Social Justice, Not a Bleeding Heart
March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this Blog’s prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy”, knowledge of these Attributes were established. Now arises the question of what response is compelled from me in light of these attributes? What does developing a manner of life consistent with these qualities look like? And how specifically am I to understand myself and relate to others and the world?
Solely responsible for Creation and its Sustenance, God is the Master of our domain. Both physical and spiritual realms cease to be in absence of His Will. All that exists technically belongs to God. Though I am capable of making free choices and securing for myself a myriad of things in the world, I cannot ever rightfully call anything my own. Nothing that I procure or enjoy is properly mine. All that I possess is God’s – health, mental capacity, property, money, possessions, good fortune, etc. That I may be blessed with and enjoy these things does not equate their full assignment to me. They still remain His. I don’t possess these things but, rather, only establish a relationship of stewardship with them. As steward of God’s gifts, my obligation is to responsibly utilize that with which I am blessed consistent with His Will. There exists nothing that escapes this relation of stewardship – not even my own body and soul. My total being and very existence, like all else, belongs to God.
If my life itself cannot be considered to belong to me, what of my amassing of and utilizing property, money, and possessions? What exclusive right do I have to these things? How can they be considered my own? What follows from this perspective is a duty of social justice on both an individual and societal level. Thus, I am expected to utilize what I have for the good of others and society as a whole. At a minimum, I have an obligation to utilize my blessings as a means to fulfill the purpose of God’s Creation – to know Him – and also allow for others to accomplish this as well. My responsibility to God and the less fortunate is to seek to remove any hardship or suffering that may impede others from fulfilling their lives’ purpose. Thankfully, knowing God is not a materially extravagant proposition. Conditions for doing so merely involve providing others with the material basics of food, water, shelter, healthcare, and education. Ironically, a persuasive argument can be made that the opportunity to know God is better realized in a state of relative poverty rather than material comfort. But this should not be used to skirt my responsibility. A basic duty still exists for allowing others to enjoy a basic and reasonable level of subsistence free of any hardship, suffering, or obstacle which would otherwise prove too difficult for them to know God.
This begs the question of how and to what extent material things should be divided and distributed among us in an effort to ensure that all are able to fulfill their purpose in life. Similarly, what framework should exist, if any, within which a person can obtain and retain possessions of their own? These questions are the realm of political philosophy, politics, and social legislation and are well outside the intended scope of this Blog. But public policy by itself wont help. What is needed first is a new-found shared perspective from which to consider the questions. This perspective needs to delve to the most fundamental level of what is our purpose in life. Agreeing that it is to know God, in turn, we can then reason from that shared perspective to hammer out the details of how to accomplish the goal. From that perspective, the specifics would likely fall in line relatively effortlessly compared to the knock down drag out handling of the issue prevalent today. I admit that this starting point is rather idealistic and unfortunately not likely to be shared by all. But it is what’s required.
A foundation at the most basic level need be determined regarding what our material well being actually requires in order to fulfill our purpose in life. No one should be denied this opportunity but for their own freedom to choose otherwise. In principle, if our new-found shared perspective is kept in mind, this should not be a daunting endeavor. As the spiritual greats of the past and present have shown us, cultivating a meaningful and loving spiritual relationship with God is more often than not sown and developed in the midst of material simplicity. This state is one of disciplined moderation which shuns excess.
Is our obligation to provide everyone with such a reasonable existence too much to ask? For those whose needs are abundantly met, the question arises as to how much is enough to pursue and fulfill their live’s purpose? Are their life’s extravagances even beneficial in pursuit of the ultimate spiritual end? Shouldn’t we give back to those less fortunate to at least the extent that they are able to meet a basic level of subsistence to pursue their end as well? To this it might be argued, what of the more fortunate’s hard work and that of their families, ancestors, and nations? Why should others who maybe have not worked as hard benefit from the fruits of the well-to-do’s labor? Unfortunately, this all to common mindset is rooted in self-centeredness and selfishness. It assumes that the hard work employed is of no value if the blessings it obtains are not utilized and enjoyed by those who procured them. On the contrary, shouldn’t this be considered a gift to the accomplished in that they have an opportunity to in turn provide for others in order that they too may life meaningful lives? More to the point, is it not the well off’s actual duty to provide for others? As God provides for them, so shall they in turn provide for others. Is His example not most fundamental and profound enough? But for God, we wouldn’t exist to even contemplate the question.
And for those less materially fortunate, need they aspire to acquire the things which others posess as the object of their envy? For what use and to what purpose do they serve? Can’t they see that very little is needed to fulfill their purpose in life? What things do they actually require to know God? In today’s welfare state, should they even be trusted with the gift from others to wisely utilize that which has been given? Might they already have enough, albeit utilized frivolously, and should instead the gift be given elsewhere? How tasty need be the food they eat? How cold the water? How comfortable the shelter? How convenient and stylish the transportation? How entertained must they be?
Despite the differences of material circumstances and lives, these questions echo the same for the more and less fortunate alike. Is much at all really even necessary? To the miserly and prodigal alike, what do you really need?