Re-imagining Social Justice from a Headwing Perspective

By David Eaton

Since the tragic death of George Floyd, the United States has experienced societal convulsions not seen since the social unrest of the 1960s. Protests, violent and non-violent, have caused great distress in many American cities and communities.

This crisis has highlighted several significant socio-political issues including racial inequality, police brutality, poverty, family breakdown, and gender equality. Consequently, the role of political and spiritual leaders in ameliorating many of these injustices is now of great concern.

Needless to say, there have been a plethora of opinions offered to explain the conditions that have resulted in various injustices that have plagued the socio-cultural circumstances in the United States since its founding. The question as to what might be the best solutions to these problems can only be answered when the proper diagnosis of the root cause is identified.

In his advocacy of non-violent solutions for peace and justice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., often invoked the narrative of “the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice.” Because we all have our portions of responsibility in matters of citizenship, family relations and with our extended communities, we can’t expect that the “moral arc of the universe” will bend toward justice without godly virtues and values being practiced in a forthright manner.

In Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is, Michael Novak and Paul Adams explore the origins of the term “social justice” and examine how the concept and its implementation evolved. “Social justice” was coined in the 19th century by Italian Catholic priest Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio, who asserted it was important to make a distinction between legal justice as implemented by the state and social justice — remedying relational conflicts without state intrusion. As such, the idea of social justice has long been part of the social creed of the Roman Catholic Church and several popes have weighed in on the issue via papal encyclicals.

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