leveraged—the cause of economic equality through wealth redistribution. This isn’t about truly helping the victim; it’s about using the victim. Biblical justice, on the other hand, never seeks to dismantle class structures. Evil actions are condemned, but this isn’t specific to a particular social strata. Consider the words of Leviticus 19:15, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect [be partial to] the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”
In other words, according to the Bible, true justice means we do not show partiality to someone based on whether he or she is poor or is rich, but rather true justice is based on the standards of righteousness that God has put forth in His Word. God made us different from each other. We are unequal in aptitude, talent, skill, work ethic, priorities, etc. Inevitably, these differences result in some individuals producing and earning far more wealth than others. To the extent that those in the social-justice crowd obsess about eliminating economic inequality, they are at war with the nature of the Creator’s creation.
The Bible doesn’t condemn economic inequality. Jesus, Himself, didn’t condemn economic inequality. Yes, He repeatedly warned about the snares of material wealth and especially the love of money; He exploded the comfortable conventionality of the Pharisaical tendency to regard prosperity as a badge of honor and superiority; He commanded compassion toward the poor and suffering. But He also told his disciples, “ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11), and in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:24-30), He condemned the failure to productively use one’s God-given talents—whether many or few, exceptional or ordinary—by having a lord take money from the one who had the least and give it to him who had the most, thereby increasing economic inequality.
The Lord’s mission was to redeem us from sin, not to redistribute our property or impose an economic equality on us. In fact, Jesus explicitly declined to undermine property rights or preach economic equality when He told the man who wanted Jesus to tell his brother to share an inheritance with him, “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?” (Luke 12:14).
I must confess that it’s easy to fall into the social-justice way of thinking. My childhood rant over what I perceived to be injustices showed me, in retrospect, the power of an emotional ideal. Yet, if by some twist I had followed up on my self-righteous emotional outburst and had become a social-justice advocate in the true sense of the phrase, a sad irony would have occurred: In the name of “justice,” I would have promoted socially sanctioned theft. All for one collective, and theft for all.
Let us act with compassion, be charitable, and pursue true justice. Let us be wise in our actions, clear in our language, and honest in our motives.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. (Micah 6:8)
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- Celia Hart, The Flag of Coyoacan, edited by Walter Lippmann in August 2004. Reprinted in www.marxists.org.
- William E. Murnion, “The Ideology of Social Justice in Economic Justice For All” (Journal of Business Ethics, 1989), p. 848.
- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (Arlington House, 1974), p. 17.
- Garrett de Bell, The Environmental Handbook (Ballantine Books, 1970), p. 330.
- Frederick C. Barghoorn, Soviet Foreign Propaganda (Princeton University Press, 1964), pp. 93-94.
- Ibid. p. 89.
- Ratna Ghosh and Douglas Ray, Social Change and Education in Canada (Harcourt Brace, 1987), p. vii.
- Marvin L. Krier Mich, Catholic Social Teaching and Movement (Twenty-Third Publications, 1998), pp. 80-81. See also Daniel M. Bell, Liberation Theology After the End of History (Routledge, 2001), p. 104.
- Daniel M. Bell, Liberation Theology After the End of History (Routledge, 2001), p. 104.
- Thomas Behr, “Luigi Taparelli and Social Justice: Rediscovering the Origins of a Hollowed Concept”(Social Justice in Context conference; Carolyn Freeze Baynes Institute for Social Justice At: East Carolina University, Volume: 1).
- Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, paragraph 40.
- Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, see section 4, paragraphs 130 to 141.
- Philip C. Bom, The Coming Century of Commonism (Policy Books, 1992), p. 312.
- Pope Paul VI, talk at the United Nations, October 4, 1965; section 3.
- The MDGs lean toward a system of international socialism. Check out the speech of the prime minister of the Hellenic Republic at the annual meeting of the Socialist International; https://tinyurl.com/32zetsbe.
- As quoted by John A. Coleman, Globalization as a Challenge to Catholic Social Thought (Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought, 2004), p. 9.
- William E. Murnion, “The Ideology of Social Justice in Economic Justice For All” op. cit., see pages 847-857.
- Philip C. Bom, The Coming Century of Commonism, op. cit., p. 315.
- See https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/speeches/2020/february/documents/papa-francesco_20200205_nuoveforme-disolidarieta.html and https://www.breitbart.com/economy/2020/02/06/tax-the-rich-pope-francis-calls-for-global-wealth-redistribution/.
- The Chartist Movement: The Fraternal Democrats to the Working Classes of Great Britain and Ireland, January 10, 1848. As republished at www.marxists.org.
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (Penguin, 1967), p. 104.
- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (Arlington House, 1974), p. 419.
- Ibid., p. 18.
- Ibid., p. 17.
- Ibid., p. 174.
- Robert Gellately, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage, 2007), p. 10.
- Eugene V. Debs, “The American Movement,” published in Debs: His Life Writings and Speeches, and reprinted at www.marxists.org.
- E. V. Debs, “The Prospect for Peace” (American Socialist, 1916, reprinted at www.marxists.org).
- Mervyn Matthews, Poverty in the Soviet Union (Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 7.
- Maxim Gorky, “Days With Lenin” (Readings in Russian Civilization, Volume 3, The University of Chicago Press, 1969), pp. 517-518.
- Mervyn Matthews, Poverty in the Soviet Union, op. cit., pp. 7-8.
- Fidel Castro, “When the People Rule,” speech on January 21, 1959, Havana, Cuba.
- Che Guevara, interview, April 18, 1959. Two Chinese journalists, K’ung Mai and Ping An conducted the interview “on the 108th evening after the victory of the revolution.”
- Celia Hart, The Flag of Coyoacan, op. cit.
- F. A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty: The Political order of a Free People (University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 135.
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(This booklet was first written in article form by Carl Teichrib in 2010 and has been updated in 2022 for this booklet under publishing contract with Lighthouse Trails.)