What are your thoughts on the word ‘mishphat’ (social justice)?
My church is currently undergoing a ‘replant’ with a new emphasis on community growth and ‘social justice’. However, Glenn Beck said to be wary when you hear ‘social justice’ in the church.
I know that ‘social justice’ is a term created by the far left in the 1800s(?). However, the term is now found in the Bible and is now considered mainstream and embraced by churches.
In addition, I recently came back from a trip to Israel with an Old Testament scholar. He said the real meaning of ‘mishphat’ is ‘a shared experience’.
Can you clarify?
We’d like to let two famous authors start off our answer to your question. In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott said, “I like good strong words that mean something…,” while Roald Dahl said in The BFG, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words.” Our thoughts exactly!
We generally distrust any terms that insert the word social in front. For instance, studies are good, but social studies? Media we get but social media? Justice is good, but social justice? What does that even mean? In general, the word social in front means that the thing is undefined. One thing is for sure and that is that ‘social justice’ is not the meaning of the Hebrew word mishpat.
Today in England, if you suggest tabling a motion it means bringing it up for discussion or vote. In the United States, those same words mean putting the motion aside and postponing discussion. Words that meant one thing in the 1800s may mean something very different today. Unless you are attending an academic convocation on the evolution of language, it is rather irrelevant what the phrase ‘social justice’ meant in the 18th or 19th century. It is very relevant to ask exactly, in precise and detailed language, it means to the elders of your church.