A Personal View of Social Justice in America, Part II: The View From the Outside

There’s always more.  About a week ago, I put together a piece for America’s Right that was intended to be a brief introduction to my childhood experience with social justice in America. I only described my experiences in a racially divided America that was in the middle of fighting the Vietnam War. My intention was to show that much of the demand for social justice sprang from the personal experiences of its citizens, not from abstract ideologies or stupidity.

Now, however, perhaps we’re best served to look at what I consider to be the foundational yin and yang of the social justice movement in the 1960‘s, a yin and yang which have been carried forward until the present day, represented by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

There has been enough written about Martin Luther King, Jr. to fill the Grand Canyon, but for my purposes he represented the social reformer who wanted to appeal to the decency that he apparently believed to exist within all of humanity. Trust me — in 1965, where I lived, human decency was not always easy to find, but the point King made was well taken within the Christian context in which he preached.

His “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written in 1963 is still considered one the greatest pleas for social justice ever written within the tradition of Mohandas Ghandi, who spent a lifetime peacefully protesting the occupation of India by the British, and also St. Paul, who often wrote from prison pleading with fellow Christians to follow the teachings of Christ.

I knew a lot of adults in 1965 who really hated King, and as much as that hatred intensified as King began to speak out against the Vietnam War, those same adults never feared him. They actually hated King in very childish ways. They reacted to him in the same manner as a child reacts to being forced to wash his hands before dinner; the child knows his mother is correct to make him clean up before eating, but he resents being told what to do. That is why King ultimately knew that unless the white people of America came around to his point of view and agreed with the fact that institutional racial segregation was unjust, no amount of coercion would bring peace. King tried to do this in a Christian context as a minister. I call this “criticism from the inside.”

I cannot overemphasize how important this point of view is. For example, when America’s Right editor Robert Wallace writes a response critical of something I have written it can be argued that he is criticizing me in the same way, as one who shares a common ground but thinks I have missed a point somewhere along the way and need to be corrected. Martin Luther King wanted to unite the Christian family, not tear it apart by saying that the Christian message was wrong or misguided. He wanted the Christian message to be fulfilled. Whether or not this actually happened can be debated; I only mean to present his intentions.

The opposite side of this perspective, the “criticism from the outside,” was leveled against the Christian world most notably by Malcolm X. Perhaps more than any figure from the 1960’s, he made a lot of us white Christians aware that there were people in the world that did not like us, and would actually be content to live without us. White people seem to have a notion that everyone wants to be like them, and that attacks against them are based more on jealousy than any other motive. Malcolm X made me aware that there were people in the world who hated me, both as a human being and as a representative of the cruel ruling class. Malcolm X was a Muslim, he was black, he was smart, and he gave every impression that he was ready to kick my ass.

When I went to a public university in 1973 to begin my college years, I found out he was not alone. There were lots of people in America who despised Christianity, who really believed that the solutions to the problems of America would be possible only when Christianity was eliminated as a source of Truth.

For purposes of example, consider the words of Gore Vidal, the famous essayist and novelist:

I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam — good people, yes, but any religion based on a single… well, frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system that has worked pretty well for twenty-five hundred years. So you see I am ecumenical in my dislike for the Book. But like it or not, the Book is there; and because of it people die; and the world is in danger.

Yes, Malcolm X believed in a single God, too, but he presented the proposition with great force that America had an evil within it that it had never faced, and would refuse to face, as long a there was a white, Christian male running things with a Bible in his hand.

My home town, like many other home towns, had a public radio station which played alternative points of view. One night when I was driving home, the station carried a speech it attributed to Malcolm X. I actually stopped my car on the way along the side of the road to listen to it. I have never heard anything like it. It was frank, brutal, and contrary to anything I had heard in my childhood. He used the “N” word a lot — a word which I will avoid and which, for purposes here, will be substituted with the word “servant.”  In the speech, Malcolm X said there were two kinds of servants on the plantation:  First, there were the field servants who worked outside, who were separate from their masters, and whose concern was their own survival. Next, there were the house servants, the ones who took care of the master’s residence and his family. He said that these servants were concerned about the master. They worried about whether the master was happy. They saw their fate and the fate of the master as inexorably linked together.

I am haunted by this speech to this day. Whenever I am in line at the grocery store and see magazines that write about the lives of movie stars, I think about being a house servant. Am I supposed to be concerned about Brad Pitt? Should I worry about Oprah’s weight? When I was in college in 1973, there were plenty of people who wanted to kill the master and burn his house down. They believed that the master did not deserve love, and that, in fact, caring about the master only made us his slave.

I believe, beginning in the 1970’s, social justice became a vast battle ground between the Christian left and the anti-western left. The right would largely abandon social justice all together for the ethics of personal responsibility. When I went to college in 1973, I found myself in a world unlike any I had ever known, where every criticism of American culture would be a criticism from the outside. I can honestly say that in six years of college I never had anyone in authority speak to me from a Christian perspective. I can also honestly say I became a fairly literate student of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin, the Holy Trinity of the view from the outside. This view would have its most powerful voices in the soprano–the voices of woman who wanted to see Christianity go the way of the dinosaur.

Maybe that’s fodder for a Part III.

Share

Comments

  1. HonestAmerican says:

    Sorry, Ron, your dog doesn’t hunt.

    You claim to be a history expert but, personally, I find that statement not to be accurate.

    Since you stated that you were in college in the 70s, first let me point out that I was in college before you entered high school.

    You are leaving out some very important historical facts.

