Pagans and social justice

Q:Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for “social justice” are really ideological calls for “forced redistribution of … Continued

Q:Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for “social justice” are really ideological calls for “forced redistribution of wealth . . . under the guise of charity and/or justice,” and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach or practice “social justice.”

Rev. Jim Wallis disagrees, saying social justice is a faith-based commitment “to serve the poor and to attack the conditions that lead to poverty,” central tents of the teachings of Jesus and at the heart of biblical faith.

Who’s right? How does the pursuit of justice fit into your faith? Is ‘social justice’ an ideology or a theology?

While Pagans do not have a set creed or unified code of beliefs, our traditions hold in common the understanding that we are all deeply interconnected, all part of the sacred weave of the world. The Goddess is immanent in this world and in all human beings, and part of our service to the sacred is to honor one another and take care of one another, to fairly share nature’s bounty and to succor one another in facing the hardships of life. We must create justice in this world, not wait for redress of grievances in the next.

No one person or group has the right to commandeer nature’s resources, which are the underpinnings of all wealth. Generosity, justice and fairness are old Pagan virtues, and Robin Hood is one aspect of our Pagan Gods. In fairy tales, the hero/a wins the aid of fortune when she shares her loaf with a beggar or lays his cloak at the feet of a poor widow. The greedy, hoarding, grasping or jealous person ends up defeated and despised. Glenn Beck–take warning!

Beck’s alarm over ‘forced redistribution of wealth’ is a perfect example of what the late Mary Daly called a reversal–a flipping over of truth designed to make us blind to obvious injustice. This country has seen a massive redistribution of wealth over the last three decades–upwards, concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, until currently the top 20% of the population now owns 85% of the wealth, with the top 1% owning 34.6%! That leaves the other 80% of us with only 15% of the wealth. No wonder we’re losing our homes and struggling to put food on the table, let alone paying our bloated health insurance premiums. How did this happen? Tax cuts for the rich, starting with Reagan, all those bloated bonuses for CEOs, the undercutting of unions, the transfer of our hard-earned dollars into insurance company profits, all those policies beloved of the right wing ARE forms of wealth redistribution, taking it from the poor and the middle class to the rich!

Would social justice mean taking it back? You bet! What are we waiting for? Let’s redistribute some of those bloated corporate bonuses to give our kids decent schools. Let’s take back some of those tax cuts and make the rich, who benefit most from all of society’s services, pay their fair share. How about redistributing a bit of the hundreds of billions we pay for weapons to provide health care for the poor or elder care for the aged? Why not tax the oil companies’ windfall profits and make the transition to renewables before the oceans rise up and claim all of our coastal cities? Who convinced us that wealth equals entitlement to more and more wealth with no social responsibility?

Am I preaching ‘Communism’, ‘Socialism’, ‘Totalitarianism’? Beck uses those words as his own code for ‘anyone I don’t like–anyone who challenges the unfettered privilege of me and my wealthy friends.’ For my part, I stand with the other social justice Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, Pagans and other indigenous traditions that all share a belief in the core, sacred values of compassion, caring, love and justice.

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  • neelloc0179

    It’s so wonderful to see one of our predominant Pagan authors featured here. I’ve always admired Starhawk for her stances with respect to social justice and ecology. Now, if only the rest of the world could follow such a great example…

  • MiRobin

    Thanks for the points you made, and thanks for their delivery. Thank you for your content, and thank you especially for a delivery that can get it into our third eyes and ears.Blessings, as always,

  • Athena4

    What was the old quote – “When I give food to the poor, people call me a saint. When I ask why the people are poor and don’t have enough to eat, they call me a communist.”Thanks, Starhawk, for making sense in all of this screaming. It’s all in the Threefold Law – what you give out, you get back X3. If you give out anger and bitterness, you’ll get that thrown back in your face. If you give love and compassion towards those less fortunate, you’ll get love and compassion from others in return. And frankly, CaptainSpalding, you need to go back and read some history. Hitler was aligned with the industrialists in Weimar Germany, including I.G. Farben and Daimler Benz. And the “Prince John” of the Robin Hood legends was the King John that was eventually forced by the noblemen to sign the Magna Carta. Not to say that he wasn’t an evil SOB who stabbed his brother in the back. But the country was already going broke because they were funding the Crusades.

