Two Sides of Social Justice

Yesterday I read an action research project by an inner-city Chicago teacher.  In a unit about social justice, she encouraged her class of twenty-five first and second-graders to think about fairness and compassion, and they responded accordingly:

If I were President I would tell the builders who build houses for rich people to build the homeless houses and I would give them food and a car.

If I were President I would take care of lots of people. People would have 3 day weekends. There would be no school for a week.

If I were President I would give money to school and help all the people in the world improve their schools.

If I were President I would make things good.  I would love the world and I would buy anything for kids and I would get people homes.

Part of me read these sentiments with a great deal of cynicism.  How sad that these children view government as a benevolent, even indulgent caretaker – that rather than giving people freedom to live their lives, they wanted the President to bestow material comfort upon them. 

The Occupy Wall Street seems, at its core, to have a similar idea: they want to stop the most successful people in society from continuing to be successful by spending their money on the foolish and hapless masses who have financially gotten in over their heads.  This (besides the pretentions of activism and the lack of hygiene and decorum) keeps me from being too enthusiastic about their mission and the press that’s glued to it.

So I was pretty shocked, later that evening, to read the following in the Psalms:

Why dost thou stand afar off, O Lord?
Why dost thou hide Thyself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart,
and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
thy judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He thinks in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless,
he lurks in secret like a lion in his covert;
he lurks that he may seize the poor,
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The hapless is crushed, sinks down,
and falls by his might.
He thinks in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thy hand;
forget not the afflicted.

If God’s not too good to care for the poor, maybe we should think about doing the same.