Thursday, January 13, 2011

Trusting God and Social Justice

I absolutely hate the media. I hate them because they've turned the news into nothing but fear, hype and misinformation or outright lies. Because of this I don't have a TV and I don't watch the news. Well I was home for my sister's wedding recently and lacking a computer or any good books I was watching the news with my mom.

Of all the stories that the media handles, perhaps shootings are the most egregiously covered.  The media will often play the blame game within hours or even minutes of the story breaking, before anything is really known about the shooter. Unscrupulous politicians often use this to their advantage by proposing gun control legislation within days of the shooting, and the media eagerly accommodates their bad behavior. So when news of the tragedy in Arizona broke, I knew what would come next. Sure enough the news talked about how Senator McCarthy and Senator Lautenberg planned to introduce legislation possibly by the next day!  Shame on them!

Of course this made me angry, and I expressed as much by shouting at the TV. This provoked my mom to ask me what my problem was, and when I explained how I couldn't stand the media's unprofessionalism and lack of integrity her reply floored me.

It was: "So? Don't you trust God?"

This got me thinking. Of course the Christian should trust God, and I've pointed out as much in past posts on my livejournal, but how does that apply to my adversarial relationship with the media?  Was I displaying a lack of trust in God by hating how they spread misinformation, hype, and fear?

Well, I've thought about it, and I don't think so. In fact I'm pretty convinced my dislike of the media and what they do is a good thing. It comes down to the difference between acting out of fear and acting out of righteous anger. The distinction is important and I'll try to elaborate a little bit here.

When Obama was elected president there was a lot of panic among conservatives. Some of it justified, the vast majority of it was not.  That type of panic, thinking that the world is ending because a politician who doesn't line up with your views was elected, shows a lack of faith in God. The Bible is pretty clear that leaders are ordained by God, whether they are good or bad. This is such a basic thing that I don't feel any need to elaborate on it further.

While God is in control, that doesn't mean the Christian is to take on a fatalistic view of everything. We are not to be passive.  I am convinced that when a Christian sees injustice he is to work to the best of his ability to correct it. After all, what was the second greatest commandment? Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV):
37And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
Loving your neighbor implies making reasonable attempts at two activities, preventing injustice from being done to him and righting any injustice that is done.  You see this all the time in society, you just don't think about it. The entire criminal justice system is setup for two reasons, to deter criminal activity and to punish it when it does occur.

So what does this have to do with the media? A lot actually.  In a democratic republic such as ours the people have the power to chose their leaders, and they chose those leaders based on what those leaders say they will do and what the people think is the right course of action. The media plays a huge role in this, as it is through the media that the people learn about what their leaders say and do, and what the current issues affecting the nation are.

Surely you can see the huge danger of a media run amok. If they chose to create fear by spreading misinformation they can easily fool enough of the population to cause real damage to society, meaning real harm to your neighbor. School shootings are an example of this. The media is partly responsible for the election of the politicians responsible for the ill-conceived gun free zone law.  That law, instead of protecting school children, has made them an easy target for predators.  Not once has a sign stopped a mass murderer, and children have died because of it. This is social injustice, and it is something God takes seriously.

Lets take a quick look at Amos.  Amos prophesied Isreal and Judah's impending destruction because of their unfaithfulness to God. What's interesting is that he lists some of God's grievances against both nations throughout the book, many of which involve social justice. I think the following two passages are pretty relevant to this discussion:

6Thus says the LORD:

   (A) "For three transgressions of Israel,
   and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because(B) they sell the righteous for(C) silver,
   and the needy for a pair of sandals—
7those who trample the head of the poor(D) into the dust of the earth
   and(E) turn aside the way of the afflicted;
(F) a man and his father go in to the same girl,
   so that my holy name is profaned;
8they lay themselves down beside every altar
   on garments(G) taken in pledge,
and in the house of their God they drink
   the wine of those who have been fined. (2:6-8)
Here God is condemning Israel for not loving their neighbors. They have refused to help the poor, even oppressing them. The portion about the garments taken in pledge refers to the law that if a man loaned money to another man, and took his coat as a pledge, the lender was to give him back his coat at night so that the he might keep warm. Here the lender is sleeping on the coat, breaking the law and not showing compassion for his fellow man.  Here Israel is enjoying unjust gain, social injustice is running amok, so much so that God is raising up the Syrian nation to enslave Israel.

10(A) They hate him who reproves(B) in the gate,
   and they(C) abhor him who speaks the truth.
11Therefore because you(D) trample on[a] the poor
   and you exact taxes of grain from him,
(E) you have built houses of hewn stone,
   but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
   but you shall not drink their wine.
12For I know how many are your transgressions
   and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who(F) take a bribe,
   and(G) turn aside the needy(H) in the gate.
13Therefore he who is prudent will(I) keep silent in such a time,
   (J) for it is an evil time.
 14(K) Seek good, and not evil,
   that you may live;
and so the LORD,(L) the God of hosts, will be with you,
   as you have said.
15(M) Hate evil, and love good,
   and establish justice(N) in the gate;
(O) it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
   will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (5:10-15)
And this entire post could be summarized by vs 15, "Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate." As Christians we are called to establish justice where possible.  In our system of government we really have no excuse, it is entirely possible to establish justice! You and I have the power to choose our leaders, and we should take it seriously.We should do our homework and vote for the candidates that we are convinced, not just emotionally but also intellectually, will do the most to establish justice.

It doesn't stop at casting a well-informed vote. We must be a voice for truth, pointing out lies and calling the media out on their hype. A representative democracy cannot survive misinformation, hype and the media's manipulation for long. It can and does cause real harm to our neighbor, and therefore we need to fight it with everything we have. I'm not talking about bombing CNN's headquarters or anything, what I am saying is turn off the TV! God gave you a brain, use it!  The old adage, garbage in garbage out, is true for you too. You need to seek the truth, which is something that cannot be found on CNN, MSNBC, ABC or even (or perhaps especially) Fox News.

Now, in the intrest of being informed, I do read news from all those sources (and BBC news, which is one of the better ones IMHO) but I do not watch it on TV. Why? Reading engages your brain more. It is also harder to get crap past the radar when you are reading. The language used in the article often betrays the author's bias, its much easier to filter when you read. Whereas watching the news its much easier to just absorb without any filtering.

So, my conclusion, desiring social justice does not show a lack of trust in God, but quite the opposite. God commands Christians to strive for social justice when it is within our power to do so.  Working for social justice, even when it seems like a lost cause, is arguably an act of faith. Get your butt off the couch and read your news instead of watching it. Work to correct the injustice around you, and don't take the threat from the media lightly. Lies are never harmless. We serve the Voice of Truth, we have no place being unbothered by liars.