Is Social Justice Marxism?

Maybe you have heard some Christians discourage the term “social justice” because they disagree theologically with the adjective “social” before the word justice. It is true that justice in the biblical sense can and should stand alone according to the scriptures. We don’t need adjectives in front of the term “justice” if such a word would encompass all aspects of life in our world as intended by the word of God, including all people. The problem with justice in America is that the philosophy of “Justice for all” has not historically meant “Justice for ALL”. I hope that we can still move toward this wonderful aspiration. Unless our heads are buried in the sands of denial and privilege we all know that the phrase “Justice for all” only means, in many cases, “Justice for ALMOST all.”

Because African Americans were not considered full humans beings, full citizens, or fully integrated into the American system, justice was something to fight for. Many of our forefathers and ancestors fought, protested, and died to persuade others in the nation that we were worthy of justice in society – social justice. This is not “another gospel” as some would contend. This is not easily dismissed liberation theology. This is the outworking of the true saving gospel.

Social justice is the idea that socially, and yes, even within religion, justice must roll down like a river to all humans regardless of color, class, or culture. Justice cannot simply be a spiritual term meaning that we are justified by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It must mean that the dignity afforded by God to the poor, the marginalized, and the destitute must live its way out in society. Social justice is not about Marxism. It is about equality, equity, inclusion, and fairness. To dismiss social justice as Marxism is simply another way of dismissing the cries of minorities who are refusing to remain in a system of oppression and exclusion. With major disparities in wealth, health, wages, education and incarcerations we can only come to two conclusions about the black community if we don’t believe that social justice is mandated by the gospel. We can either believe that black people are not smart enough to achieve, they are not worthy enough to be paid equal wages, and are not deserving enough to receive equal sentencing in comparison to their white counterparts for the same crimes. An equally erroneous view is that social justice is truly the conspiracy of left leaning liberals to destroy all good systems of order.

Or, one can believe a more heartfelt view that the current movement afoot is the honest cry of millions of citizens who have been pleading, praying, screaming, crying, kneeling, protesting, and beseeching America for centuries to reconsider the structures it has created to minimize and dominate people of color, leveraging and weaponizing the legal system to do so. Which do you believe?

Ask yourself, is resisting such a system of intended disadvantages to black people really Marxism? No. The resistance demonstrates the ability of African Americans to exert the strength of their will to strive, survive, and thrive. In spite of and against all odds, the resiliency of the black community in the face of oppressive systems set against it should be lauded as nothing short of absolutely amazing.

In contrast, Marxism is the belief that the ruling class over the working class should be overthrown so that the people in the working class run everything. Socialism is the idea that everyone should share resources equally so that there is not capitalistic ruler-ship. Capitalism is the idea that the ones who work the hardest and earn the most receive the greatest rewards of their work, and hence, should not be penalized for their success simply because the under classes cannot or will not achieve at the same level. Social justice is not Marxism, Socialism, or Communism. It is justice for all people in society. That’s it. Period! The goal of Marxism, named after Karl Marx, is to create a system that advocates class war leading to a society where all property is publicly owned. Equality and equity need not be associated with, or classified as, Marxism. It is very concerning to me that some Evangelicals are raising their voices in this season to squash the current movement against white supremacy and systemic racism by making the Marxist association and classification as a fear tactic in order to remain in the ruling class over a culture of true democracy. In other words, it is a red herring; a way to distract from the systems and structures of oppression that need to be dismantled. With such dismantling comes the fear that whites may be losing status, power, and positions of dominance over the culture that they once knew. The fear of whites losing this dominance is understandably unsettling and disturbing. It is truly a culture war. The problem is what side of the culture war do Evangelicals want to be on? Do they want to fight for the America that once was or the diverse America that is now, and is to come? It begs the question: Is white Judeo-Christian dominance still the right culture for America going into the future? Also, the question that must be wrestled with is what does a culture that is democratic and Christian-based look like in a society that is diverse racially, ethnically, and religiously? The answer to such questions are much more worthy of our pondering and wrestling than simply writing off social justice as Marxism and preaching against it as if anyone who embraces social justice is aberrant in their orthodoxy.

Are there extremists on the left that want to pull America toward a communistic, socialistic, Marxist agenda? Sure there are. Does that represent me, Black Lives Matter, and past civil rights movements? No. Wake up! Labeling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a communist ultimately failed. Naming Black Lives Matter as a Marxist movement is not accurate or honest, even if you find extreme examples to parade. Every movement has extremists. It comes with the territory. Just because I want my kids of color to make it home safely from their interaction with the police, doesn’t make me a Marxist. Do not label black people or Black Lives Matter as Marxists because you are uncomfortable with the changing winds of equality. Realize and empathize with the fact that “justice for all” never truly meant “justice for ALL”. However, with the power and love we have collectively, we can help this promise become a reality so that we can truly say together, “All lives matter” including those that historically have not. If you want to be a part of the solution and not add to the problem, then let’s be quick to say, “We will do all that is within our power to ensure that all lives matter, including African Americans” before we quickly put out there that, “We don’t support the Black Lives Matter hashtag and organization because they stand for the breakdown of the traditional family”. While I stand for the traditional family too, it would do my heart good to hear pro-traditional family advocates also say just as loudly, for example, that the injustice of promulgating for-profit prisons and extended prison sentences for people of color at alarming rates compared to the same crimes for whites is a holy assault on the traditional family as well. Instead of being so fast to cry out against the lawlessness and disorder in the streets, consider hollering about the need for law and order on the ground for people who look like me. While it is true that I am a pro-life pastor, it would do my heart good to hear as much outrage at a human being publicly lynched as I hear about the protection of property that is being destroyed, or that of the unborn. I don’t believe in the destruction of public property, but if I’m going to be loud, I choose to be loud about the lawlessness and disorder that has been perpetrated on black people in my lifetime from Rodney King to George Floyd, including the thousands in the decades between and the millions before.

If we begin to move in the direction of lifting up the cries of the oppressed and shaking the forces that disadvantage them, we will live out justice for the downtrodden in the spirit of the Good Samaritan in the Christian scriptures who crossed over ethnic and economic lines to care for the well-being of a stranger. Doing so should not fuel the fear of Marxism and Communism. On the contrary, doing so is a witness to a culture where we are all working toward equality, equity, and “Justice for ALL”.