As editor-in-chief for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice (PCPJ), I’ve had the privilege of writing for The Christian Post a couple of times. My first article summarized the vision of Holy Spirit Activism and PCPJ: Pentecostals should promote peace and justice. In the article, I specified justice as “social justice”, since I wasn’t talking about legal justice.
That triggered some people.
The comment section was filled with things like “social justice is a code word for socialism”, “social justice is anti-American”, “the Bible talks about justice, but not social justice”. Most who wrote this were American Christians. For some reason, when they see the word social justice they act as if somebody has said “Heil Hitler”. They are incredibly upset and argue that we should stop using that term.
Because of this reaction, I wrote a second article for the Christian Post: Christians Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk About Social Justice. In it, I carefully explained how evangelical leaders have been calling for social justice for decades. They weren’t communists. They were followers of Jesus, who taught that we should share our goods with the poor (Luke 12:33) and break down injustices (Mt 25).
Viewing social justice as something negative is extremely recent. Allow me to quote myself:
A Fox News segment by Glenn Beck in 2010 introduced the American public to the idea that social justice is socialism in disguise. Without any evidence whatsoever, he claimed that churches preaching social justice have been hijacked by socialists, promoting “the extreme left”. This idea has gained massive influence among American Christians.
The term “social justice warrior” was actually coined in the 1990’s as a neutral description of somebody passionate about civil rights. The pejorative usage of today originated in 2011 on Twitter, and exploded during 2014’s #gamergate when thousands of against Anita Sarkeesian’s attempts to highlight how video games often portray women in objectifying and sexualized ways.
The problem with shaming people who mention “social justice” is that any honest conversation on how to promote social justice becomes impossible. If you’re not a fan of social injustice – and I hope that you aren’t – you should not try to silence those who try to initiate conversations on how we, as followers of Jesus, can abolish such injustice.
I find it sad and, frankly, absurd that Christians have adopted the worldview and vocabulary of angry gamers who don’t like when people point out that their stupid video games are portraying women like cattle. What comes next, if the Wrestling community starts treating “pro-life” as an insult, should Christians start saying that those who use the term pro-life are trying to sneak nazism into the church? Come on, people.
If somebody calls you a social justice warrior, thank them for the compliment. Keep following Jesus, keep helping the poor and keep resisting changing your vocabulary because of Twitter campaigns.