Rethinking Social Justice
BookTrends - Seek Social Justice: Transforming Lives in Need Study Guide
By: The Heritage Foundation|Published: March 3, 2010 7:20 PM
“What’s really going on here?” That’s the first question to ask when we fnd people in need. The answers should guide us to respond in ways that can make a lasting difference.
Seek Social Justice: Transforming Lives in Need is a free small-group curriculum from The Heritage Foundation. The text and video materials can be ordered or downloaded from the Seek Social Justice website.
In Lesson One, you’ll hear from members of one university community working to transform lives in need. As you watch the video, begin thinking about the idea of social justice:
How should we understand this concept?
What problems does it refer to?
Who is responsible for addressing them, and how?
What is the vision of social justice that motivates those in the video to serve others?
Read and Discuss
An important goal of this first lesson is to develop a solid understanding of social justice. The following lessons will build on the relational approach to the concept proposed in this lesson.
Rethinking Social Justice
Just as doctors must understand the basics of good health in order to diagnose illnesses, we need to understand what makes up a just society in order to understand the nature of social breakdown. In either case, failing to understand both the problem and the goal can lead to further harm.
Relationships: Where It All Begins
Christian teaching, on the other hand, emphasizes that human nature is relational by defnition. You are not an isolated individual but a son or daughter, a neighbor, a student or an employee, a citizen, and a child of God. From the moment you’re born, you’re embedded in networks of relationships that make life possible and shape your identity. Thriving people and communities, the true objectives of social justice, depend in large part on the health of some basic relationships.
The Real Root of the Problem: Broken Relationships
Some needs arise because of natural disasters or the harmful actions of others—dramatic external forces that can turn life upside-down. Some needs come from the conditions—in the family, community, school district, etc.—in which people are born and raised. And some needs stem from a person’s own bad habits, poor choices, and irresponsible actions. These can have far-reaching effects in a person’s life. Drug and alcohol addictions, for instance, prevent many people from being able to hold down a job, save money, form a healthy marriage, and stay on the right side of the law. All of these causes can strain or rupture the basic relationships that people need to fourish.
Our understanding of the nature and causes of poverty shapes how we respond. A failure to recognize fundamental needs will lead to inadequate approaches.
10. Have you or has someone close to you suffered in ways that may not be material in nature, but are every bit as painful and crippling?
Different kinds of assistance shape attitudes and behaviors in different ways. Approaches intended to help people can actually encourage them to make unhealthy choices and reinforce actions that damage relationships and prevent healthy relationships from developing. Regardless of good intentions, assistance that encourages wrong choices is wrong. It doesn’t advance social justice.
A Strategy that Works: Consider the Needs of the Whole Person
The best approaches heal wounds while also inspiring, challenging, and enabling those in need to pursue a better course by restoring relationships. Seeking social justice should start with efforts to strengthen those spheres of society in which healthy relationships can grow.
Behind the Scenes
Who are the students referenced by Amy Sherman who appear in the video?
When Chuck Colson and Amy Sherman refer to “shalom,” what do they mean?
Who is Robin and what does she do at the Mercury Courts housing development?
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