The Problem with Social Justice

I can see the eyes rolling.  How can there ever be a problem with social justice? To serve the poor and the needy, to strive for equality in society, to work to change structures which are inherently unjust seem to be very laudible goals.

Doesn’t the Lord himself teach us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc?

One of my favourite films is Inception by the great Christopher Nolan (I like Nolan).  In the film, a group of “dream infiltrators” seek to enter the dreams of a young CEO and convince him to break apart his company.  Yet, Leonardo Dicaprio points out that “we must go deeper.”

It was not enough simply to enter into the mind of the other and plant a superficial desire.  No.  The team needed to go to the deepest parts of the CEO’s psyche, in order to truly influence his thoughts, behaviors, actions, and even desires.

According to the film, in order to truly change the CEO, in order for the group to have lasting impact on him, they needed to go deep.

Likewise, we may argue that in order for our actions to be fruitful, in order for them to have lasting impact on the world, they too must come from a deep place.

Where is this deep place?  Jesus points out that it is not what goes into the body that defiles a person, but rather what pours forth from the heart (Matthew 15:18).

Likewise, we can say, it is not about what we do, or what we say, or the structures we change, but about where our heart in fact is.  And if our hearts are centered in Christ, then it will be in the right place.

Jesus promises that those who abide in him will bare much fruit (John 15:4).  This fruit will last because it will not be based on human effort and ingenuity alone, but on the will and power of Christ.

The problem with social justice movements today in the Church is that they are not deep enough.  The love of Jesus is not the primary intention which animates.  Perhaps it is an ideal that motivates.  Perhaps it is some sort of fear or desire for power which moves.   In any case, the Christian must go deeper.

The Christian is animated in their works by a love for the risen Lord.  “For I was hungry, and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35). This is what separates the Christian love for neighbour from the social justice projects that seem to be in vogue right now.

Finally, Jesus gives me a stark warning for what will happen if I forget about my need to be in union with Him.   He states that like a branch I will dry out, and eventually be thrown away (John 15:6).

Raj Vijayakumar is currently residing in Toronto and working as an assistant for L’Arche Canada.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 10:30h, 28 January Reply

    Thank you Raj!

  • Madeline Bouzanne
    Posted at 16:04h, 28 January Reply

    Thank you for helping me remember the Truth. M

  • Dodzi Amemado
    Posted at 16:10h, 30 January Reply

    “Likewise, we can say, it is not about what we do, or what we say, or the structures we change, but about where our heart in fact is.” This line summarizes the measure of everything we do for others. Thank you.

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