The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo  

Jesus and Lucifer on Social Justice
March 31, 2010 10:22 am
By Rev. Jennifer Brooks
Category: Heroes

I was intrigued by television personality Glenn Beck's advice that Christians "run as fast as you can" from a church that has "social justice" on its website. Beck apparently sees "social justice" as something new, springing from Marxism and not only irrelevant but harmful to Christianity.

Thinking about Beck’s advice, I asked myself, WWJD, "What Would Jesus Do?" and immediately wondered WWLD, or "What Would Lucifer Do?" Which one, Jesus or Lucifer, would run away from a congregation that has "social justice" on its website? For those of us who want to do good, not evil, what does the Lucifer Effect tell us about Christianity and social justice?

The biblical roots of social justice go deep. Jesus, a devout Jew who became an itinerant teacher for the last three years of his life, preached from his Jewish tradition. He quoted Isaiah and Amos, the Hebrew prophets who called on their political leaders for social justice.

The political connection is important.

It’s true that Jesus did not aspire to a career in politics. His focus was on the minds and hearts of the individual human beings he met on his journey. He encouraged people to be reconciled to God by loving their enemies, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and visiting those in prison. He urged people to treat other people as neighbors.

Jesus told the story of the Jerusalem road and the Samaritan who helped an injured man lying by the side of the road—in stark contrast to the two religious leaders who "passed by on the other side." That story shows clearly the distinction between WWJD and WWLD, because Jesus would help, while Lucifer would come up with "reasons" to pass by on the other side.

Folks like Glenn Beck may argue that Jesus was all about individual conduct and did not tell followers to create justice in their social system. Yet Jesus began his three-year ministry by reading from Isaiah’s Chapter 61: "The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." In this chapter (well-known at the time), Isaiah describes the kind of nation Israel can become if it is a nation based on justice. The prophet Isaiah preaches God’s message: "For I, the Lord, love justice."

This prophet, this chapter, launches the ministry of Jesus. And why not? Anyone who has worked seriously to help the poor soon becomes aware of how the roots of poverty are deeply embedded in the structures and institutions of our society.

As citizens we vote for our political leaders. WWJD? Elect leaders who refuse to change systems that perpetuate injustice? Or choose leaders who understand that an individual’s power to help those in need is affected by social systems that perpetuate poverty? As citizens, do we work to change unjust social systems? Or do we insist that social justice is none of our business?

What would Lucifer do?

The insidious message of the Lucifer Effect is that systemic poverty is not our problem, that we have enough to do taking care of ourselves, our families, and the individuals to whom we are charitable. This is a self-focused, narrow benevolence. It’s much easier to be merely charitable than to accept personal responsibility for social systems that perpetuate poverty. And when celebrities like Glenn Beck label social justice un-Christian, the Lucifer Effect encourages us to go along with the behavior and advice of an outspoken leader who offers us the easier path.

So take a look around. We’re all on the Jerusalem road, and in many ways it’s not a safe place to be. It may be OK for the well-to-do, who can hire private security guards, send their kids to the best schools, and pay for good medical care. But for the vast majority of working people—whose income simply isn’t enough to pay the bills and whose kids are trapped in dead-end schools—the Jerusalem road can be deadly.

WWJD and WWLD. Is the only difference between Jesus and Lucifer that Jesus would help the occasional victim while ignoring the unsafe conditions…and Lucifer would ignore both? Or should we read Jesus’s message of personal transformation in the larger context of social justice, the context Jesus himself established by choosing the words of Isaiah as his first public teaching?

The words of the prophet echo down through the millennia, resonating with the hearts and minds of so many others who are religiously inspired to create justice in our world.


"Social Justice" a modern formulation. Modern meaning within the past couple of hundred years. Beck, quite rightly I think, tells us to run because what passes for "Social Justice" today in many congregations is the current Democratic Party Platform and the Justice there a bit questionable. As my Green Candidate said in the paper today, so this Reform Bill will fine a guy underwater on his house? So where's the justice there?\

I'd argue Social Justice the Church's response to Marxist and secular criticisms of religion.

Before those critiques, there wasn't much desire to figure out WWJD because in all honesty, that kind of social revolution wasn't on Jesus's mind.

