Tag Archives: justice

Pursing the Common Good. Where Christians are Getting It Wrong and How They Can Get it Right

In the last few years I’ve noticed a shift in the language of politically engaged Christians. Increasingly rare is talk of Australia as a “Christian” nation whose heritage must be preserved and increasingly common is talk of “the common good”, with Christians asking how they can contribute to it

This is a welcome change. I don’t think it’s possible for a nation to be “Christian”, let alone that Australia ever was one. But I am concerned that the new discourse of “the common good” is often little more than a semantic shift.

The argument that is put is this: “We flourish when we live the way God designed us to, and those ways are made clear in the Christian Bible. Therefore we should ask the State to legislate Christian values, because whether people accept it or not, God’s way is the way to achieve our common good.”

This is nothing other than the Christendom project under new language.

I think a Christian contribution to the common good needs to be built on the following principles:

1. The way of Jesus must be chosen, not imposed. Jesus never forced people to live under the reign of God. Rather, he invited people into that way;

2. The common good is built on the foundation of some bedrock freedoms, such as the freedom of thought/conscience; freedom of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of movement; freedom from violence; etc. No effort to create a common good should violate these foundational freedoms;

3. The role of the State is to provide public goods (things such as roads, schools, hospitals, etc that need to be provided for on a collective rather than individual basis) and to protect the freedoms of its citizens.

These principles mean that people must be free to live by values completely different to mine, and this should be protected by the State. What they are not free to do is exploit, oppress, or mistreat others, and this should be prevented by the State. 

The Christian contribution to the common good is then threefold:

1. To embody and proclaim the way of Jesus an alternate and convincing pathway to human flourishing;

2. To engage in acts of service to others;

3. To exercise a prophetic voice to the State, calling it to secure justice for its citizens and to act as a just member of the international community.

This means we should distinguish between justice, by which I mean action to free people from exploitation, oppression, and other forms of mistreatment, and virtue, by which I mean the values a person lives by. Governments are responsible to secure justice but not virtue. We should engage politically around justice, and personally around virtue. That is, we do not pursue the common good by asking governments to legislate virtue, which in fact undermines the common good by violating people’s fundamental freedoms. Rather, we promote the common good, on the one hand, by standing with the exploited and oppressed, serving them as best we can, and calling governments to do justice and, on the other hand, by embodying Christian virtues and commending them in such a way that people freely choose them for themselves.

So when it comes to political engagement my question is simple: who is being exploited, oppressed, or unfairly treated and am I standing with then? If I can’t answer this question I am probably in the realm of virtue and politics is the wrong place to be looking to create a virtuous society.

Justice That Heals

There have been a number of ah-ha moments in my life, times at which I have seen myself and my world in a new light. One of those was to discover the place of justice in the Christian life. Echoing the prophet Micah, Jesus identified justice, mercy and faithfulness as the three central dimensions ofContinue Reading

I Hate Tee’s with a Message

I hate wearing T-shirts with messaging all over them, even more so when the messaging is nothing more than branding. But I write this post wearing a T that features an image of Martin Luther King and his comment that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” To purchase the T I traveled fromContinue Reading

When Mandela was a Terrorist and Justice Had Nothing to Do with Jesus. How I Came to See Jesus as a Champion of Justice. Jesus and Justice #1

When I was growing up Nelson Mandela was seen by many in my faith community as a terrorist who belonged in prison, the election of the Hawke government was declared by a key figure in my church to be God’s judgement on the nation, and justice had very little to do with Jesus. The JesusContinue Reading

A Wonderful Prayer

May God bless you with discomfort At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, So that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears To shed for thoseContinue Reading

Pirates in Pinstripes: How Multinationals Are Ripping off the World’s Poor

Multinationals can be a force for good in the developing world, but can also be a force that harms. This infographic shows why.Continue Reading

The $22 Billion Fundraiser. How We Did It.

How would you like to raise $22 billion for anti-poverty programs around the world? That’s not $22 million but $22 billion. Sounds impossible right? Well maybe not. Back in September 2000 world leaders, including Australia’s Prime Minister, gathered in Geneva and declared that the new millennium would be one in which we would forge aContinue Reading

I don’t plan on being in ‘heaven’ for long

Along with most Christians, I grew up believing that when I die my soul will leave my body and ascend to an immaterial realm called heaven, where I will spend an eternity with God. The only problem is, neither Jesus nor the Bible teach In recent years biblical scholars have argued that the bible doesContinue Reading