The Critique

Recently, apologist Sean McDowell interviewed theologian Thaddeus Williams on social justice. The outcome of this interview was very concerning to me for several reasons. Williams’ main conclusion was that Christians should not join alongside current social justice movements because they are Marxist in their roots; he lambasts critical theory for the same reason. 

Thaddeus, a friend of mine, is (perhaps unknowingly) misleading his audience when he says that Marxism is the root of modern social justice movements. This is demonstrably false, as there is no known connection between the dogmatic interpretations of Marx known as “Marxism” and the nuanced neo-Marxist ideologies that advocate for social change. 

Neo-Marxism is so-called because of its rejection of dogmatic Marxism, admittedly on functional grounds rather than ideological ones, not its acceptance and modification. Neo-Marxism’s genus is not Marxism, but rather the psychoanalysis and critical theory of the twentieth century. These two fields no doubt can be traced to Marx. But, to lambast Marx as the founder of his radical interpretations is the definition of historical cherry-picking and a clear straw-man. I hate that Marx too; that Marx was responsible for millions of deaths in Soviet regimes around the world. That Marx never existed. 

I challenge anyone who seeks to paint Marx as an extremist to read his 18th Brumaire and his Condition of Working Class In England. No charitable reader can read these texts and walk away thinking Marx an extremist. He is a radical, no doubt, but so was Wilberforce.

Long story short, Williams swung hard and missed badly. 

The Answer

That said, we still have the question of how Christians should think about social justice. 

Modern social justice movements identify power differentials and seek to equalize them by various means. To be for social justice today is to enter the arena of power, where individual people consolidate so-called democratic power over against their democratic constituents. 

Christians, and conservative evangelicals in particular, should see social justice as a biblical mandate and its modern manifestations as outcries of the poor and downtrodden. To reject modern social justice movements is to reject the voices of the downtrodden and disenfranchised and replace them with the rules of the normative “culture.”

This is clearly hegemonic and a violation of the social contract. 

To be a part of the resistance is to forgo the answers of reactionaries and revisionists, and elevate the voices of the stigmatized for the sake of their social elevation.