By Bill Baar | Posted on March 31, 2010, 12:20 pm

I applaud my colleague, Rev. Brooks, for speaking out on this very uncomfortable topic.
The little nugget of truth in Glenn Beck's criticism of "social justice Christians" is that Jesus was not an economic theorist. Jesus was neither Marxist nor libertarian. Jesus simply held up the vision of God's reign on Earth, a vision rooted in thousands of years of Jewish scripture (that's the "Old Testament" to Christians)and tradition, and reminded us that God intended humanity to live in equality. It's up to us how we get there. So far, no human economic system has succeeded. We've been through many centuries now of feudalism, mercantilism, capitalism, socialism, communism and whole bunch of other "isms." The system isn't the point. It's all about the result. We can have rational discussions about the best way to achieve the ideal. Hurling the epithet "social justice Christians" at those who favor social activism as the vehicle for transformation will not facilitate those rational discussions. Labeling those who do not hear a call to social activism in their theology as "fundies" or some such is equally unfair and unproductive. I pray that all Christians, whether they self-identify as "evangelical" or "progressive" or whatever, can come together, calmly and rationally, to do some serious theological reflection on these issues.

By Rev. Curtis Webster | Posted on March 31, 2010, 2:16 pm

The comments by Rev. Webster and Bill Baar lift up for me the point that in discussing this issue the definition of "social justice" is important. I agree with Mr. Baar that it is unjust to impose a fine on someone who is behind on mortgage payments and can't afford health insurance. A particular law may have both just and unjust aspects; so may legislative proposals or political party platforms. For me, working for "social justice" means working to transform society in accord with Jesus's teachings. I hope to help the injured man on the Jerusalem road, wherever I find him. That also means I must consider the plight of families without a means to pay for medical care, or threatened by the loss of their homes, and ask myself what needs to change. Like Rev. Webster, I hope that all Christians can recognize that individual Christians struggle to be guided by what Jesus taught, and we should not fling derogatory labels at one another if our understandings differ. "Breathe prayer."

By Rev. Jennifer Brooks | Posted on April 1, 2010, 8:49 am

Bill Baar wrote:
"Before those critiques, there wasn't much desire to figure out WWJD because in all honesty, that kind of social revolution wasn't on Jesus's mind."


I wonder what folks like Glenn Beck and Bill Baar would say about John Dominic Crossan's take on the "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

Crossan suggests that Jesus is talking about structural economic and political oppression that was squeezing the landless peasants in Roman-occupied Palestine. With this type of indirect and systemic oppression, nearly everyone except those who totally marginalized are complicit in this oppression.

Crossan suggests that the modern-day paraphrase for this saying of Jesus would be "only the homeless are innocent."

By Steve Caldwell | Posted on April 12, 2010, 11:18 pm

Jesus name-called Herod a "fox." I'll go one better on Beck. He's a blind egotistical nut. Jim Wallis is right. You take out the readings in the bible referring to God's preference for the plight of the poor and needy, the marginalized and oppressed, and the alien and despised and you essentially have no bible left. Jesus, like the prophets before him, confronted authorities and powers "of this world." His was a clear "social gospel" if ever there was. He died because of what he taught, did and said! He did not die for singing Amazing Grace of asking people to hold hands in love. He died because he was a threat, both religiously and politically, to the status quo! READ THE STORY. Communism? Read Acts 1-4. Jesus sends his followers out with NOTHING to live on the compassion of others. He criticizes and institution that would break people economically for their own gain! "They devour widow's houses!" Is Social Justice in the bible? Absolutely....without a doubt!

By Brad | Posted on April 29, 2010, 1:35 pm

Bill Baar said, "I'd argue Social Justice the Church's response to Marxist and secular criticisms of religion."

I'd argue that an otherworldly focus on sin and salvation is the Church's invention. A Jewish Jesus enduring the crushing heel of the Roman Empire in the colony of Palestine was not terribly concerned about the next world, he was desperately concerned about his own. For Jesus that began at the bottom where the poor were, in the words of Hebrew prophets Jesus often quoted, being crushed into the dust and sold for the price of a pair of sandals. While Jesus was prescient in suggesting that the poor we will always have with us, that was hardly a statement of acquiescence, let alone affirmation of the status quo. If the poor are blessed, according to Jesus, what implications for those who make and keep them poor?

By Harry Coverston | Posted on May 2, 2010, 8:46 am

I think "Reverend" Jennifer might want to look a bit more closely at her bible before she talks about what Jesus meant regarding social justice. After all, it says that she's supposed to remain silent. But how can she do that and be a reverend?

"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." Corinthians 14:33b-36

I agree that the Conservatives have it all wrong regarding government's role in our lives, but using religion to back up such an argument is ludicrous. Following religion is what got us into this mess.

