Monday, March 8, 2010

Why don't Sydney Anglicans care about social justice?

A week ago I reflected on why the Anglican church in Sydney has neglected the south west by looking at DB Knox's approach to racial segregation. The bottom line of his argument is that it is ok as a social policy, as long as it is done justly.

Reading further in his book "Not by bread alone" on how the church might approach justice however, we find this

"The teaching and actions of Jesus nowhere show a concern for 'social justice'. The reason is that the call for social justice springs from envy rather than from compassion"

On the one hand, Knox makes a fair point, compassion achieves far more than anger (though funnily enough righteous anger is ok to stir up when it come to war for Knox).

He argues that we should show compassion as people 'come into the orbit of our lives'.
This is good as far as it goes.
But what happens when we support the social segregation of peoples, on the basis of race or class. Those in need are separated off from 'the orbit of our lives'.
If we stay with this emaciated view of compassion, it is perfectly ok for the wealthy to privatize their compassion to those in front of their eyes, even while they do relate, through social and economic structures, to those they never see. On this view, the resources given by God to the wealthy are their natural right, which they may dispose with compassion, rather than gifts from God which they are obligated to use for his glory.

As David Hohneargues, this view of compassion has nothing to do with the missionary God who searches us out in generosity.

What is bizzare in all this is Knox's heavy commitment to the concept of justice elsewhere "Justice is giving people what is due to them". This is ok as a basis of punishment, or war, but the link is never made that God will punish people for their lack of generosity.

Has the Anglican church ever repented for these views?
Or we still supposed to tell people to be happy with their station?
Will Sydney Anglicanism become a North Shore sect in 20 years?