Christian Social Justice Advocate: Contradiction or Legacy?
Edwards, Cher N., Counseling and Values
In this article, the relationship between Christian religiosity and the principles of social justice is explored, including the sociopolitical aspects of faith and advocacy, A particular emphasis is placed on the historical legacy and theological relationships between Christianity and social justice. The author concludes with a call for increasingly overt and intentional social justice work among counselors who self-identify as Christian.
The multicultural counseling literature encourages professional counselors to be mindful of their worldviews and how they influence the counseling process and relationship (D. W. Sue & Sue, 2008). The worldviews of counselors are affected by their collective experiences and influenced by various aspects of the person, including, but not limited to, gender, sex, race/ ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, sexual/affectional orientation, and spiritual or religious perspective. Several of these experiences and statuses are readily associated with the role of advocacy in counselors' professional lives.
Despite Christianity's history of persecution and oppression when early Christians were brutally killed, in recent years, this group has become increasingly privileged. For example, Christian traditions and values dominate holidays observed by business, industry, and education in the United States, and in most states it is difficult to be elected for political office if one is not Christian (Schlosser, 2003). In its privileged state (Blumenfeld, 2006; Fairchild, 2009; Juarez, Smith, & Hayes, 2008; Schlosser, 2003; Schlosser & Sedlacek, 2003; Seifert, 2007; Stewart & Lozano, 2009), Christianity is sometimes viewed as an unlikely religion to associate with social justice activism. All counselors are held to expectations of social justice advocacy as evidenced through the endorsement of the American Counseling Association Advocacy Competencies (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2002; Toporek, Lewis, & Crethar, 2009). For some, this mandate is congruent with what they perceive as the foundation of the Christian faith, whereas others may find it contradictory to what they view as their Christian values. In this article, I explore the relationship between the Christian faith and principles of social justice, as well as the sociopolitical aspects of faith and advocacy.
Biblical scholars trace the roots of social justice to Mesopotamian culture. Nardoni (2004) argued that Christianity is based in the history of and commitment to social justice as evidenced throughout the Bible. An example provided is the following scripture:
Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-2, New International Version; note that all biblical references are to this version)
Further emphasizing that those with privilege have a responsibility to social justice are the words of Christ's apostle Luke: "To whom much is given, much will be required" (Luke 12:48). Along with this statement of responsibility comes the acknowledgment of the current state of Christianity as a privileged group (Blumenfeld, 2006; Fairchild, 2009; Juarez et al., 2008; Schlosser, 2003; Schlosser & Sedlacek, 2003; Seifert, 2007; Stewart & Lozano, 2009). Acknowledging the foundation of the Christian faith begs the question, are Christians living up to their legacy?
Despite the history of oppression and theological underpinnings of Christianity and social justice, criticism exists about the notion of Christians as social justice advocates. Literature points to this less favorable perspective, citing that "traditional Western religious organizations such as Christianity . …