By Barbara | Posted on May 15, 2010, 5:58 pm

Barbara's comment challenges a woman's leadership role in the church by quoting the infamous passage of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians about women being "silent" in church. Setting aside for a moment the very interesting scholarly debate about the authorship of this passage, or its meaning in the context of Paul's confidence and reliance on women in the early church, I'll say only that Paul's epistle is not the same as the teachings of Jesus.

Barbara's observation about religion that "got us into this mess" merits the same response: "religion" is not the same as the teachings of Jesus.

The involvement of institutional religion in war, genocide, bigotry, and hatred is tragic. It's especially tragic that religious institutions ostensibly based on the teachings of Jesus have been responsible for persecution and oppression. One thing is very clear: Jesus was not teaching people to persecute, exclude, denigrate, or diminish other human beings.

But let's get back to the point of my blog post, which Barbara apparently challenges. It's not relevant to the question whether Jesus had a social justice consciousness that religious institutions sometimes take an indefensible stance.

Forget the Glenn Beck spin about Marx. Jesus, in his teaching and in his living, taught that we are to include everyone at the table. He ate with outcasts and told people to feed the hungry. He quoted Isaiah's passages about justice (passages aimed at government). In every word and deed Jesus showed compassion for people in need.

I respect those teachings. I believe they are important. And if in my own time and place I discover a system, structure, or institution that keeps people poor or hungry or without shelter, then I feel a personal obligation to walk the walk.

In the houses of worship, in the halls of power, over the airwaves and along the fiber-optic cable, Glenn Beck and other religious leaders may read aloud the teachings of Jesus. Every time someone thinks that merely saying the words is enough, the Lucifer Effect is at work. After all, after he finished telling the Good Samaritan story, Jesus said: "Go and do likewise."

By Rev. Jennifer Brooks | Posted on May 15, 2010, 8:00 pm

The problem with this article is that the idea or meaning of "social Justice" has changed. Its relative, not absolute and leaves a huge area for opinions on what is right or wrong. The biblical roots of social justice are very different from todays idea of social justice. Therefore I find it weak footing that jesus's actions should be used to make a point in this article. I also feel the author may not have a concrete understanding of Glenn Becks philosophy on the issue. She may be surprised. I am a member of the UCC and I heard the comments he made about social justice and also used UCC as an example. I was offended at first but after some research and subsequent Beck shows, I have a better understanding of what he is talking about. Most people now a days see social justice as everyone being equal...finacially.

See I think neither Jesus nor Lucifer would have ran away. WHAO now there's an idea! Jesus would have done his thing but lucifer would have waited around to put his spin on make it damaging to the psyche/soul of the person being administered to so that he could destroy the works of Jesus. I think jesus meant for us to want to help others from our heart...not for us to be forced to. Just as God has not forced us to Love Him...would it really be considered love then? Would it really be considered helping then? Jesus was clearly teaching us what to do personally...he wasnt teaching a country what to do with its poor. Our social programs focus too much on giving people what they need plus some. And they do have all that! Their poverty is in their mentality! There is a lot of emphasis on just giving to them...there is no emphasis on what is in their heart. Which is what Jesus did for those people he "helped"...he changed their hearts and minds. He didn't just help the people materialistically. In fact, I would argue that wasnt his intention at all. Just one way to get their attention. A large government handing out food and money is not going to win their hearts for God. Thats the difference between the socialism today and percieved socialism of Jesus. A democracy gives voice to all...even the ones who I may think are misguided. The other options are not any better...kind of like picking the less of two evils. We live in a fallen world and that’s the unfortunate truth and the very reason we haven't been able to attain the global utopia that all people seek…because of the "lucifer effect" or EVIL. Where Lucifer comes in on social justice...He's can take an idea of jesus's...replicate it but give it in excess so that now there is a dependence on it even entitlement…we believe we have a right to that…or that all people have a basic human right to that. The problem is that “what” we have a basic human right to keeps growing. Every body thinks that it is progress to offer more because our idea of what is "enough" has changed...our standards have changed. Lucifer can spin this until he breeds the idea of entitlement and with entitlement comes selfishness and with selfishness comes self centeredness and so on...all the while seemingly logically in their heads walking away from the very thing that Jesus taught us. Jesus also believed in personal accountability. You see there are people out there that are in a hard place because of their choices. Then there are people out there that are in hard places not because of their own choice. Even that line is being blurred because people claim they didnt have a choice or they are not responsible for their actions...its always someone elses fault. Its harder everyday to discern between the two types. The "self-focused, narrow benevolence" doesn't lie in the fact that some people believe you should work for what you get and help the people you lies in the people who expect to be helped. There is proof that mental health issues are very prevalent in poor areas...God did not make us to subsist upon other people...he made us to work hard and to praise him. Some help is fine but be careful of it in excess. Be careful of how definitions and standards change and ask yourself if it is damaging to the soul to provide know spoiled? Theres a reason why they call it spoiled...What did "spoiled" consist of 20 yrs ago...50 years ago etc. You will find just how much it stretches and in how little time. Do you not think there is a direct correlation between the decline in number of people who have less, have healthy minds, positive outlook and the incline of wealth, "stuff", depression, suicide, murders and so on? Our poorest people are richer than other developed countries "poor people". In fact, the top 2%. Lucifer will twist any situation to his benefit. Its dangerous to think that Lucifer would look for the opportunity to "pass by the other side" There is a war for your soul.

