What is social justice?

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)

'poor' photo (c) 2006, Tinou Bao - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I was reading a touching story on Christianity Today by Russell Jeung in an article entitled Saved By My Refugee Neighbors in which Mr. Jeung and his family moved into a low-income community in Oakland to try to effect social change there. But instead, he was enveloped with kindness by the residents there. It was he who was transformed more than he transforming them. And even though no Bible passage was cited, you cannot help but realize that he’s truly living out Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

And in the middle of the story, this sentence stuck with me: “… social justice isn’t about asserting [one’s] rights, but about taking responsibility for others.”

It just happened that I discovered Mr. Jeung’s story a couple days after the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. Although I do not agree with the ruling (and I’ve clearly written about my opinion on this before), part of me feels the pain of the homosexual community for always wanting to be recognized with equal rights. In addition, I was wary of what kind of response that various groups would give. My prayer was that everyone would respond and communicate in grace.

And then, to my dismay, I read someone who posted this: “I do not support homosexuality or homosexual marriage. …… We have a right to speak what we believe, same as you have a right to speak what you believe.” I was sad after reading that last sentence. Why would anyone have the need to emphasize one’s “rights” to speak what one believes? Why is there (on both sides of the DOMA ruling) such a focus on “rights” for themselves?

Again, Mr. Jeung wrote: “… social justice isn’t about asserting [one’s] rights, but about taking responsibility for others.” Can we stop looking to defend our own rights, and start looking at others’? The mark of true social justice is in taking up other people’s causes, not your own. For example:

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9)

Social justice in the Bible is speaking out for others, not for yourself. And it is more than words, but also in deed and in truth:

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

Social justice is not just a suggestion, but a command. And failing to do social justice is displeasing to God:

“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. … if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.” (Jeremiah 22:3,5)

So let me close with Mr. Jeung’s words yet again, and may we take heart: “… social justice isn’t about asserting [one’s] rights, but about taking responsibility for others.”

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Evil’s End

'las vegas drive-in' photo (c) 2006, Chris Ainsworth - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

When I first saw the news of the Aurora shooting at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, I was so shocked that I literally shook for a few seconds in my seat. As I read of the accounts of people at the theater, how they fled for their lives in the scenes of confusion and death all around them, I felt for them. I tried to imagine myself in that situation — after all, I almost went to the local midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises — but I quickly realized that I could not perfectly place myself there with them. I could only try my best to sympathize with the victims and to dismay at the senseless evil on display. And I was also selfishly debating whether to go to the theaters to watch The Dark Knight Rises in view of this tragedy.

As I was reflecting on this a couple of days later, I realized many people would attempt to offer easy answers to this tragedy. Some people would offer observations such as “This is what evil is like!” I also heard uncaring and flat-out untrue comments like “This is God’s punishment on sinners!” Some would use it as a political moment to tout gun control laws. Others attempt to want to do something about this by saying “We should do more random acts of kindness!”

Perhaps the best response came from Marie, who was with her family at that theater that night in Aurora, and was questioned about God’s mercy in view of this tragedy. She wrote:

God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.

In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.

Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.

[……]

He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil. It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act. Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.

Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

[……]

God is always good.

Man is not.

Don’t get the two confused.

Indeed, God is always good even though man is not. But in addition to Marie’s already excellent points, I would like to add one more thing.

In the past, when such tragedies occur, I would be dismayed and say, “I guess this is what evil looks like.” I remember back when I was reflecting on the September 11 attacks, I shared with others that I’ve finally understood the reality of evil.

But I think I’ve given too much credit to evil. In light of the gospel, we should look at this evil act and say: even though this evil seems horrific beyond our imagination, even though it seems to be so senseless and unforgivable, we know that Jesus came to die even for this evil, just as He came to die for the evil in me. No amount of our gun control laws or death penalties or other legislations, and no amount of the display of our so-called acts of kindness, could save ourselves and our world. And that is actually good news, because even though we can exhaust all human means and efforts, we can only temporarily suppress some outward displays of evil, yet we can be assured that God is powerful and sovereign above all evil. And the way God repays evil is with His goodness and kindness and mercy, in the form of Him dying for us and providing us a way to be saved through Him.

Perhaps it is ironic that the Aurora tragedy happens at a superhero movie. One of the lies of evil is to get us forget about the power of Good. And this evil literally interrupted a superhero story to get us to focus on evil’s prowess rather than on evil’s defeat.

