justice is more than equality

kathyescobar equality, incarnational, injustice, synchroblog 14 Comments

your kingdom come your will be done

*october’s syncroblogy–other bloggers writing on the same topic–is what is social justice, really? i’m way off on a blog groove these days, but this is a topic i really love.  i’ll post a link list tomorrow morning so you can can check out a variety of other posts on the same topic.

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my dad was a true-blue hippie in berkeley during the 60’s 70’s. when it was his weekend to take me (my parents were divorced when i was 5) he used to take me down to telegraph avenue and sell spoon rings on the weekend wearing these really funky leather hats. part of that culture was a desire for social change, and as i grew up, i was the one who would join causes, sign up to save the whales and for equal rights for women, and become a member of the ACLU (i have a really funny story about my husband jose finding a membership card in my wallet when we were dating; he was at the naval academy at the time–as conservative as conservative can be–and it was almost a deal breaker for him. oh, how things have changed!).

when i started at a christian college, i was a tried and true democrat, but by the end of it, i had become more conservative in my views and my focus had turned away from issues of the world and more toward issues of a career and making money.  i really consider it all just a part of my ongoing development, and by the time i got married a few years later and immersed myself in contemporary christian culture, my focus turned more toward issues of saving-the-church-from-the-world.  i tore up my ACLU card, switched political parties, hosted letter writing campaigns at our house to keep morality in schools and vote out those crazy liberals who were ruining the USA’s moral fabric. yikes! that was 20 years ago now, but i bring it up for an important reason–to me, back then, i was engaging in social justice. i cared about my country and wanted it to be different.  my zeal didn’t come from selfishness but from a place of deep concern about the morality of our country. i wanted a better future for my kids.

what has radically shifted that i didn’t consider then, though, is how small my view of justice was. my perspective on the world back then was limited; i didn’t take into consideration the millions and millions of people around the globe who had far more pressing issues to consider than whether harry potter was of the devil. they were starving, having their genitals mutilated, and forced into slave labor, but i was so focused on what was right in front of me that i didn’t even consider the wider issues.

over time, as i grew in my faith and intersected with more people living in poverty and pain, my eyes and heart were opened to the issues of my childhood. i began to notice the inequality of the systems, how people with privilege and power could open doors but those without it would never be able to catch a break.  how biased people were against the poor and made deep assumptions about their character because of it. how women were subjugated underneath men over and over again. how racism was rampant.  how vulnerable so many people (especially women and children) really were with no advocates or protection in sight.  how truly unjust system are against those on the margins.

Jesus’ wild and crazy call that “heaven on earth” was possible now got under my skin. of course, i know everything can never be made right this side of life, but i take his words very seriously. and i believe he empowered his people to participate in this kind of  change.  our faith isn’t just for us; it’s fuel for social change. for creating a new reality for people who are hungry, hurting, and marginalized.  for restoring dignity and hope where it’s been lost. for bringing the good news into hard places.for righting the tilted systems that are biased against the poor and vulnerable. for not only advocating for change, but participating in creating it.

to me, the best image of what social justice really is can be found in this image that floated around facebook a while back. it has stuck with me since i first saw it because it is a reminder that real social justice is much more than just equality. it’s a taste of heaven on earth.


yeah,  i’m pretty sure in heaven, everyone gets to see the game. let’s be part of making more of that happen here, now, too.

to me, social justice is about figuring a way together to break down the divisions and differences and widen opportunities for everyone.

social justice is about sacrificing our power for the sake of someone else’s who has less in any way we can.

social justice is about creating more just and fair systems, on small and big scales (this is why justice & equality in the church is so important, beyond just gender. goodness gracious, if we can’t live it out in our little pockets, how in the world can we expect to influence the wider world?)

social justice is about empowering others to step into their dignity and value.

social justice is helping all people–yes, all people– find their voice and use it.

social justice is about using our influence to influence change on behalf of the marginalized–in groups, systems, and politics.

social justice is about pockets of love and freedom–where walls are broken down, dignity and hope is restored, and people are valued properly.

really,  social justice is sacrificing our time, hearts, resources, power, votes, egos and comfort to build bigger step-stools so all of God’s children can play. 

that’s my best shot in the moment on what social justice is, really.

what do you think it is?


other synchrobloggers wrestling with what social justice is this month: