The problem with social justice

The problem with social justice

Thursday, February 10, 2000

PAGE: C1

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 debate.

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 Jersey neighbors.


 

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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