  • rebscar

    Thank you so much, Starhawk, for your wise comments and for reminding me of the tools that Daly bequeathed us.

  • coyoteknight

    While I agree with Starhawk on this and a great many things I have to point out that this is not compassion in the eyes of a real conservative. By real conservative I mean a conservative that actually believes in the conservative philosophy as a matter for the greater good as opposed to those that “believe” in it for their own financial gain. The real kind of conservative looks at the liberal philosophy and sees a handout to people that don’t have the self control to save up for those things they would otherwise use credit for, etc. They look at people that can’t pay their bills as people that are just poorly disciplined and buy compulsively. In some cases this is true and people definitely need to rein in their spending and start buying things that will make more money in an ethically sound way. The conservative version of compassion is a sort of tough love that says teach them how to be disciplined and show them how to manage their money so they are stronger on their own. It’s a sort of teach “them how to fish” stance. The problem is that the people who are really in charge of the conservative movement that know how to use money like this aren’t telling the true conservatives how they made their millions (with a few exceptions), if they did these well meaning folks would turn as far to the left as I am. I’m bringing this up because the far left has been out of touch with what the low/ middle class right wing peeps really think. You can’t tell these guys that they are being uncompassionate because that closes them down. It also isn’t true in many cases, but they need to see the true form of the wizard behind the curtain, then their view of compassion will change on it’s own. Take it easy,

  • vickie1

    Good grief you sound like Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and all the other evil men who murdered their own peoople in the millions to achieve “social” Justice.

  • thambos

    Thank you, Starhawk, for your fair-minded call to sensibility and justice amidst the deafening roar of greed, ignorance, and fear-mongering in today’s media and political landscape. Your voice and presence are so deeply encouraging and appreciated.Captainspalding, I think you need some therapy, my friend. You’ve got some issues.

  • Athena4

    Oy… another one who gets their history from Glenn Beck. What Lenin and Stalin did was NOT considered to be “social justice”. It was collectivization – forcing small farmers to sell their land and work in groups, confiscating their property to add to the “collective”. How can you even compare the starvation of millions of people in forced collectivization to what Jesus preached about taking care of the poor? As for Abraham Lincoln, he would be rolling in his grave at the thought of the Tea Partiers. Unless, of course, you’re one of these “South will rise again” types that hates Lincoln for freeing the slaves. This “Tea Party” thing is all about race. Poor whites don’t want blacks and browns getting more than they do. Nobody would be questioning Obama’s birth if his name was Barry O’Brien. Speaking of Beck, your “champion of the common man” made $32 million last year. Calling the President a socialist must be good for business.

  • cassandra82

    Will anyone look at what Starhawk has actually written, other than our fellow Pagans? She proposes compassion, and half the responders have turned it into the downfall of human society. Stop the semantic arguments. If anyone disagrees with what Starhawk has said, fine, but taking it in all different directions gets nobody anywhere. Are you so afraid of handing a single dollar to a single actually lazy person that you’re willing to ignore millions of starving, sick, miserable, honest people? Are you so convinced that you deserve more than the average person that fairness and justice scare you this much? Is another person’s happiness and well-being the price of your own?I’m all for teaching people to fish instead of giving them fish. The whole point of evening out the socio-economic structure is not to create another imbalanced structure but to create something self-sustaining. At the current rate, the middle class will disappear. I was always partial to that saying that amounts to: If you don’t stand up for other people, there will be nobody left to stand up for you.I support you, Starhawk, as I always have. Thank you for being a voice of reason, justice, and the Pagan community.

  • moonlightalbion

    Star always makes more sense if you understand that by “Goddess” she means “the proletariat.”She is the nearest thing to an atheist Pagan you will find. Her “Goddess” is other people, not a nonhuman intelligence or anything other than human.Al Moonlight

  • Athena4

    Umm… wrong again. The Goddess is not “the proletariat”. Did you get that big five-syllable word from Beck, too? The closest idea of the Goddess that your tiny little tea-soaked brain can grok is “Mother Nature”. Unlike you, I’ve actually studied the Soviet Union. Health care is NOTHING like the Soviet Union. I suggest that you read some history, or watch the History Channel. BTW, if you’d read Starhawk’s Wikipedia entry, you’d see that she’s a Jewish Pagan. I don’t always agree with her on some things, but she’s spot-on with this one.

