In today's blog post we continue our theme of 'The Cause: Justice for the Poor' and look at how we can define Social Justice.
How can we break down the idea of social justice even further? Well it is two concepts rolled together: Structural Justice and Social Responsibility.
Structural Justice is ensuring that the structures and systems that govern at all levels (local and global), are fair, impartial, accessible to all, and do not violate the rights or dignity of less powerful populations in order to protect the interests of the elite (Proverbs 31:9, 22:2, 19:7, Lev 9:15, Deut 1:17). Such structures may include legal systems, tax systems, workplace laws and policies, global economic systems, and the provision of basic services such as education and medical care. Structural justice also includes ensuring adequate social safety nets are available to protect the most vulnerable members of society (Lev 19:10, 23:22).
Social responsibility is about recognising our personal responsibility to ‘Love our neighbour as ourselves’. The parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates that this love for our neighbour requires us to look beyond ourselves, beyond socially constructed categories of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to meet the needs of ‘others’ wherever and in whomever we find them, even if it comes at a cost to us. Rom 13:10, ‘Love does no harm to a neighbour’, further defines our social responsibility towards others as going beyond meeting needs to proactively avoiding any actions or decisions that can cause our neighbours harm. Therefore social responsibility is outworked through the twin actions of giving of ourselves; our resources, our time, our efforts and energy for the sake of others, and the tempering of our self interests; our lifestyles, our decisions and our actions where they intentionally or inadvertently cause others harm.
Achieving structural justice and being active in our social responsibility is necessary if we are to reduce poverty. Poverty is a relational construct. It takes two to make poverty; the exploiter and the exploited, the powerful and powerless, the consumer and producer, the rich and the poor. Poverty alleviation must go beyond addressing the individual and the symptoms of poverty they experience, and seek to bring restoration to the broken structural and personal relational sites that cause it.
Micah 6:8 demands that we humbly choose self sacrifice over injustice.