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Leadership, Christianity, and Social Justice

May 31st, 2013 | Posted by David Whitfield in Economic Justice | Social Justice

Leadership, Christianity, and Social Justice
Have you ever wondered about the relationship among leadership, Christianity, and social justice? These constructs mean different things to different people. Leadership may mean overseeing others, being out front, spouting orders, getting done what the leader wants done. To me, it means a process of inclusion, collaboration, participation. Christianity on the other hand, to me, means violence, colonizing, dominating, hanging, castrating, beating, drowning, starving, and taking what doesn’t belong to the “Christian”; at the same time, Christians espouse what Jesus said. I wonder how Jesus dealt with difference: culturally, ethnically, sexually, and religiously different others. What would Jesus say to our “leaders” who are Christian? And how does the foregoing relate to social justice, leader?
Social justice is about how we treat each other, irrespective of our otherness or our differences: cultural, ethnic, sexual, thinking, economic, age, capabilities, etc. FDR captures a version of social justice: “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” Our leaders, possessors of wealth, power, and privilege, don’t or can’t hear FDR’s message. They can’t see or hear the voiceless: the elderly, hungry children, the homeless, the poor, etc. Yet they call themselves Christians. Social justice to them is a form of socialism.
I must add that social justice was invented by Christians, though Christians for the most part don’t practice it. Father Luigi Taparellli D’ Azeglio (1793–1862) invented social justice because he worried about how people would be treated based on problems he foresaw arising from the industrial revolution.
Speaking of how we treat each other, was Columbus a Christian? Was he a Christian and a leader? If we ask the Arawak Indians what happened to them when Columbus used cavalry, crossbows, small cannons, lances, sword, plus a large group of hunting dogs turned loose on them, tearing them apart, shredding their bodies, leading to genocide, what would they say? Of course, they are no longer with us. Thanks to the leader(?) and Christian, Columbus.
Was President Andrew Jackson a Christian? Yes, according to his biographers, Andrew Jackson spoke: “Our excellent constitution guarantees to everyone freedom of religion… All who profess Christianity believe in a Savior and that by and through Him we must be saved.” Though a lifelong Presbyterian, Jackson was pro-slavery; and, he was anti-Native American. He literally took 11 million (11,000,000) acres from the Choctaw and sent them on the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma. What a convenient euphemism—“Trail of Tears.” It should be “The Trail of Death,” because that’s what happened to many of them: thousands froze to death; many starved to death. How Christian is that? And how socially just is that, leader?

Behaviorally, what’s happening among our so called “leaders” who espouse Christianity today? Is their behavior any different now than when Columbus walked these grounds? Is the behavior of our so called Christians who are leaders socially just?
I don’t think there’s much difference in the behavior and thinking of contemporary Christians who call themselves leaders in 2013 and when Columbus was here. They espouse what the forefathers said, thought, meant, and did, in the name of Christianity; all the while depriving the elderly, children, and other helpless groups the basics: food, shelter, medical, etc., because of greed; they deprive what’s due those who put themselves in harm’s way for the nation: the Veterans. Is all of this consistent with the teachings of Christianity and what the forefathers said, leader?
Some may view this blog as one-sided, that my examples of Christian behavior foster one version of Christianity’s impact on society. You may be compelled to run a list of socially just examples as counterpoints to my views. However, I am addressing a need. A need we have in this nation to treat all with dignity, equity, impartially. Mother Teresa said it so passionately: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Many of our leaders have either forgotten or never knew what Mother Teresa said. Some “leaders” suffer from economic, political, and social amnesia. They demonstrate an 18th-Century mindset in a 21-Century world. Many finished school so long ago, they haven’t a clue what’s happening in this nation, changes in demographics, what the citizens want, need, or more troubling: what they were elected to do or paid to do. Meaning, they aren’t doing the people’s work; they aren’t doing the nation’s work; and, they aren’t doing their jobs; and yet, they are on the “People’s Payroll.” And they call themselves leaders? Christians? In my view, they are disingenuous and pathetic—results: social injustice.
The impacts are countless and visible everywhere: if our leaders were prepared to embrace Dr. Martin Luther King’s thinking: “Social injustice anywhere is social injustice everywhere.”
How do you feel about the affiliation among leadership, Christianity, and social justice?
What reactions are you having about our society under the current leadership?
What are your thoughts?
Source used in this blog: http://hollowverse.com/andrew-jackson/

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9 Responses

  • Tom Whalen says:

    I think the basic problem is that nearly all “Christians” do not follow Nazarene philosophy and therefore by definition are NOT Christian. In Principles of Management class we spend a week on diversity. Because I am teaching at a Christian college, I typically get on my soapbox. I point out that Jesus said in John 15, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” What he didn’t say was “Love one another unless that person is different from you”. I call those persons that think this way: Caveat Christians. I point out that if you think you are a Christian you need to UNCONDITIONALLY LOVE EVERYONE! You don’t get to pick and choose.

