Faith, Justice, and Society
(Photos by Robin Holland)
This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with academics Gary Dorrien, Serene Jones, and Cornel West about what faith traditions can tell us about building a more just society. The trio recently taught a class together, “Christianity and the U.S. Crisis,” at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Gary Dorrien explained his view that democracy is intrinsic to a just society:
“I think that economic democracy is essentially an attempt to serve as a kind of brake on human greed and will to power, which are virtually universal, so I’m not talking about anything that requires some kind of idealistic idea about human nature or what we’re capable of. My main argument is the same that Reinhold Niebuhr had about democracy – that the human capacity for greed makes democracy possible, but it’s precisely the human capacity for evil that makes democracy necessary.”
Serene Jones suggested that communities can help overcome any single individual’s shortcomings:
“Sin, for me, describes the fact that we are born thrown into this world and we are, no matter how hard we try, because of the complexity of how we’re put together, destined to make massive mistakes. The best we can hope for is that we’re in a community of people that continually remind us that, in fact, we don’t understand everything and we are not the center of the universe. That’s sin, the inevitability of that. I think it’s central to democracy – we have checks and balances.”
Cornel West argued that people’s commitment to their faith is best demonstrated in service to others:
“We don’t want to get too obscure in our discourse and not really just put on the table something that’s very simple: how deep is your love? What is the quality of your service to others? Are you concerned about those on the margins, or do we define a catastrophe only when it relates to investment bankers and Wall Street Bankers as opposed to the precious children in chocolate cities or white children in Appalachia or red children in Navajo reservations?... What costs are we willing to actually undergo? You can’t be a Christian if you’re not willing to pick up your cross and, in the end, be crucified on it. That’s the bottom line.”
What do you think?
How does your faith or moral code inform your views about politics and society?