Social justice is something we’ve discussed in our preaching over the years. I’ve proposed that it’s not a helpful descriptor if we want to think and communicate in clear biblical terms. It’s overloaded with conflicting meanings. It’s also associated almost entirely in our public discourse with governmental redistributive programs aimed at resolving disparities of one kind or another.
In the last number of weeks we have heard sermons from two of the Bible’s famous chapters as it concerns human sexuality and sin, one sermon from Leviticus 18 and another from Leviticus 20. These chapters dealt with adultery, men laying with men, siblings with siblings, and on and on. In an age when the only moral principle directing sexual behavior is that of consent, these chapters stun. They were given to Israel not as a comprehensive theology and ethic of human sexuality but to protect her on entry into the land of Canaan where these practices were the norm.
Yet standing behind these prohibitions and punishments is the precious gift of our bodies, of marriage, and of human society. Basic to God’s plan for our flourishing and his glory is our behavior in bed. If we we’re going to use the terminology of social justice, then we need to speak about sexual sins, about marriage, and about children and family.
With this as background, I want to commend two articles to you.
Article 1: “Welcome to Pride Month, Christian”
In this piece, “Welcome to Pride Month, Christian,” Carl Truman helps us see that “social justice demands our opposition to [pride month’s] celebration and symbols.” He is calling out a contradiction here, as you may pick up. Some of this is tongue in cheek, a rhetorical calling out of those who have given themselves over to a new Phariseeism on one topic or another who are nevertheless quiet on this one. Even if you’re not privy to that discussion, you may be shocked in a good way at Trueman’s plainspokenness. It seems we have gotten used to frank moral demands on some topics but overly couch or avoid them on others. It’s important to ask ourselves, “why do I feel like I should say this?” or “why do I feel like I can’t say that?.” Carl’s piece is a kind of tune up for your justice sensibilities.
Here’s an excerpt:
If anybody wants to understand what is happening to the public square in America—indeed, if anyone wants to know how America, or at least her ruling class, wishes to understand itself, they need look no further than Pride Month. If the arrival of the Pilgrims, the founding of the nation, and even the contribution of Martin Luther King Jr. receive no more than 24 hours on the national calendar, the LGBTQ+ alliance has an entire month to party in the streets. And this street party is enabled by the countless commercial ventures that post rainbow flags in their windows and on their websites.
. . . But there is a silver lining here. Pride Month does offer those Christians who are passionate about social justice a chance to reassure those of us who fear their commitment to such is always tailored to appeal to the broader tastes of the day. For if Confederate flags and statues are deemed social justice issues by many (a point with which I am sympathetic), how much more so is the rainbow flag? The use of the rainbow symbol should be particularly egregious to Christians. It is the primary instrument by which the LGBTQ+ movement asserts its ownership of the culture. And it is the means of telling those of us who dare to dissent that we should have no place in the public square anymore. It tears at God’s creation order and design for family relations and social stability. And it is also a blasphemous desecration of a sacred symbol, taking that which was intended as a sign of God’s love and faithfulness and of our dependence upon Him and turning it into an aggressive symbol of human autonomy and sexual decadence.
Read the full piece. Read more from Trueman at World Opinions and First Things. For Trueman’s book-length work on the present cultural confusion, pick up, Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.
Article 2: “The Power of The Two-Parent Home”
If Trueman’s piece gets its force from its rhetoric, this next piece gets its force from its research. On a different but related topic, Kevin DeYoung has written an important journal article: “The Power of The Two-Parent Home.” Less critique in this case and more construcive. We need both.
He offers his own caveats, which any pastor will want to do. We love and support single mothers and fathers and recognize the diverse ways in which those circumstances come about. But the reason we need to acknowledge them is precisely because the single-parent home is an exception to the good norm the Lord established at creation. The two-parent home is one of the most needful and yet neglected topics in the public conversation about social good. Thomas Sowell has written for years on this topic in his work, for example, on Discrimination and Disparities. Kevin’s piece includes his own footnotes to recent studies along with a good example of theological and ethical reasoning.
Here’s how DeYoung begins:
Humanly speaking, there is nothing more important for personal well-being, positive social behavior, and general success in life than being raised by one’s biological parents committed to each other in a stable marriage. Over the past forty years, a vast body of research has demonstrated conclusively that children are deeply affected by family structure and that married parents are best for children. Any efforts — whether governmental, educational, or ecclesiastical — that mean to encourage human flourishing must take this reality into account as both an explanation for many societal ills and as a means to the end of hoped-for societal health and vitality.
Family life in America has changed dramatically in a relatively short period of time. In 1960, 73% of children lived with two parents in their first marriage. By 2014, less than half (46%) of children were living in this type of family. Conversely, the percentage of children living with a single parent rose from 9% in 1960 to 26% in 2014. An additional 7% of children now live with cohabiting parents. Moreover, the increase in non-traditional family arrangements has coincided with the decoupling of marriage and childbearing. In 1960, just 5% of all births occurred outside of marriage. By 2000, around 40% of all births occurred outside of marriage (a percentage that has held steady over the last twenty years). As of 2014, 29% of births to white women, 53% of births to Hispanic women, and 71% of births to black women were out-of-wedlock. In the span of only 60 years, what were once considered exceptional family circumstances have become the norm.
Kevin traces the social implications of these trends and ends by expanding on four suggestions:
- First, pastors, Christian educators, parents, and church leaders need to do more to teach on this subject.
- Second, we ought to encourage public policies that make pro-child marriages more attractive and less healthy family arrangements more difficult.
- Third, we should consider how we have normalized behavior that harms children and does not lead to human flourishing.
- Fourth, unless called to singleness for kingdom purposes, we must encourage Christians to get married, have children, stay married, and raise those children in a stable two-parent family.
Read the full piece, or listen Kevin read it at his podcast, Life and Books and Everything.