Let’s not allow evil to interrupt the story of God’s goodness shown in the gospel.

What Is “Prop 8”?

On Sunday afternoon, I was at a Prop 8 rally and we’re holding up “Yes on 8” signs. Marshall, a student who attends my church, asked me, “Do people know what Prop 8 is?” My answer at that time was: “Of course! It’s the most talked about issue in California! How can they not know?”

But then after I thought about it some more, I’m not so sure about it anymore. Although Prop 8 is very simply worded as “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” somehow the Attorney General decided to reword it as “Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry” on the official ballot. Depending on which version you read, you might get a very different sentiment about it. Suddenly, a simple question of “Do people know what Prop 8 is?” does not seem so simple to answer anymore.

Alas, I’m glad I found an excellent YouTube video describing Prop 8. I think this is the best video on Prop 8 so far. Clocking in at 4 minutes, it’s relatively long, but marriage and homosexuality are both complex issues, so it’s deserved. It’s much better than over-simplifying the issue with 30-minute TV sound bites from both camps. Anyway, here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI-GjWY-WlA
After viewing the video, the first thing I thought of were the homosexual friends and relatives I know. And now I’m really imagining having BBQ with them… or maybe Chinese hotpot!

(BTW, there’s one fact that’s incorrect in the video. As of a week ago, Connecticut is now the third state that has legalized same-sex marriage. This probably happened after the video was made.)

Christianity: Respectable or Antihomosexual?

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

I very very seldom watch animations. Perhaps I watch one animated movie every 3 years. So when I went to a two-year-old’s birthday party today and the kids were watching the famous 1967 animated movie “The Jungle Book,” I decided to watch with the other kids. And then it hit me. When the scene came where the bear saved the boy from the tiger, but ended being injured by the tiger, the bear’s panther friend consoled the boy by quoting from John 15:13: “Greater love hath no one than he who lays down his life for his friend.” I was caught by surprise because it’s been a while since I heard Scripture quoted in a respectable way in a Hollywood movie. Then I remembered that the movie was a 41-year-old movie… a lot has changed in the world since then.

Today, especially in America, when people think about the Bible, they don’t think about it as a respectable source of wisdom. Rather, according to the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, the Barna Group research found that 91% of those in the Buster and Mosaic generations say “antihomosexual” accurately describes contemporary Christianity, making this the #1 perception people have about Christians. People nowadays view the Bible as a “patriarchal document” that contains outdated laws. While in the Jungle Book-era, the Bible’s standard of love is esteemed, today a Bible publisher can be sued for publishing the Bible to promote hate crimes.

Some Christians would blame the “homosexual political agenda” for causing the church and the Bible to be viewed as antihomosexual, and proceeded to analyze the various goals of homosexual politics. I, however, just want to point the finger back at myself first and foremost, and secondarily at the church, for failing to really preach the gospel of Christ as a lifechanging truth in the world. Christians are perceived as unloving and uncaring and overly concerned about moral matters simply because we fail to love, we fail to care, and we indeed overly concern ourselves with moral matters. And I admit that I myself have often failed miserably in this as well.

Kinnaman was asked by a homosexual friend whether he thinks gays would be condemned to hell. I love his answer. He replied, “No one goes to heaven for what they do or don’t do. That’s the message of Jesus. Every human sins, and we all deserve hell for that. But Jesus freely offers everyone his grace. I know it’s not an easy part of Christian theology, but yes, I believe homosexual behavior is sin, but it’s no different than any other sin, no different than if I sleep with someone other than my wife or even have a momentary sexual fantasy.” Sometimes we concern too much about what we do or don’t do, or worse, what others do or don’t do, but miss the point that people come to God not because of morals but because of whether they commit their lives to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I was shocked (but also glad) that David Kinnaman’s research found that one-sixth of the homosexuals hold beliefs that can be considered born-again Christians. This also means we cannot ignore the fact that homosexuals are also hungry for God.

Currently in California, Proposition 8 (defining marriage as between one man and one woman) is a hot issue, and I cannot neglect talking about it. I will be voting YES on Proposition 8 on November 4. However, the reason I’m voting yes on Prop 8 is NOT because I’m “against gays.” I believe that marriage between one man and one woman is the most natural thing designed biologically in our bodies (understanding the way the male and female bodies work leads one to say that they’re meant to be “coupled” together), and I believe that families with a father and a mother composes the healthiest society unit. I oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage on the principle that defining marriage based on sexual feelings is invalid and we could potentially slide down a slippery slope of continuously redefining marriage based on other sexual feelings such as pedophilia. And I oppose how the California Supreme Court overstepped its judicial boundaries to redefine marriage and to unlawfully overturn Prop 22 which was approved in 2000 by 61% Californians.

