Columns » In Good Faith

Opinion: What role should religion play in social justice?


Question: What role should religion play in calling for social justice?

Jeff Scholes - Agnostic
Jeffrey Scholes, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
At first blush, very little about religion, West or East, is concerned with social justice. Religion today seems to rely either on supernatural revelation to secure a belief system or on a belief in something metaphysical. And if the issue of justice is entertained, it is usually cast in terms of the individual. Yet much of the content found in sacred texts, whether prophetic declarations or alarms sounded for the state of the poor, tells a different story. A deep concern about injustice that occurs on a societal level exists in all of the great world religions — the question is how is the divine marshaled to act on behalf of those who seek to speak truth to power and whether the powerful agree to relinquish some of it.

Benn Mac Stiofan - Druid
Benn Mac Stiofan is a practicing Druid who speaks Irish and has deep respect for the spiritual, ethical, and mystical teachings rife in Celtic myth and legend.
When someone is starving, homeless or in pain, peace, joy and fulfillment are nearly impossible to attain. How can anyone profess to take care of the spirit and ignore the body? Justice means giving everyone a seat at the feast. Religion helps justice by ending its justifications for excluding people. Not only is exclusion from the feast bad for the excluded, but can those seated at the table truly enjoy their prosperity? As long as religious leaders teach exclusion as a virtue, justice is a faraway thing.

Dawud Salaam - Muslim
Dawud Salem hails from Macon, Georgia. He is a school social worker, graduate of the University of Denver and is a poet and spoken-word artist. He regularly delivers sermons at the Mosque in Colorado Springs.
I am of the opinion that religion should play a prominent role in calling for social justice. Justice permeates throughout the religion of Islam. On all levels, Muslims are commanded to be just. In a translation of the Quran, Allah says, “O you who have believed be persistently standing firm in justice… even if it be against yourselves or parent, and relatives.” 4:136. Muslims are thus obliged to stand for justice and not retreat to their mosques and centers with heads in the sand as injustices are happening near and far. Muslims who adhere to the above-mentioned commandments must stand for justice, particularly on the side of the oppressed and marginalized.

Bruce Coriell - Earth-based Christian
Bruce Coriell served as an interfaith chaplain in colleges and universities for over 35 years. These days you are most likely to find him off wandering rivers and mountains.
Let’s not pretend that all religious traditions are the same. Yet when it comes to the pursuit of social justice, each of our traditions calls for mercy, compassion and love — while insisting on fairness, equity and justice for all. Our sacred texts are full of such teachings, our history recalls great acts of sacrifice for others and our leaders have inspired social transformation. But let’s be honest. Sometimes our traditions are the very source of injustice — discrimination and bigotry, social exclusion and persecution, corruption both inside and outside of our organizations, and even tyranny and brutality. So, let’s all take an honest look in the mirror and make some changes, so that we can encourage others to join us in co-creating the world for which we yearn.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast