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4.3 | anti-justice social justice
IV | JUSTICE
"Honest people, mistakenly believing in the justice of their cause, are led to support injustice." // Elihu Root
Most people want justice. We want to see a better and more just society. We don’t want to see anyone experience oppression, discrimination, or prejudice. However, we don’t all define justice the same way. When we hear that there is injustice somewhere in the world, most of us want to be pointed towards it so that we can eradicate it. Thomas Sowell reminds us that to truly identify and eliminate injustices, we must come to an agreement of what justice is. So let’s look at our two forms of justice side by side.
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The two forms of justice that we have reviewed here, critical justice and Kingdom justice, aren’t the only forms of justice available. There are as many expressions of justice as there are worldviews. The issue we need to address is not justice vs. injustice. The question is “what is justice?” Those who study and teach Critical Theory have gone to great lengths to define social justice as critical justice. Many, if not all, of the current calls for “social justice” are done so through a CT approach. The prevalence of this approach has allowed critical theorists to mandate their definition of justice as the only genuine definition.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t truth subjective in CT? And wouldn’t that mean that anyone’s version of justice is technically the right one?” You’re correct, but we should also factor in the worldview of CT. An oppressor may have a definition of justice, but the oppressor’s definition of justice will serve only to further tyrannize those who are oppressed. Therefore, their opinion should not be valued or heard. In critical justice, oppressed groups and those in them are the only people who can define justice. Any truth of the oppressor will only result in the further creation or maintenance of dominance for them, both internalized and external.
To compare these two forms of justice, let’s see how they define injustice.
Critical injustice is created by the system. Kingdom injustice is created in the heart.
Critical justice tells us that oppression has been intentionally woven into and ingrained in the very fabric of society. Oppression is inescapable. It is systemic, meaning there aren’t just systems of oppression. The way that the entire system of society functions has been intentionally created to oppress minority groups.
Most often, a person who's in a minority is not in that minority by choice. By virtue of existing, they happen to find themselves in a minority racially, socioeconomically, culturally, and so on. Critical justice teaches that if we find ourselves in the minority, we are oppressed and victimized. It also teaches that if we find ourselves in the majority, we are oppressors. Personal experience, beliefs, and choices do not and will not factor into the role your group plays in society.
A person who happens to be in a majority (read: oppressor) is in a position of power. Their goal and purpose are to create and perpetuate injustice. They have no other option, whether it’s through their normative actions, dog whistling, microaggressions, and other forms of internalized dominance or through the writing of laws, hiring practices, and other forms of external dominance.
Scripture paints a picture of what creates Kingdom injustice.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” // Jeremiah 17:9-10
Our conception of justice is tied to our worldview. The Kingdom teaches that our fundamental problem is sin. Sin emanates from the heart. Pride, arrogance and insecurity are rooted in our heart. Our secret motives are utterly selfish. By the only standard that matters, God’s standard, we are all guilty of injustice because our hearts are all deceitful and desperately wicked. If you’re a human being, this is your issue. Kingdom justice reveals that the person creating injustice is not in a hall of power somewhere scheming about furthering their systemic power. The person creating injustice is looking at us in the mirror every morning. It’s you and me. Our groups don’t even factor in yet. The deepest part of us is wicked.
Critical justice tells us that if we find ourselves in an oppressed group, we are incapable of behaving in an unjust manner. We are incapable of oppression and injustice because we are a minority, and we have no societal power. But really, it’s not that simple because of the doctrine of positionality and intersectionality. Because you may be both an oppressor and oppressed based on what environment you happen to be in. For instance, a white woman is in an oppressed group as a woman. However, she is an oppressor as a white person. Therefore, a white woman may be oppressed by a white man, but she is an oppressor to a black woman, or a transgender person fo color. And although we are all prejudiced and discriminate, that’s not the issue. The issue is the person in any position of power who turns their prejudice and discrimination into an oppressive system. There is a constant requirement for you and I to define our positionality and intersectionality at all times to understand if injustice is happening to us, or because of us.
Kingdom justice tells us that our prejudices are wrong, no matter who we are or what group we belong to. Positionality and intersectionality is irrelevant to the concept of Kingdom justice. It’s not complicated. The fundamental problem is in each one of our hearts. Our biases and bigotry are representative of our wicked hearts. Everybody is a mess. We’re all the worst. In its natural state, there is nothing more wicked than our hearts. The evil is not out there; it's in here. We’re all guilty.
Critical justice wants better laws from better people. Kingdom justice wants new people.
Those who advocate for critical justice believe that if we can get the right people to write the laws and lead the country, then justice can be done. The message is this: I don’t need to change; society needs to change to fit me. If we problematize for long enough, if we can get enough people to unmake and replace society, if we can spend enough time practicing positionality, then the world will become more equitable and just. It's not a heart issue; it’s a system issue.
Kingdom justice, yet again, takes a radically different approach.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” // 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
In the Kingdom, radical, comprehensive personal transformation is always required. Once we become citizens of the Kingdom, we leave behind our human citizenship and embrace an entirely different way of living. We should become entirely different people. This is a common theme in the Kingdom. Romans 12:2 says the same thing. We must allow God to change us “into a new person by changing the way [we] think.”
God wants to change our heart first because it is the most wicked thing about us. Any wickedness a person creates is an example of a heart that hasn’t changed yet.
Critical justice wants legislation. Kingdom justice wants transformation.
Kingdom justice doesn’t mean that we are to take a “que será, será” approach to life and avoid participating in society. This does not mean the legislation in the places we live is unimportant. It doesn't mean we don't worry about the kind of people who are in government or other positions of power. It doesn't mean we don't care about the kinds of laws that are written. The Kingdom just asks us to focus on our own hearts first, to put our own house in order before we attempt to fix the world.
Oppression occurs all over the world. We all know that. Kingdom justice does not deny the existence of oppression. But where they diverge is in the creation of oppression and the source of a solution.
Critical justice says that oppression is out there – external to us.
Kingdom justice says that oppression is in here – in our hearts.
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