    1. Dr. King was surrounded by Communists; he was an adulterer, and a boozer. Yes, he preached peaceful solutions yet the Black Panthers and the SDS appeared not to listen to him.

    2. You neglect to mention an interview J. Edgar Hoover did with a major magazine in 1950 however I realize you may not of been born then or perhaps you never read it. In brief, Hoover alluded to the fact that people may call it by many names, Democracy, etc….it is still Communism.

    3. J.B. WIlliams’ research says it best:

    The High Price of Social Justice is Freedom
    We see the principles and values of “social justice” in the judicial branch, where right and wrong, or even legal and illegal, are trumped by “social conscience.”

    Illegal immigration is deemed “legal” on the basis of “social justice,” no matter what the laws say. Known terrorists are afforded US civil rights in criminal courts, complete with taxpayer funded defense lawyers, while American soldiers are tried in military courts for following government orders during a time of war, all in the name of “social justice.”

    Personal prosperity and property are confiscated by the government, in the name of “social justice,” and in the end, individual freedom and liberty are denied any American, in the name of “social justice.”
    Yet many Americans embrace “social justice” as a progressive notion, far more “fair” than freedom and liberty.

    And as a result, Marx was right… Democracy is the road to socialism, once a nation has been trained to vote itself gifts from the public trough, in the name of “social justice.”

    But social justice comes at a great expense… For the nation or the world to be “socially just,” it must trade individual freedom and liberty for the right to “equal stuff.”

    “Social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality and involves a greater degree of economic egalitarianism through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or even property redistribution, policies aimed toward achieving that which developmental economists refer to as more equality of opportunity and equality of outcome than may currently exist in some societies or are available to some classes in a given society.” (from Wikipedia)
    To achieve social justice, Americans must be willing to trade the following Christian concepts upon which their entire way of life was built…
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Our Declaration of Independence
    The concepts of individual freedom, liberty and unalienable individual rights cannot coexist with the concepts of “social justice,” for there is no means by which to provide “social justice” which does not trample on the individual rights of some, for benefit of others.
    Do not confuse charity with tyranny. Charity is an individual act which requires the consent of the giver. Tyranny is when a governing power defines and enforces charitable giving against your will. Progressive taxation is also known as punitive taxation, or taxation without representation.
    “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” – Thomas Jefferson
    Our founding fathers did not say – “Give me social justice or give me death…”
    “It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

  2. Daddy? says:

    Why does Malcolm X look so darned familiar?

    I thank God every chance I get I was able to skip college and become a great software engineer on my own merits. What a huge petri dish most institutions are.

  3. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Bob,

    I believe the phrase is “your dog don’t hunt.”

    Miss you, buddy — how you been doing?

    Jeff

  4. Anonymous says:

    Standing ovation and tears for 2:13!
    Patrick Henry, from my old stomping grounds.
    Long live the STATE of Virginia!!!!

  5. Randy Wills says:

    Hi, John.

    I respect your courage to write from a perspective that you know will generate more than a few negative responses, but I think that you miss the point.

    The point, in my opinion, is that by a failure of those claiming to be “Christian” to take their profession of commitment to the Word seriously, we set the stage for the inevitable attempt by Evil to suggest that a “just” world could be achieved apart from the God of the Scripture. In an attempt to claim our “freedon”, we gave it up to a different kind of slavery. It’s the same agrument and objective related in the story of the Garden of Eden.

    Any solution that does not recognize this is doomed to fail. The current popularity of the term “social justice” will also fail because it is not rooted in the Truth. It is just a perversion of the Truth in order to achieve its own end – a world without personal relationship and responsibility to God.

    Randy

  6. HonestAmerican says:

    Jeff, you are correct. It should be “don’t.” I stand corrected.

    I should have known that a freshly graduated law student would have the correct ebonics answer.

    LOL

    Working my tail off, man.

    How ya’ll doing?

    Always a pleasure.

  7. William A. Rose says:

    No matter what any of us would do either individually or collectively, there is one MOST IMPORTANT thing to keep in mind. All of this is prophesied to happen. Personally, I believe we are either in the End Times or are on the very cusp of their beginning.

    Though I believe we should revolt against this oppressive and evermore tyrannical government, at all levels, I just don’t really see what would be gained. It’d only maybe slow the progression of the spiral downward to the One World Government and all things prophesied.

    What I think we should all be doing, first and foremost, is coming to know God and sharing the Gospel with as many as will hear it. We must learn to take care of one another. I fear that is simply not going to happen, ever.

    There will be bloodshed at some point. As things deteriorate and the comforts we are accustomed to begin to be more difficult to achieve or become absent altogether, there will be people that will find what they need in the possession of others and they will take it by force.

    Anybody ever watch the TV series entitled “Jericho”? Of course it’s all fiction. What it depicted was woefully short of the mark of just how our society would degenerate and how people would conduct themselves if law and order and everything we know were to suddenly no longer be present.

    I can see this happening. I can’t believe it would happen right here in my America, my home, my land, that nation which I served and would have willingly gave my life to protect and preserve. I would still do that even today. Even though I can’t believe such a scenario could happen here, maybe I just don’t want to belive it. It is coming. It’s just a matter of time.

    Just my thoughts.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Well put, William.
    This is what happens when you don’t keep a handle on the budget.

  9. Dominoes, anyone? says:

    BRUSSELS – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is insisting that any European bailout for Greece be only a last resort and must involve the International Monetary Fund, rebuffing calls from EU officials and other euro nations to come up with a definite rescue plan at a Thursday summit of EU leaders.

Speak Your Mind

*