Why Social Justice Activists are Wrong.
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
This blog is a response to my previous blog “Why Social Justice Activists Are Right”. It would be best to read that before reading this. In that blog, I explore why broad social political and cultural power symmetry is the seemingly righteous goal of the Social Justice movement.
So what’s the problem?
Well, several things, but first is the glaringly obvious conclusion I think any sane person can see. Underprivileged groups may claim to only want power symmetry, but we all know what people normally do once they rise into a position of power. Still, regardless of future use of power (which can only be guessed at) it’s clear based on both behavior and rhetoric that the Social Justice movement is, at its center, about acquiring power for those deemed less privileged and empowered. Conversely, those who oppose them are those who are defending their privilege and power.
What’s sad is that in the world of the atheist, this is the state of mankind. It is a Hobbesian competition for power because if well-being is what we seek, power is the tool to acquire it. Ultimately, life is nothing more than a jungle where groups compete for power to acquire that which they desire. Life is just a game of preference (that which you desire) and power (the means to acquire it) among competing groups.
So what’s the way out?
I don’t see a clear route out of this for the atheist. A life devoid of anything transcendent is at
it's core, a competition, not just for food and shelter, but for power in all its forms. Humans may create stories and myths about the special worth of human beings and cooperation (humanism, religion, human rights, etc.) but these are just hot air we indulge in to ignore the reality of our place among animals and the reality of our animal world of competition which is more real than any story. This is the logical conclusion of the honest atheist. Life is at its core a competition for survival among limited resources and the key to survival is the ability to acquire that which you desire (aka power).
But isn’t cooperation the path to empowerment? Sort of. The obvious problem is human beings are not all alike, and they certainly don’t all cooperate (or even want to) because they don’t all have the same desires. Limited resources then compound the problem. Thus you will always have groups and groups will differ in the goals they have and the power they acquire. The only question is which group holds power and how much. For the atheist life is, at its core, the inescapable jungle of competition for survival.
But what if you are a Christian?
Many don’t realize JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings was an intensely faithful Christian. The story is rife with Christian archetypes and at the center of the novels is “The Ring of Power”. The ring is iconic of the pervasive human will to power. The story is an epic tale of two forces: power and love. It is a story in which we see how love is the key to redeeming the world from the hell (embodied in the character Gollum) that is an eternal struggle for power. It is the story of how humility, love for one another and faith (embodied in the characters of hobbits) are able to withstand the will to power. In the end they cast the ring to hell from where it came and free middle earth from its destructive force.
The Christian mindset frames the world in a radically different way than the jungle mindset. The true Christian says give all power to God. The Christian says all mankind, especially he that is the least like you, is your brother. The Christian says the most powerful of all, gave it all up and descended below all dying out of love for you. The Christian says we too should embody that kind of love. The Christian says as a child of God you have worth and rights that come from a power higher than the powers of this world. The Christian says that there are no groups, only brothers and sisters to care for. The Christian abandons the entire 'dog eat dog' framework.
Like those humble hobbits, the Christian wants to cast the ring into the pit because they think that God, rather than their desires, is the center of the universe and that God is love. Love is more than just cooperation or feelings of affection in the Christian worldview. Love is a willingness to sacrifice for the good of another because the other is seen as an ends just as valuable as oneself. The Christian struggle is a struggle to love as He loved, not a struggle for power against your neighbors. Christians are very often not good at living up to this lofty vision, but that does not change the beauty of the vision or how worthwhile striving for it can be. The philosophy of love is not only explored in Christianity but I would contend that Jesus of Nazareth was the most profound and powerful teacher of this idea to ever walk the earth.
Love: A Force That Changes The World
When you understand this way of looking at the world, you can see logically why the ideas about love have played an integral role in the development of prosperous and peaceful civilizations as it has grappled with the constant pull of human nature trying to take us back to the jungle. Western society has been struggling upward out of the jungle and has done so more successfully than any other civilization. The crowning achievement of the Western struggle toward the good society has been the United States of America. America, at its core, is not a people or a group, but as Bono so rightfully said, its an idea.
America’s most basic and central idea, that has formed and refined over its history, was, and is a recognition that all men are equal in the eyes of God regardless of what group to which they belong. Thus we are fundamentally individual brothers and sisters endowed by God with rights that no man or government can violate. America sought to limit power because it knew its danger and embraced the notion that ultimate power rested with God, not man. In sum, the idea of America was that God, not man is at the center.
This is why, in identity, politics are fundamentally un-American. When man is at the center, life and society becomes a contest for which man, or a group of men, gets to occupy that center. When the throne of God is occupied by Him, we can only do our best to seek Him according to the dictates of our own consciences and (in a Christian context) see ourselves ultimately as equals in the grand scheme of things. While a person may reject the existence of God, they cannot deny the change in the dynamic when the idea of God takes root and firmly places him in his throne.
The Vision and The Reality
Obviously, in the real world competition exists, and the Christian must live in the real world and compete to stay alive. But the Christian vision and work is to transform this fallen 'dog eat dog' world from the inside out. The idea is to be in the world while working (as CS Lewis put it) "behind enemy lines" to gradually subvert the will to power through love in whatever way they can, starting with themselves.
So what is this world the Christian is trying to build? It's a world in which all power is vested voluntarily into the hands of God and where love is voluntarily given to one another. It is a place where there is no government because there is no need for it. There are no rich and no poor, no powerful or servant classes. It is a place where the lion and lamb lay down together as we live Gods' laws, which harmonize our existence like an orchestra of different instruments all playing the same song. This is the kingdom of heaven on earth. This is what my faith tradition refers to as Zion and what we are trying to build.
The Social Justice movement may have the right goals (a society of justice and peace) but their methods are wrong. They have fallen prey to the same temptation of Isildur, who kept the ring thinking he could use it for good and thus did not cast it into the fire. The power of man is not the way of the Christian. Unlike the kingdoms of man, which seek to build through coercion, the Kingdom of God is build through freely given love and righteousness and we invite all to join with us in this great work as we continue our quest, like humble hobbits to cast the ring into the fire.