The question arises on weather or not you should try to press your beliefs on others. We could technically be doing that right now according to some. Taking the world and looking at it through our own beliefs and trying to shape it to our standards. Political correctness dictates that we shouldn't. However, I would argue that if we don't, someone with ill ideals will. I would very strongly argue that each and every one of us does that...regardless of religious beliefs so its nothing attributed just to christians. Something no one can logically ignore whether aethiest, agnostic, that there is a good and bad. Hmmm...I wonder where that popped out of nature from? careful of those who try to tear you down because you have a clear idea of right and wrong and don't agree with something. Just because you think there is a limit to how much you should help does not make you anti- christian or a bad christian...and you're definatley not heartless. They'll spin that one all day long and christians everywhere will back off and let it go because they don't want to be percieved as hypocrites or bad people. Wouldn't that be considered the "lucifer effect" at its finest?

There must be a balance between logic and heart. Neither are perfect by nature but they do provide a check and balance for each other. Thinking solely with the heart will cause you to falter because there is a lack of discernment...only your desires...ill intentioned or not. Thinking solely with your mind will cause you to falter because there is a lack of compassion...only numbers and facts. Perhaps it would do the author some good to understand Beck's idea more clearly rather than shooting at him from the hip because of your first impression or because of what you feel with your heart. I would argue that the "lucifer effect" isn't only present when Glenn Beck speaks about when the wrong kind of social justice permeates the church. You need to watch that double edged sword...or tounge. Ignoring it completely and labeling Glenn Beck as someone evil leading us down the wrong path may also have the "lucifer effect". Do you think the devil will not try to tear the church apart? Will he not try to use the church as a means for his delivery? To think so is quite nieve. You might be able to speak for your church but can you speak for them all? We are all sinners and subject to the "lucifer effect" We all need to have knowledge to balance that though. We have our own opinions based on what we see. How would you build your knowledge if not on the back of someone else? Again, discernment is KEY! I think to label Glenn Beck as a partaker of the lucifer effect, demeans the term. The lucifer effect is when good people do evil things. Is Glenn Beck doing something evil by proclaiming that social justice has infiltrated the church and that we should run from it? The author hasn't for sure made the case that God/Jesus approves of social justice in the context that Glenn Beck is speaking in for one thing. Secondly, Glenn Beck didn't say to run away from God/Jesus...or even from all churches...or even to not help others. Simply those that promote this idea of social justice that the liberal progressivists have taken hold of. Sort of a wake up call. An idea that might do all christians some good by opening their eyes to what is going on in their church rather than being complacent pew warmers accepting everything they are being told rather than going out and studying the bible and recieving the holy spirit so that they too can have discernment and the armor of God to protect them from evil. Allowing them to know right from wrong and not allowing those lines to be blurred. After all that is exactly what happens in the "lucifer effect"...lines between right and wrong being blurred.

Im confused by what the author is asserting exactly so forgive me if im off base...there are quite a few things that I disagree with and I do understand that perhaps the intentions are just not clear. It seems, according to the author, that Jesus was a socialist or at least akin to socialist ideals and so we should be too...but yet social systems can perpetuate poverty? I wonder if the author would agree that adding more social programs (healthcare bill included) would only perpetuate poverty. Instead working to fix the ones we've got might be a better idea...even perhaps limiting welfare etc. so people will get back on their feet instead of demanding more free stuff all the while feeding their entitlement and narcissism?

