The problem with social justice
The problem with social justice
Thursday, February 10, 2000
By REV. STEPHEN GIORDANO
Sometimes our Faith & Values editorial board members wonder
what readers will think about our chosen theme.
This was the case when we selected the theme of social justice. Our
initial fear was that the general response might be, "Oh well, the
leaders of North Jersey's faith communities are going to write about
social justice. I guess they must be in favor of it, right?"
Yes, of course our board is filled by people who have a passionate
belief in social justice. But it would be naive to think in terms of
clean-cut and simple answers to the complexities of contemporary life.
Indeed, as you will read here, there are often multiple
perspectives within the religious community on issues of social justice.
It would be almost impossible to have every one of our board members
totally agree, without hesitation or qualification, with all the
specific social-justice positions outlined here.
This diversity of perspectives also exists within our society and
its leaders. Take, for instance, the question of the effort by Bergen
County to locate a one-stop center to care for the needs of the
homeless. There is no question that we all believe in caring for the
needy among us.
So, on one level, this might appear to be a clean-cut issue of
social justice. However, if we dig further, we can see that the desire
to improve this service for the homeless has created quite a heated
debate between the county and the City of Hackensack.
If one read the thoughtful editorials by the county executive and
the mayor of Hackensack that were published in The Record recently, one
would understand that there are legitimate concerns on all sides of this
This complexity of opinions surrounds many of the social-justice
issues in this edition of Faith & Values. Do we throw up our hands in
disgust and walk away from conversations about these difficult issues?
Clearly, this is not an option for a person of faith.
Within the various sacred writings of the faith communities
represented on our board, we read of a Christian's desire for social
justice based on their Lord's statement that "Whatever you do for the
least of my brethren, you do for me"; the Jewish perspective based on
the prophet Micah's statement, "What the Lord requires is that we love
justice, show mercy, and live in humble fellowship with our God"; the
statement from the ancient Hindu scriptures advocating the ideal of the
human race as one family wherein mutual love, respect, and justice must
prevail; the Baha'i teaching that a person of faith is called to an
ethic of voluntary sharing of one's property with others; the Koran
teaching that "those who believe must stand out firmly for justice"; and
an Ethical Culture perspective that their "passion for social justice is
fueled by a desire to narrow the gap between the world as it is and the
world as it should be."
All of these readings and many others confirm the fact that even
though there are real differences in our doctrines and beliefs, there is
also common ground. And a significant area of common ground is our
shared commitment to social justice for all people.
We invite you to be a part of that effort by reading these
articles, feeling free to respond directly to the authors and/or to our
Faith & Values editorial board and, above all else, joining in the
effort to promote respect and understanding among all of our North
The Rev. Stephen Giordano is pastor of the Clinton Avenue Reformed
Church, Bergenfield; president of the Bergen County Council of Churches,
and chairman of the Faith & Values Advisory Board.
©Copyright 2000 Bergen Record Corp.
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