  • themoderate

    “No wonder we’re losing our homes and struggling to put food on the table, let alone paying our bloated health insurance premiums. How did this happen?”The Reagan Revolution tax cuts embody:1. Continuing effort to return to the Gilded Age by concentrating wealth at the top. Nice, I guess, if you are at the top.The health care system was built mostly by Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish charities for the common good, and doctors largely educated at non-profit university medical centers. These assets were then privatized for profit by a successful lobbying campaign in the state legislatures. Result? Skyrocketing healthcare costs spiraling out of control driven by billion dollar bonuses for executives and “stockholder good”.The power grid was built by public utility companies for the common good with a guaranteed rate of return that financed investments in power plants and grid. The privateers also commandeered these public assets singing siren songs of how cost would be driven down by the “free market”. The result? Vast profits for the privateers from Wall Street deals that loaded up the power plants with debt. Electricity rates spiraling out of control to cover the profit from all that debt.When free market privateers commandeered public assets for private profits we all suffered. Redress of this misappropriation of public wealth is then called “socialism” by Beck and his ilk.

  • joyeusetempete

    Good work Starhawk and don’t worry to much about the idiots who compare you to Hitler and Stalin because if what you had to say had no value those folks would be raving about someone else.

  • APaganplace

    Yeah, Gimpi, it’s amazing how people get social justice turned around backwards to mean its opposite is somehow supposed to be virtuous:They also claim that somehow already over-worked and under-effective religious charities can somehow take up the slack for a public system that, while, yes, also under-funded and not-effective enough, still serves millions in need who don’t ‘win at the competition game.’Even if ‘private religious charities’ *could* suddenly up and take over all that the government does, they couldn’t do it **without becoming just as big and bureaucratic and expensive as the government agencies they seem to want to dismantle**.Frankly, if they want to make the government programs more effective, the answer isn’t to take them apart, or continually hire more bureaucrats to be tasked with paying out as little as possible and taking away as many benefits as possible, but rather, perhaps, to *increase the security in social security,* …instead of having a lot of people barely-getting by and spending their lives just trying to keep their heads above water, not cause they have too little “incentive from poverty,” but because they have *too little to work with, and too big a gulf between being able to do everything and being able to do anything.* If we want to get people out of the ‘welfare trap’ (so-called, as though people would be better off without any) …then these agencies (public and private) should focus on investing on those in the system who actually can get out, if given a stable and secure basis, and something to work with. Yanking the safety net doesn’t encourage injured people to walk tightropes.

  • gimpi

    APaganplace, I have also noticed how the very folks who want to eliminate as much assistance as possible, also want to eliminate as much education assistance as possible. So much for “teaching them to fish.”Having a good-sized chunk of your population chronically sick, under-educated, barley making ends meet, insecure, and terrified of having things get even worse, that sounds like a recipe for success!

  • gimpi

    I find it fascinating that basic human virtues such as compassion, empathy and a desire for justice are being redefined as “the definition of Fascism.” This brings up a couple of things. One, some people should invest in a good dictionary. Two, apparently we don’t teach reading for comprehension or understanding context well at all.There is nothing wrong with taxation to help for the sick, the disabled or the suffering. Teaching someone to fish is fine, if they are able in body and mind, (and someone wants to buy the fish). If they aren’t, (or if the fish-market has been tanked) what then? The vast majority of folks aided by taxpayer-funded aid are the elderly, the disabled (Social Security and Medicare, the terminally or chronically ill (Medicaid), and those getting temporary aid (Unemployment insurance). This is, to paraphrase an earlier blogger, “the definition of ‘common good.'”As to the notion that this should be voluntary, just look around the world. Where that has been tried, you have streets clogged with hopeless and sick beggars, children starve to death in the streets and honest work will barley keep body and soul together. It is no more theft to use tax funds to provide protection against losing your job or health insurance than it is to use tax funds to protect against crime or fire.