This question has been asked by a handful of critics, one of whom mined a quotation from a 2010 article I wrote and behaved as if they had exposed something big: either McDurmon is confused, a hypocrite, has sold out big time, or all three.
Not so fast.
After all of my talk about lack of definition and “social justice” as not necessarily a leftist term, someone went and found this from me:
On his radio show the other day, Beck said that the phrase “social justice” is a code phrase for pushing communism and fascism in churches. I agree with this. Beck said that anyone attending a church that pushes “social justice” should leave that church. These are mostly liberal churches, and therefore, again, I agree. Leave. Beck is right, “social justice” is a code phrase for socialism. It always has been.
Again this was 2010. But now, suddenly, McDurmon is trying to tank the anti-Social-Justice movement because he says “social justice” can be done biblically, has important truths to consider, is not well-defined, and is not automatically antichrist.
What a turnabout!
So, will the real Joel McDurmon please stand up? Will it be the Joel McDurmon of 2010 or the SWJ/BLM/Cultural Marxist Joel McDurmon of 2018?
And boy, aren’t I embarrassed?
Not really. Just a bit annoyed that some people seem more dedicated (again) to unnecessary division than guarding their heart or lips.
In April of this year, I wrote a position paper on the meaning of “social justice.” In it, I reference my older writings and note that the negative perspective there was in the context of addressing socialists. I noted that there was much more to the story and went on to give it.
Some people at the time, knowing this whole story, nevertheless accused me of deceit. I have really, truly sold out to the leftist agenda, they said. Knowing the offending outlet as I do, I took it for a dishonest hit piece and ignored it. I try not to give undue attention to such things.
As someone said, never wrestle with a pig. You’ll just get dirty and the pig likes it.
Others have now cited the same quotation from 2010 out-of-context, and without inquiring further have passed it around with similar accusations. Unfortunately, I have been told that some with better reputations have joined in this behavior. I have seen others doing it, too.
Well, let’s bury this.
The distinction I have emphasized recently is between biblical social justice and humanistic (of any form) social justice. I have always held this.
First, even in the 2010 article, the reader can see the distinction made between the phrase social justice (without quotation marks) and “social justice” (with quotation marks—as in, “so-called”). Consider this statement:
Wallis wishes to use “the Bible” [quoting Wallis directly] to legitimize social justice [no quotation marks], but he and his ilk really mean “social justice.” [so-called: with quotation marks]
There is a reason “social justice” was in quotation marks in the title of that old article. It was false social justice, or social justice so-called.
I tease this out in regard to the voluntary solutions a free biblical society would provide compared to the government-controlled, socialistic variety of Jim Wallis, et al:
Wallis refuses to rely on private charity as the Bible teaches, and always intends primarily government—i.e. coercive, point-of-the-gun, fines, jail—solutions for “empowerment.” So while he speaks of social justice, he means what Beck rightfully exposes, “social justice.” This game has gone on from the beginning of the Christian Socialist movement. [Emphases added.]
Some critics never even read the rest of this article. Some read it and perhaps did not comprehend it. Some read it and ignored it anyway. These latter ones accuse me of straining to explain away the obvious. But, there’s more.
Going deeper yet
Not only does this view have no other way to explain the distinctions I made in 2010, it is ignorant of the fact that I made the same distinction more clearly the year before in my 2009 book God versus Socialism. Here I am addressing the top-down “social justice” views Jim Wallis and Barack Obama both impose upon the Bible:
Problem: nowhere does the Bible teach, support, favor, or allow heavier percentages of taxes on wealthier people. Graduated taxes are nowhere taught in Scripture; in fact, the Bible condemns favoring either the rich or the poor:
You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly (Lev. 19:15).
So you can see the real reason Obama mocks Leviticus. He doesn’t want you to read it, because it confirms the true biblical principle of social justice which is that government should treat everyone equally. This directly cuts against a leftist agenda, so Wallis ignores it and Obama hides it with mockery.
(See God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2009), 91–92.)
Here, now, it should not be too difficult for the critics to see: please note the distinction made between leftist “social justice” and biblical social justice based upon the exegesis of biblical law.
This material was in fact written in the fall of 2008 and published as part of a special religious report ahead of the 2008 elections. This means I wrote it within just a few months after I started working for American Vision. It was republished as part of God versus Socialism early the next year.
It has been basic to my public views and ministry from their very beginning.
One should never appeal to the depths of the rabbit hole until they know how deep it really goes. Also, they should make sure there’s actually a rabbit down there and not a badger.
I suppose the more spirited of my detractors may still persist. They may say I am inconsistent, or even purposefully ambiguous, playing both sides of a fence. There is no satisfying some people. But we can persuade the teachable. So I write.
One thing we know cannot be said is that I have never held this distinction before and never spoke of a biblical view of “social justice.” That it clearly false. My goals have always been the same for conservative Christians. Let’s get busy actually constructing a biblical social theory across the board, and let’s get busy reconstructing society along the lines of biblical freedom and equality before the law.
When we actually do that, we will find we have less time to complain about what the leftists are doing, and we will spend less time in hapless reactionism to their dominion over the concept.