Thursday, September 12, 2013

What type of Christian nation are we building?
By Editor
Tue 27 Aug. 2013, 14:00 CAT

SEEING what is going on in our country - corruption, greed, vanity, divisions, injustice, unfairness - one wonders what kind of society we are trying to build in this country that has declared itself Christian.

But then we remember what Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." And from this, we learn that spirituality is a way of living life according to the spirit.

For a society to be fair, just and humane and to consider itself truly Christian, it needs to treat everybody equally, promote solidarity among its people, serve the needs of all and it must conform to God's vision or dream for the world.

If we return again to that popular symbol of justice, we see that it is blind. The underlying idea is that it will give each person her due or his rights equally, impartially. But we seem to live in a society, in a country where justice has become a tradable commodity. It is either on offer only to the highest bidder or it can be obstructed only by the most powerful. If it serves only the needs of the rich and powerful, then it is not social justice as we know it.

The notion of solidarity is rather common currency in many aspects of our social life. And many of us, individually or as a community, pray incessantly for the grace of solidarity with a category of people we sometimes refer to as "the less fortunate".

But this solidarity then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.

Solidarity helps us to see the "other" not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as a our "neighbour", a "helper" to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which we all are equally invited by God.

Solidarity means choosing to walk in the shoes of those who hurt the most. And we do it not because we derive some pleasure from the pain and comfort, but because we wish to see a change, a radical transformation of our community , our society as we know it; that is, a change from the point of view of those who are considered to be at the bottom of society.

If we refuse to take the side of the weakest segment of our people, we can expect to have at least two emotions or reactions. The first is outrage and revulsion for whatever forces conspire to keep people in a state of deprivation, oppression and marginalisation. This is the negative pole. Social analysis is good at provoking this kind of emotion. The second is a burning desire to work for change. This is the positive pole. Social justice is about laying out a plan and setting out on a path of transforming the structures of our society.

Social justice is not justice if the resources meant for all citizens are hijacked by a privileged few. As human beings, we all have essentially the same basic needs: food, health, shelter, work, and so on and so forth. To live a decent human existence, these are things we just cannot live without. The reality of life is that there are so many people who have been made to live without these basic necessities.

As long as there are people who are not able to enjoy these minimum conditions of human existence due to inhuman socio-economic and political structures, we cannot say we have a socially just situation.
It is said that one of the greatest injustices in the contemporary world consists precisely in this: that the ones who possess much are relatively few and those who possess almost nothing are many. It is the injustice of the poor distribution of goods and services originally intended for all.

Social justice is about guaranteeing the basic conditions of life for the most number of people, rather than a privileged few.
In the biblical account of the creation of the world, God had a dream of the kind of world He wanted to create. That dream broke down, due to sin. But it was not beyond repair and redemption. When God took the people of Israel out of oppression in Egypt, He had in mind to create a new society that would be the envy of and an example for all the societies that existed then. As we know from the evidence of the Old Testament, the dream was never fully realised. But as we also know from the New Testament, God has never abandoned that dream. In Jesus Christ, God made another attempt to revive and realise that dream.

We are told that the world that God saw prior to the incarnation was a divided world: a world with 'some white and others black, some in peace and others at war, some weeping and others laughing, some healthy and others sick, some being born and others dying'. The vision we have here is that of a dislocated, divided and traumatised world. This world is a far cry from the one we first saw in Genesis or after the Exodus. God would never look at this world with the same eye with which He looked at the world of Adam and Eve or saw the Promised Land from Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34). When God looked at that world, He saw and said 'It is good'. But when God looks at our world, He says, 'Something has gone wrong', 'Something has got to change', 'I need someone to change this', 'We need a new plan, and a new architect' - that is how the incarnation came to be.

This act itself is, first of all, an act of solidarity: Jesus freely chooses to identify with and take on the life of the poor, in order to bring about the salvation of the human race. It is, secondly, an act of protest. The status quo could no longer be allowed to continue; something had to change quickly and radically. But the most significant aspect - and this is the third point - is that God's act, ultimately leads to transformation.

Social justice does not come about because of a miracle; it takes work. It is a labour of love, even on the part of God. Social justice does not come about as an imposition from the outside; it happens from inside.

If you ever wanted to see a sketch of God's dream for the world, read Ezekiel 34; there you will catch a glimpse not only of what has gone wrong with our society, but also just what it will take to put it right again.

God has a dream for our world and our society. It is a dream of a world where there shall be no woman, man or child living in ignorance, disease, poverty and oppression.

But when we look around us, everything we see reminds us that God's dream is an unfinished project. The kind of society we see and in which we live bears all the signs of a broken promise, and an unfulfilled dream. But this human and social agenda is by no means an abandoned project.

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