Weakness is not a virtue. Neither is poverty.
This is what I told my sons during one of the many white board talks I delivered a couple weeks ago, when I was home on a ‘staycation’ for my wife’s knee surgery.
A Downward Spiral of Weakness
Neither strength nor wealth are virtues either, of course. And I told my children that too.
What is said in broader society, though? What direction is society trending?
The great temptation is not to exalt strength and wealth. No, in large part thanks to the Social Justice movement, we mistakenly assume that weakness, poverty, and portraying one’s self as an oppressed victim are virtuous.
Eye the strong and wealthy with automatic and prejudicial suspicion. When they stand accused, expect them to be vicious, nefarious, and oppressive, and more readily believe anything bad about them. Because this is our unjust tendency, we less critically examine accusations against them.
And by this trend our civilization is effectively discouraging strength of character, convictions, mind, body, and economic power.
Meanwhile loud, angry voices call for the disenfranchised and downtrodden to be empowered. Healthcare for the sick needs to be paid for. Those being persecuted need to be protected.
The Necessity of Strength
That is all very well and good. But from whence will come empowerment for the disenfranchised, care for the sick, and protection for the innocent? It must come from some sort of increase in strength and wealth, not a decrease.
When Progressives complain about the high cost of healthcare and higher education, they propose massive government programs as the solution. To promises of student loan forgiveness, free college tuition, free healthcare, or universal basic income for those who are poor, conservatives typically ask “Who do you think is going to pay for these things?”
The question is asked as if that is the end of the debate. The case is closed and conservatives win. The conversation is over.
The question must be answered better than that, though. Healthcare and education are good, and arguably even necessary things to survival and prosperity. And the answer to the complaints of Progressives is that we must find strength and wealth somewhere in order to provide and protect for those who are currently unable to provide these things for themselves.
If we say that weakness and poverty are a virtue, however, then unwise, unassuming persons who aspire to being esteemed virtuous will aspire also to being weak and poor, and they will shy away from building strength and wealth. Rather than curing these ills, such will only exacerbate them.
Faulty Assumptions About Power
The 19th century British politician Lord Acton wrote something oft quoted which is relevant here.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
But is what Lord Acton said true? The fact of being often quoted does not alone make an assertion reliable.
I, for one, have always been inclined to disagree with Lord Acton on this.
Power does not corrupt. Rather, men are corrupt already, however much power they have. Giving corrupt men power just illustrates their condition more emphatically.
A Good Man Is… Dangerous
Consider two quotes much nearer the truth, though.
Dr. Jordan Peterson, for one, has said:
“A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has it under voluntary control.”
Another quote – often attributed dubiously to Abraham Lincoln, though probably actually written about him by a historian – would seem to agree.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.”
In any event, the secret to good character is not to make men weak enough to where they can do no harm. Rather, men must be equipped to restrain themselves in the right circumstances, in the proper way, and for sound reasons. Otherwise they cannot be virtuous any more than you can call canines in a cage ‘good doggies’ for not biting people.
And again, we have problems which require strength rather than weakness to solve. We have conditions which require wealth rather than poverty to alleviate. We cannot afford, therefore, to categorically stigmatize wealth and power. We need those things in some measure, after all.
Social Justice v. Actual Justice
Besides practical arguments against categorically maligning those who are deemed wealthy and powerful, there is a moral argument which is more compelling still.
What I told my sons in that white board talk a few weeks ago is what I will tell you.
And just as Micah Hershberger pointed out back in January, we do not make justice truer, purer, or better in any way by leading it with the word ‘social.’
On the contrary, as abundant examples in the present illustrate, we only taint justice and perpetuate still more injustice.
And therein lies the irony.
Injustices Refreshed and Reshuffled
The evil supposedly being combated by social justice is historical prejudice.
Women, minorities, and especially the poor – all these categories of people have historically been mistreated and abused, especially by straight, white, and wealthy Protestant, American men. Therefore, straight, white, wealthy, Protestant, American men – especially those who are or may be doing well now – must be made to pay for the sins of their race, religion, class, gender, and orientation.
But what effectively happens here is that the original injustices – real or perceived – are merely shifted. Rather than ridding society of the abusive prejudice, social justice merely has the alleged victims and perpetrators trade seats.
It reminds me of telling my children to clean up a messy room. Toys, books, and dirty clothes lie strewn across the middle of the floor at first. When I come back to inspect their work, I find that they’ve merely moved the pile to another corner, or a different room, or stuffed it under the bed, or piled it into the closet.
Rather than cleaning up the mess, social justice warriors merely shuffle the malicious, unjust, prejudicial treatment to somewhere new. Then they act indignant when told that didn’t really fix the problem.
Things That Yahweh Hates
In Proverbs 6:16-19, we read that “there are six things that Yahweh hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” They are:
“haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.”
What each item on that list has in common is the perversion of truth and justice, and the stirring up of conflict for no good purpose. And there is no vagueness in the text, no mystery as to how the Lord feels about these things; He hates them.
The Complicity of Supposed Christians
Tragically, in our day, haughty eyes are all the rage in Paris.
We cynically rule out honesty because of the prevalence of deceit and manipulation.
Whoever is deemed a threat to Progressive causes immediately becomes the focus of unrelenting false accusations and every kind of character assassination.
And the fundamental nature of identity politics is to sow discord among brothers. If that strikes you as hyperbole, pick up a copy of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, the Left in America’s playbook for how to grow and protect political power.
The worst of it is that not a few self-professing Christian teachers and leaders have become complicit in these trends by endorsing the social justice movement, becoming mouthpieces for radical Leftist narratives.
This they have done out of a misguided desire to protect their churches and ministries from abuse and abandonment, to flatter and curry favor with the godless, and sometimes because they themselves have been genuinely taken in by these deceptions which cloak malice in pious sounding phrases.
But drawing moral equivalence between good and evil, justice and injustice – this is abominable to God. And favor is curried with the godless at the peril of our souls when it comes at the expense of truth and goodness, which it absolutely does in this case especially.
Unequal Weights and Measures
In Proverbs 20:10, we read another piece of godly wisdom which is highly relevant to the social justice movement.
“Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to Yahweh.”
And what is so-called “social justice” except for using unequal weights and measures to determine the guilt of individuals, or the severity of their crimes, depending on their gender, complexion, and socioeconomic status?
Weigh the evidence irrespective an accused person’s possession of those traits the Left loves to divide society according to.
And if the accused is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt after the evidence has been weighed and measured equally, that person should pay for their crimes or receive mercy just the same, regardless of whether they are part of a supposedly victimized or victimizing class.
The Case of Justice v. Social Justice
Punishing innocent individuals and letting the guilty off easy does not become justice by tacking on the word ‘social.’
On the contrary, this quickly becomes sowing discord, encouraging false accusations, and shedding innocent blood – all things God makes very clear are detestable to Him.
In order to have real justice, we must not give partiality either to the poor man or the rich. And we must not punish the white man any more severely than the black man for the same offense.
The Scriptures are clear about our duty before God. Therefore, we must not malign the character of whole swaths of persons merely because their class possesses things the Left desires to take for itself, or give as spoils to those who will empower it in return for the bribes and flattery.
On the contrary, we must insist on justice – real, Biblical justice – and not social injustice.