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America wants its social justice like McDonald’s fries: quick, hot, and on the cheap. But the Bible says real justice is always costly. The question for Christians, then—who will pay and how much?
Some culture warriors already know who should pay, and recent comic books show two of their competing scapegoats. First, cops. Marvel’s new Luke Cage series planned for last December featured corrupt police officers as villains. In contrast, author Mike Baron’s Thin Blue Line pits heroic police against a violent, “defund the police” mob. Both recently got “canceled” in different ways.
In November, Marvel scrapped the Luke Cage series with no explanation, though some fans claimed low presale numbers and racial discrimination played a role. As for Baron, The Federalist reported in January that both Reddit and Facebook blocked ads for Thin Blue Line. Reddit also blocked all posts about the book for “misinformation and racism,” without citing any evidence. Facebook later removed its ad restrictions.
An eye for an eye, a comic for a comic; vengeance is mine, says the social justice warrior.
Thaddeus Williams points out in his December 2020 book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, that it’s not wrong to seek justice, and he lists numerous Bible verses that command us to do just that. The problem comes when we seek justice based on our own righteousness and in our own strength. “The impossibility of keeping God’s standards is a mercy,” writes Williams. “It shatters our self-righteousness.”
Another helpful primer on race and justice—the recent reissue of C. Herbert Oliver’s book, No Flesh Shall Glory. Oliver says that as a black man in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1950s, he learned what it meant to be hungry under segregation laws: “I had money in my pocket. … I was dressed and clean shaven; I had degrees from outstanding American institutions. … But … I could not go into one of the many public places and eat a lunch with peace.”
Oliver worked to gain civil rights with Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and others for many years. Yet, he also condemned those who sought to replace white racism with “black racist ideology.” Any form of “racial solidarity,” he wrote, creates “a reactionary racial solidarity among excluded ‘races.’” Ultimately, this fuels competing racial pride, which Oliver saw undermined by the heart of the gospel:
“The Christian does not labor under the psychological necessity of looking down upon any fellow human beings. … Though Paul could have boasted of his superiority over Gentiles, or even over other Jews (Phil. 3), he chose to count all earthly advantages but dung, that he might win Christ.”
Author Charles Portis beautifully portrays this kind of humility in his 1968 novel, True Grit. When hired hand Tom Chaney kills her father in a drunken rage, Mattie Ross hires Rooster Cogburn, the meanest lawman she can find, to track and kill Chaney. For Ross, a Bible-thumping Presbyterian, the morality of the case seems clear. Chaney killed her father, and he deserves to die. She’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
But Portis hints there’s more to the situation. Early on, Ross sees a public hanging in Fort Smith, Ark. As the dying men sing “Amazing Grace,” Ross moves closer to hear their last words.
The first man says calmly, “Well, I killed the wrong man and that is why I am here. I see men out there in that crowd that is worse than me.” Another man declares, “If I had received good instruction as a child I would be with my family today and at peace with my neighbors.” The third, an “Indian,” says simply, “I am ready. I have repented my sins and soon I will be in heaven with Christ my savior. Now I must die like a man.”
Like the thief on the cross with Jesus, this man had learned his true state—and his true hope. In God’s time, we will all be weighed and found wanting, unless we are found in Christ. He is the only effective scapegoat.
But in Him, our righteousness will shine like the sun. As Oliver put it, “Heaven and earth will rejoice together when the sons of men have learned … that in God’s sight no flesh shall glory.”
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