Smith: Social justice ain't what it used to be

Smith: Social justice ain't what it used to be

April 9th, 2018 by Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

A cosmotology instructor at Brainerd High School speaks to a social justice class from Girls Preparatory School in 2016.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The term "social justice" has been thrown around a lot lately. It sounds like something that should be supported. And that's exactly why it's an addition to the lexicon of activists who operate by shaming others into agreement rather than winning an argument based on principle.

Social justice originated in the Catholic Church as a philosophy and doctrine of human dignity, but politics has hijacked its meaning.

Today, the concept of social justice calls forth a state of egalitarianism, or human equality as related to social, political and economic affairs, according to Merriam-Webster. Putting today's theory into action is seen in the removal of inequalities experienced by individuals through governments, groups and policy.

Robin Smith

Robin Smith

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

How does this vary from the origins of social justice in the Christian faith? Originally, social justice was taught and sought to be the "respect for the human person and the rights which flow from human dignity and guarantee it. Society must provide the conditions that allow people to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and vocation."

Interestingly, the modern-day version speaks of removing inequalities through redistribution — taking from some and reallocating to others. Now contrast that with the original faith-based philosophy, which focused on the equality of opportunity and obtaining one's "due according to their nature and vocation."

Today, social justice works to allow a third-party institution to administer equality, while faith intended social justice to be accomplished through the dignity of self-reliance, one's own nature and work through equal opportunity, not outcomes.

Of course there will always be a need for the very important role of charity and benevolence. Yet, establishing secularly assigned morality to a forced redistribution of resources to achieve equality instead of empowering an individual to achieve according to his or her own nature and abilities is not only beneath human dignity, it's dishonest.

Social justice warriors of our day protest and pontificate in demanding safe spaces on college campuses to avoid offense and demand free birth control, open borders, a universal wage provided by the government without work, "free" health care, and the list goes on.

To hoist the banner of the good guys fighting the bad guys, social justice advocates are committed to victimhood rather than self-reliance; identity politics rather than principled discussions; and heated rhetoric that marginalizes anyone who disagrees as an enemy of the common good.

Social justice, as applied in society through the church and individual engagement, is a critical ingredient of a good, civil society. It establishes personal connection and community value through compassion and action to lend a hand to empower another.

Social justice, as packaged for government power and political control over individuals through a sense of faux philanthropy and an institutional approach to sameness, not equal opportunity, is unhealthy for everyone and a drain on society because it doesn't empower. It entraps wards of the state.


Robin Smith, a former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, owns Rivers Edge Alliance.

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