    • Tom,
      I thank you very much for your comment. I agree with “unconditionally love everyone,” though there’s much “cherry picking,” of the bible, the constitution, tax laws, you name it. And the consequences of cherry picking are often destructive or at a minimum hurtful to those who can’t help themselves: the voiceless. Colonialism is still alive and well evinced by the most recent comments by Romney, who believes that non-Whites are too dense or stupid (my words) to understand what his party espouses; that his party knows what’s best for the “ethnic minorities.” How arrogant, myopic and privileged. That’s only one example. I appreciate your comments. I hope you enjoy teaching; it’s a wonderful endeavor.
      Have a wonderful and sunny summer!

      • Tom Whalen says:

        I concur. The radical right and the “Christians” love to cherry pick. Sort of the way antebellum southerners cherry picked the Bible to justify their “particular institution”. I am currently reading an interesting book, The New Mind of the South by Tracy Thompson. Being a survivor of Jim Crow, I think you may find her insights interesting. It opened my eyes as to why to my some of my southern shipmates back in the navy said what they said.

        Romney’s 47% comment also reminds me of an excellent piece from last September written by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, “Fear of a Black President.”

        • Thank you Tom,
          I look forward to reading the two pieces you suggested. It’s outrageous how the republican are obstructing the President; not matter what he does, for the most part, he’s obstructed. What’s with God told us to let Boehner keep his job.” And I wonder if God sent a message by telex, pigeons, or just how did that happen? Did they all meet down at the river? I am trying to figure a way for my blog to get more visibility. Anyway, I am grateful for your comments and suggestions.
          Thanks again.

  • Madelyn Harvey says:

    It is unfortunate, but leaders can end up becoming followers when they are misled and brainwashed. In this world people struggle between good and evil, even more so as Christians. Social injustice is a clear indication of false leadership. Since Christian principles and beliefs are built on integrity and consciousness, those born with a purpose to lead should possess those qualities. If we do not see those attributes, then and only then should we question a leader’s intent and ability to lead.

  • Madelyn,
    Thank you very much for your comment. And I agree with you that if Christians or leaders do not possess the attributes you mentioned, we should wonder about their motives. Also, if they are unable to or refuse to work with those of us who differ culturally, ethnically, etc., then they should be gracefully called on their behavior. We (all of us) need to hold Christians and leaders accountable for what they do or don’t do. Social justice is about fairness for all–not just a select few.
    Thank you again.

  • Madelyn Harvey says:

    Yes, David, social justice is about fairness for all. Based upon how far this country has come, I would like to believe that we are headed in the right direction. Thanks for responding.

  • I am thinking of the reaction of America’s leaders to statements by Pope Francis. I’m atheist, but I heard Pope Francis’s remarks about inequality and saw his even-handed approach to gay relationships with wonder and a kind of glee, knowing how they would “tweak” the Republicans. I was not disappointed. The Pope has turned the focus from contentious issues such as equal marriage and abortion (which are concerned with controlling people), t the social justice aspect of Christianity. As far as I understand, the Republican party was livid at this. Talking about social justice inevitably threatens the status quo : a wealthy and powerful few and a struggling underclass, it points out the inherent flaws in our economic system, and also undermines the idea of the U.S. as a beacon of freedom and opportunity.

    We are living, it seems, in a post-factual world. People cling to religious beliefs or political ideologies, that have no basis in reality and have even reduced your election process to mud-slinging and gossip-mongering. When Christians advocate social justice and equality, they are the sort of people who would believe in those concepts anyway. And when Americans cry “socialism” at any attempt to provide a fair chance for those in need, or even health care, they reveal a lack of understanding of politics, society, history and economics.

    We’ve got to get out of our Internet funnels where we talk only to like-minded people, drop the divisive names such as “liberal” and “conservative” etc, and start finding out where we AGREE. And, no offense to anyone, but we have to, eventually, evolve beyond religion and know that our power doesn’t come from a god, but from our common humanity.


    • About the Pope: I think he’s very realistic and not afraid to say it, act it, live it. He is a social justice advocate; after all, catholic invented social justice in the 1800s if I recall correctly, Father Taparelli. When I first heard the Pope talk, I knew he was about social justice. When it comes to religious and political ideologies, most are deficit, leading to deficit narratives, deficit policies, etc. I was excited about marriage equality. I recall having this discussion in a class I taught, titled “Leadership & Social Justice.” The discussion got a little salty. So I gave a 3- minute, impromptu writing exercise to answer this question: Gay marriage is a right, a privilege, neither or both. Take a stand and defend it. Long story short, the discussion changed radically after that. And this was a Catholic University.

      Okay, I thank you, David for your very substantive responses.

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