By Sommer Alvarez | Posted on May 28, 2010, 7:28 pm

oops...I meant to say to NOT think so is quite nieve. Paragraph four I think. :(

By Sommer Alvarez | Posted on May 28, 2010, 7:39 pm

question for Mr.Zimbardo:

Do you think that if we put even just one hour of social education in class we could me some diference? i think that may if we learn our childrens how to be a good person, and how to said "no" without bein mean of agresive we could make it better. thanks and sorry for my english. i really apreciated if you response me.

By esther c. | Posted on June 1, 2010, 9:11 pm

Agreeing that all sin is social: this is the necessary conclusion of a belief that "God is love, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."

And if sin is social, then so is righteousness.

Or putting the thing another way, if the greatest commandments are to love, then the greatest sin is to neglect.

By Riparian Church | Posted on June 2, 2010, 1:46 pm




By Phil Zimbardo | Posted on June 6, 2010, 3:38 am

I find the language in all the posts interesting, for all use stereotypes such as conservative, liberal, Marxist, Libertarian, Christian, all ways of dividing up and segregating us an individuals. They are words which make adversaries of others. It regresses into a series of attacks and repudiations. It is not the language of Christianity that I understand or adhere to. It is precisely what Paul attempts to address in his letters to the Churches.

Christianity is to provide us with the strength to face all, the faith and assurance that God stands near always, and an understanding that fear is a tool of the enemy, not the Lord. Telling people to run is not an act of faith, but of fear. David did not run from Goliath... he acted in faith.

So my faith and convictions have led me to engage what by definition is evil in dialogue, not run from it. Have led me to question what road that person walked down to lead to those conclusions, not denigrate it, but try to understand it. My faith and convictions have led me to try and understand, not flee, my enemy. (OK, I'm suppose to love him, but that's a lifelong lesson learning. Love is easiest when informed by understanding)

I don't know who Glen Beck is, or the UCC, so I cannot comment directly on that issue (although I did Google it so have a general understanding of it now) But the comments certainly don't, to this ear, reflect the message and meaning of Christianity as I understand it.

It is dangerous to let others do your thinking for you. While I love my church, and I love the Christian faith, I also understand the sentiment "God, save me from your followers" and yes, ways in which Lucifer, particularly as an acronym for blind spots and ignorance, invades each one of us at particular junctures.

If you would know the heart of God, sit in a field alone, turn your face towards heaven, and talk to Him. Understand that the messages and sermons of all religious leaders are colored by their own personal desires, goals, experiences. God is not be found in them. Look for Him no where but in your own heart.
The journey inward first must be taken before looking outward.

My personal belief is that churches should be divorced from political action and language. With that said, I also feel it is a non sequitur that it's members, male or female, should not be politically active. To impose any code to the nth degree becomes an abuse, as Christ himself noted with the legalism of the Pharisees.

But what do I know, I'm just your average Joe throwing a humble opinion into the fray... oh, and one who once lived on welfare, btw, who benefited from the free entitlements and was a bottom feeder. That was 20 years ago. I'm about to return to being a bottom feeder not because I feel "entitled", or that someone should "take care of me", but because quite simply, even with a college education and years in the workforce, there are just no jobs out there. Even with renting a room, I can't make ends meet.

With no social programs in place, it means securing a livelihood anyway I can, and therein lies the rub, for Lucifer waits for opening like that, does he not?

Yet every adversity is an opportunity also, and that's how I choose to look at it. It is an opportunity to serve God, to reach out to others, to see where He exists out there in the world, in the hearts of men, which IS His church.

By Karen Meyer | Posted on June 15, 2010, 2:21 am

In preface, I want to say that any/all of my commentary is my PERSONAL belief. And I pray for a "watchman on my tongue", (or in this case, my fingers as I type), so that I do not offend.

I continuously seek for WWJD, and from what I've read today, regarding "the Lucifer effect", am once again quietly amused. Because I seek, and also sincerely wish and pray for others, that PERFECT PEACE in my own heart which "passeth all understanding". Please don't misunderstand; I'm not bragging here, only expressing my personal outlook. I believe that praying for someone's peace is the best I can offer. Everything on this earth is so fleeting:the blink of an eye... and so I am compelled to look at THE BIGGER PICTURE.

When I give a stranger a $20 bill because he/she caught my eye as I passed and I momentarily listened to whatever that person was imploring, I attempt to "...feed me when I was hungry", etc. I don't ask for a receipt of what the person did with the money, because the (almost selfish) blessing it gives ME far surpasses any expectation of wise use of this small gift I have just had the HONOR of giving. Yes, I have an agenda. But I attempt/seek for it to be a personal one. In this way, for ME, in an attempt to see Jesus' face in everyone, I am the one who is blessed.

