Social Justice Includes Defending Religious Liberty

Chelsen Vicari
Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

It may be that we are raising a generation of Evangelicals who resent self-sufficiency, upward mobility and success stories. I'm sorry to say these resentments, specifically among Millennials, is due in large part to an over-emphasis and misuse of "social justice" advocacy touted by the Left within our church sermons and Sunday school lessons.

Charity, equality, and dignity for all are necessary Gospel-centered lessons. But let's face it, when it comes to the Left's social justice lessons, religious liberty has no place at their table.

The Left's "social justice" advocacy that often disguises expanding entitlement programs and the nanny state teaches young people that justice means defending the vulnerable, marginalized and oppressed.

As someone once captivated by the Left's "social justice Jesus," my ideas on justice and equality revolved around socialist democracies and welfare solutions for social ills. During college I saw this theological route the only way to rebel against the perceived self-centered ethos of my parents' generation. But alongside the sound instructions to feed the hungry and show compassion to the hurting, I learned to undermine values such as hard work, determination, innovation and success. Instead, these values were lumped into like catchphrases "privilege" and "wealth" and were to be avoided like the plague.

Unfortunately, the misappropriated terms "privilege" and "wealth" act as obstacles for some "social justice" gurus on the Left to expand their advocacy beyond liberal political agendas.

Instead of defending religious liberty, the Christian Left spends their energy denigrating traditional Christians for seeking freedom from religious discrimination and oppression. This is not social justice, nor even kindness or compassion.

How sad to see Red Letter Christians, a Religious Left advocacy group, publish the article "Religious Exemptions Have No Spiritual Basis." Then there were the zealous social justice activists of the Evangelical Left who dismissed the struggles of Christian bakers and wedding photographers seeking freedom from participating in same-sex "marriage" ceremonies. Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, and Rachel Held Evans and other prominent liberal Christians went so far as to commend Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of SB 1062, which would have provided a religious exemption for Christian small-business owners.

Or how about Religion News Service's Jonathan Merritt attempt to slander Hobby Lobby's Christian owners, the Green family, in his article "Stop Calling Hobby Lobby a Christian Company"? Praise God, the U.S. Supreme Court didn't listen to Merritt. Justice was upheld in the Supreme Court and the Green family was not forced to provide abortifacients under the Health and Human Services contraception mandate because of their moral and religious objection.

Here's the thing about justice: it extends beyond political correctness. Each one of us has a duty to defend others who are being forced to act in a way that denies their deeply held moral and religious convictions. This moral obligation to defend the right for every person to live and work according to their faith—even Christians— is just as significant as our moral obligation to care for the poor.

Thankfully, I shed the Left's "social justice" advocacy and stopped calling myself a Socialist Democrat a while ago. Yet compassion and justice remain an integral part of my traditional Christian. Believe it or not Micah 6:8, which instructs, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" remains one of my life verses.

It's time for all of us who truly care about social justice to practice what we preach to practice what we preach and "do justice" even when it's not politically correct.

Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. She earned her Masters of Arts in Government from Regent University and frequently contributes to conservative outlets. Follow her on twitter @ChelsenVicari.

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