"...of some have compassion...save with fear, pulling them out of the fire...." Jude 22-3
It is hard for a me to take social work and programs seriously. No matter how "Christian" the whole "compassion for others" tag-line sounds, it still doesn't change the fact that much of what passes as social "work" and/or "justice" in the modern West is essentially linked with two enemies of the Christian Faith. One is liberal politics and its necessary destruction of all traditional values and truths (esp. Christian values and truths). The other is the diabolical Social Gospel, which redefines (re: replaces) Sin as poverty and racism and Redemption as legislation and lobbying. In sum, the former seeks the destruction of Christian essentials while the latter completely perverts the Gospel; thus, both are the enemies of the Christian Faith, and yet both seem to be necessarily ancillary to having "compassion" for "the least of these." This is why social justice (as it currently stands and is defined) is evil.
Obviously, we need to understand (and unashamedly assert) what people really need, i.e., salvation from the wrath of God against Sin. This post, however, will strive to address other fundamental flaws (other than, though building off of, the two mentioned already) in current social work paradigms by doing some demolition work against the word most used (and thoroughly abused) by social advocates: compassion. It is my hope that this demo work will help redefine social justice away from its evil contexts and connections and restore it to its proper place as a work of holiness.
Compassion devoid of reason and common sense is not compassion but rather the worst kind of cruelty, unleashing further hellish effects by its good intentions. Yet we in the West seem struck with a curious malady that deems all acts of thoughtful contemplation and consideration (i.e., critical thinking) as hesitation, and hesitation is deemed as heartless indifference. Thus, many fly into the fray, helping one and damaging a hundred. We seem to have truly forgotten that grace and truth must work in tandem, and those who would make them foes commit a most egregious and unnecessary divorce. This erroneous separation is one of the first misunderstandings that must be purged from compassion: compassion is not the enemy of truth; there is no compassion without truth.
Such a separation between compassion and truth does not exist in Scripture. On the contrary: "[Love] rejoices in the truth" (I Cor. 13:6b). What business have we to claim compassion at the expense of truth? What right have we, in pursuing social "justice," to support and enforce programs and/or legislation that does damage to nations and morals? In addition, the great need of man is answered in the blood of God spilled at Calvary in Christ, and not in freshly upholstered furniture, affirmative action, or no child being left behind. Why would we dare assert otherwise? We must not sacrifice truth on the altar of sentimentalism, which is all our "compassion" is without the truth.
The issue of sentimentalism is the other misunderstanding that must be purged from compassion. Compassion is not sentimental; it is heroics in action. For many, the way that "compassion" has been presented by social advocates is a highly soft picture (weeping children, sad music, and guilt-trip inducing lectures by some pious social worker with shiny eyes). Thus, compassion, is viewed as sentimental, i.e., a great welling up and overflow of shallow emotions produced by some external stimuli. Consequently, many can see compassion as synonymous with weak or even weakness. To have compassion seemingly means to have a complete breakdown in the face of emotional propaganda. Thus, many average people (esp. men) find it hard to get involved in "compassionate" programs or ministries because they see such things as weak and shallow.
The solution to this is to return to viewing compassion as a type of heroics. Rather than an effect caused from without, it is now caused from within, from the righteous disposition that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. True compassion is not a result of outer stimulatiuons but rather from inner righteousness, an inner and innate grasping of right and wrong coupled with the desire to see the right prevail. Compassion is not about feeling sorry for people because the sight of their plight momentarily affects our emotions; rather, it is a "pulling them out of the fire," a heroic rescue initiated by the Spirit of God from within. Compassion that is not based on that fire will fizzle out eventually. Compassion is not to end in tears and pity, and it especially is not supposed to end in liberal politics or Social Gospel. Compassion ends in rescue and nothing less. Perhaps if we let people know this, more would flock to help.
Christ, of course, is our example. He took the greatest plunge into the fire when he became flesh and dwelt among us (Phil. 2:5-7). He did not lobby for appeals; He came to us "full of grace and truth." Not half and half, but both burning at full capacity without apology or contradiction. Look at the woman at the well (John 4): Jesus simultaneously offered her the water of life with one hand and exposed her immorality with the other. He is neither afraid nor ashamed to offer people grace and call them sinners (for who needs grace more than a sinner?).
A fear of the truth, of calling people sinners, or being "divisive," are all enemies of true compassion. True compassion is the work of holiness in that it either (a) pulls sinners out of the fires of Hell or (b) produces the fruits of the Spirit, which are of the character and quality of God. That is why social justice (again, as it currently stands and is defined) is evil, because it does not have God. Its liberal leanings either debunk Him or relegate Him as an irrelevancy, while its Social Gospel leanings pervert His image into a lobbyist and legislator rather than Savior and Lord. As Christians, called to imitate Christ (who is God), we must redeem social justice from its currently evil contexts and connections. We must redefine what we mean by "compassion" and reassert the true Gospel of Christ.
-Jon Vowell (c) 2009