But with that said, it doesn’t conflict with my sincere desire for more chances to get to know more homosexual friends and to learn to love them. After all, Jesus, in his day, made friends with prostitutes and tax collectors — the outcasts of the society. I feel that homosexuals have a deep need to be accepted and understood, and I wish I understand more about their sense of loneliness and anger. I think Jesus would have befriended homosexuals today. And He will certainly show his great love by laying down his life for his friends, including homosexuals.

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What is “Prop 8”?

Beijing Olympics: Who’s Embarrassed?

When Chase was a little baby, one time a teenage girl wanted to hold Chase. It happened that this girl had never held a baby before in her life. So it was supposed to be a wonderful moment for her. But her mother stood next to her and kept saying to her: “Ai-ya, be careful la, don’t drop the baby ah, look you have to hold his neck ga” and on and on and on. I thought to myself, “Wow her mother is really ruining this experience for her.” I would have said something like, “Honey how does it feel to hold a little baby in your arms? Isn’t it wonderful?”

But that’s what happened when some people heard about Olympics in China. Days before the opening ceremony, I’ve heard quite a few people say: “I just hope that they won’t embarrass us Chinese people in front of the whole world.” I couldn’t understand why they want to think this way. I thought it’s a wonderful thing. And after I got to watch the opening ceremony, I was really impressed at how we’re able to present the Chinese culture to the rest of the world.

However, if we want to speak of embarrassment, this will only be an opportunity for the rest of the world to show their ignorance about Chinese culture. If anyone would be embarrassed, it’s those who show their ignorance who should be embarrassed.

“… because it appeared on the Internet it was true …”

What a sad story… someone pulled a scam and posted a note on Craigslist and said that people are welcome to take everything from his house, including the horse… but he lied, it was someone else’s house… here’s the news story (original link here):

Man scammed by Craigslist ad

(3/24/2008)

JACKSONVILLE, Ore. – A pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost an Oregon man much of what he owned.

The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.

But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.

On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.

“I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back,” Salisbury said. “They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did.”

The driver sped away after rebuking Salisbury. On his way home he spotted other cars filled with his belongings.

Once home he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch.

The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. “They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true,” Salisbury said. “It boggles the mind.”

Jacksonville police and Jackson County sheriff’s deputies arrived but by then several cars packed with Salisbury’s property had fled.

He turned some license plate numbers over to police.

Michelle Easley had seen the ad that claimed Salisbury’s horse had been declared abandoned by the sheriff’s department and was free to a good home.

“I can’t stand to see a horse suffer so I drove out there and got her,” Easley said. “The horse didn’t look abandoned. She is in good shape for being 32 years old.”

But it looked odd, so she left a note on Salisbury’s door explaining the ad. She then decided to call to make sure the ad was legitimate when the second similar ad appeared.

“I feel bad because I was a part of it,” Easley said. “It felt right to call the police.”

Fagan praised Easley’s honestly but said prosecution was likely for anybody caught with Salisbury’s property.

Items can be returned with no questions asked, Fagan said.

Detectives have contacted Craigslist’s legal team to try to trace the ad.

Meanwhile, Salisbury could not even relax on his porch swing.

Someone took it.

Heisman Winner Tim Tebow

“All your sons will be taught of the LORD; and the well-being of your sons will be great.” (Isaiah 54:13)

Congratulations to Tim — Tim Tebow — for winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding college football player this year. I think you all should know about this guy even if you don’t watch football. What’s so special about Tim Tebow?

Besides the fact that Tim Tebow is a Christian, he’s also the son of a missionary, and he himself has taken part in significant missionary work in Philippines. Also, Tim Tebow was homeschooled, not only dispelling the myth that homeschool kids are trapped in the house all day long, but proving that a homeschool kid can actually become one the best athletes in the country.

Tim Tebow has already won a national championship last year, and this year he becomes the first sophomore to win a Heisman Trophy. Many sports publications have enthusiastically labeled him to have the potential to be one of the greatest football players ever. Yet when he ranks his priorities his life, his top three priorities are God, family, and academics. Football is the fourth. (Source) I think his future is definitely very bright, but not only as a football player, but also someone who can bear witness to Christ with his public platform.

Congrats to Tim, again!