Groups

Theology Crawl - Christianity and Justice

July 18, 2022

Welcome to Theology Crawl

Yes, being in a conversation with drinks is fun, but we need some guidelines as you enter into conversation with one another:


Everyone is not right, and that's a good thing.

The concepts we talk about in theology can have multiple interpretations, but that doesn't mean they're all right. A lot of theology is investigating the words we use to see if they make sense and are if they're adequate for God. Being wrong is how we improve our theology, not by having all the answers.


Pay attention to how people are using words.

We all use words like “love,” “God,” and “grace,” but the the reality is we often mean vastly different things. Try to listen to how people use words and if they're using them the same way you would.


Ask for people to define what they mean.

We can't have a good conversation if we are all talking past each other. It's not embarrassing to ask people for a definitional a new word or concept, it's just how you have a good conversation.

Make this work for you.

Have someone in the group keep an eye on the questions and try to make sure you're staying on topic. At the same time, it's fine to go down the rabbit holes. Sometimes, the rabbit holes can help us clarify something that we missed.


Have fun.

You won't solve world hunger, you probably won't even convince that person in the group you disagree with. Relax, be respectful, and when the questions run out, enjoy yourself and talk about something that isn't theological. Hanging out can actually be pretty important for good theology too!

Christianity and Justice

Introduction

Introduce yourselves, using the following check-in if useful:

  • Name
  • Weather Report - if your current mood was a weather report, what would it be?
  • Hometown,
  • Current Job
  • Last book you read or show you watched

Starter

… I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.
A just law is a man-made [sic] code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. / Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Discussion Questions

  • What words, phrases, or other portions of the passage quoted from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” struck you (as right, wrong, beautiful, confusion, conviction, and/or frustrating, etc.)?
  • Describe a personal experience of injustice (of whatever form or intensity) that you are comfortable sharing?
  • Based on the experiences shared, what would you say justice is? What does it mean?
  • Review the definitions of justice below. How do these compare with the definitions that emerged from your experiences?
  • Read and the quotes from Romans 13:4 and Matthew 5:38-39. How do these compare to each other? Why do you think these are both included in scripture? Is there a way to synthesize them (and is that necessary)?
  • What does it mean to say, “God is just?”
  • What role does mercy play in justice, if any? Do they ever connect? How?
  • How is divine justice different than other forms of justice? Does it overlap with other forms?
  • In what ways has your experience of Christianity included the pursuit of social justice? In what ways has it been missing or even contributed to injustice? (The Tony Campolo Quote is pretty juicy in this regard).
  • What motivates the desire to work towards social justice? Does claiming a faith tradition change that motivation? (Read the Carol Hanisch and Dorothy Day Quotes for fodder!)
  • Should people of faith fight for social justice issues and be involved in activism? Why/Why not?

Definitions

  • Distributive Justice - concerns the nature of a socially just allocation of goods in a society. A society in which incidental inequalities in outcome do not arise would be considered a society guided by the principles of distributive justice. The concept includes the available quantities of goods, the process by which goods are to be distributed, and the resulting allocation of the goods to the members of the society.
  • Procedural Justice -  is the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources. One aspect of procedural justice is related to discussions of the administration of justice and legal proceedings. Procedural justice concerns the fairness and the transparency of the processes by which decisions are made
  • Restorative Justice - is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future offenses.
  • Retributive Justice -  is a theory of justice that considers punishment, if proportionate, to be the best response to crime. When an offender breaks the law, justice requires that they forfeit something in return. Unlike revenge, retribution is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal, involves no pleasure at the suffering of others, and employs procedural standards.

Bible Quotes

  • For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. / Romans 13:4
  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. / Matthew 5:38-39
  • The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,  and the day of vengeance of our God;  to comfort all who mourn / Isaiah 61:1-2
  • Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. / Jeremiah 9:23-24
    But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. / Amos 5:24
  • And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, / for he has been mindful /  of the humble state of his servant. / From now on all generations will call me blessed, / for the Mighty One has done great things for me— / holy is his name. / His mercy extends to those who fear him, / from generation to generation. / He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; / he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. / He has brought down rulers from their thrones / but has lifted up the humble. / He has filled the hungry with good things / but has sent the rich away empty. / He has helped his servant Israel, /  remembering to be merciful / to Abraham and his descendants forever, / just as he promised our ancestors.” / Luke 1:46-55

Author Quotes

  • I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night. / Tony Campolo
  • While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end! / William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army
  • I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. / Theodore Parker
  • God, give us grace....to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. / Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Preach the Gospel, If necessary, use words. / St. Francis of Assisi
  • I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know. God may call any one of us to respond to some far away problem or support those who have been so called. But we are finite and he will not call us everywhere or to support every worthy cause. And real needs are not far from us. / C.S. Lewis
  • Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system / Dorothy Day
  • From Plato’s Republic:
    “...justice is doing good to friends and harm to enemies.” (332d)
    “...the just thing is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger… and the unjust is what is profitable and advantageous for oneself” (344a)
    “[The just man] sets his own house in good order and rules himself…. Then, and only then he acts.” (443d-e)
    One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution. / from “The Personal is the Political,” by Carol Hanisch, a member of New York Radical Women and a prominent figure in the Women's Liberation Movement.
    Source: http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html
  • The only way we’re gonna be in a world as diverse as our world is, and live in harmony and with justice, is we gotta have the variety. We’ve gotta have people trained to walk the walk and talk the talk at the highest levels. / Katie Cannon, from “Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon - In Her Own Words”
    Source: https://fteleaders.org/blog/rev.-dr.-katie-geneva-cannon-in-her-own-words
  • You said you were gonna, but you didn’t. What’s up with that? / Joanna Bland
    Source: Epigraph in Blessed Are the Organized, by Jeffrey Stout, p. Vii

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