Regarding the Glen Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, and all the other soap-boxers, I learned a long time ago that when someone is arguing vehemently over some issue, you can be convinced they don't quite fully believe it themselves. Quiet amusement. It's like watching the highlights of a game: you already know who won, but it is sometimes fascinating to watch how they did it.

And when I am personally offended, I pray, as a Christian, for DAMGE CONTROL. Hoping and praying that whoever is listening to that person on the soapbox has that quiet place in their heart of PEACE and spirit-filled understanding/discernment, so that they can separate the wheat from the shaff.

Thank you.

By Joy W. in FL | Posted on June 18, 2010, 10:42 am

Re: "I wonder what folks like Glenn Beck and Bill Baar would say about John Dominic Crossan's take on the "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

I'd quote the old IWW song,

Long haired preachers come out every not
try and tell you what's wrong and what's right
but when asked how bout something to eat
they'll answer with voices so sweet
You'll get pie in the sky when you die

Jesus was thinking heaven. I think the here and now. I try not to mix them did Jesus, I think. He's not the guy I turn too for the practical answers for building wealth and creating prosperity... for all.

By Bill Baar | Posted on July 4, 2010, 12:34 pm

Hhhhmmm...interesting perspectives. Consider:

a) Folks like Glenn Beck may argue that Jesus was all about individual conduct and did not tell followers to create justice in their social system

b) Thinking about Beck’s advice, I asked myself, WWJD, “What Would Jesus Do?” and immediately wondered WWLD, or “What Would Lucifer Do?”

QUESTION: WHY aren't you asking yourself/shouldn't the MOST RELEVANT question be: "What did Jesus tell us to do?"

What he did & endorsed as his personal mission is NOT quite the same as what he advised/directed us to do. There's an "apples & oranges" issue there.

It seems to me that what G. Beck is advocating relative to his advice: "“run as fast as you can” from a church that has “social justice” on its website" is the following:

1) Such churches display (as a very common denominator) use of seemingly benign-thru-beneficial "social justice" projects to further some very nefarious activities;

2) Not all churches that use "social justice" are necessarily bad, or, their particular "social justice" programs are necessarily bad -- in fact, they may be quite good;

3) But, most people cannot, or do not, discern the reality until too late, if ever. THAT's G. Beck's point -- most of us lack the insight (for any of a variety of reasons having nothing to do with character, intellect, etc.) to discern a wholesome "social justice" church project from a diabolical one -- and a substantial number are diabolical.

Which leads to the Biblical adage, 'the Devil can quote scripture for his own purposes.' While Jesus didn't quite state that overtly, He did point out that pattern when He was tempted by the Devil.

One of "evil's" most common patterns is to masquerade in some form as a morally upstanding person, institution, etc. Sociopaths are a prime example of this characteristic.

What would Lucifer do? masquerade as morally upstanding. Also, induce churches (via key personnel) to perform his diabolical plans under the guise of a wholesome initiative.

What would Jesus do? Point out the WHOLE story, just like he did when Lucifer tried to temp him.

ISSUE HERE -- What this Blog Author Did: Framing this G. Beck quote as an either/or sort of issue (i.e. that Beck's approach is either right or wrong) completely misses the point Beck was addressing (he really presented a prescription for playing the statistical odds that chances are that a church that has this particular symptom is worth avoiding)) by grosssly oversimplifying the issue at stake. That's exactly the opposite of Jesus' approach.

By Ken | Posted on July 21, 2010, 3:18 pm

To continue an earlier comment:

Consider what "social justice" means in modern churches that use the term... Generally it incudes values/goals that most would consider socialistic along the lines of 'wealth-redistribution' and/or social equality, etc.

Consider Jesus' statements...are such initiatives consistent with His views?

Consider just the FACT that He (Jesus) mentions slaves & masters -- with the admonitions that slaves should support their masters & the masters should treat their slaves reasonably, for example.

This indicates that slavery was NOT objectionable to Jesus (he made no statements to suggest he wanted to change the social structure relative to this fundamental arrangement).

Paul, shortly later, addresses a number of dysfunctions in the early days of the church at Corinth in which, among other things, some wealthy members brought plenty of food for the celebratory meals while other church members had 'gone to sleep' (i.e. had starved to death). Paul advocated some communal sharing & pooling of resources--socialistic/communistic to be sure, but even he did not advocate a fundamental change in a very hierarchical social structure that accommodated slaves and radical wealth inequality.

When one views ancient society--the one Jesus lived in--thru an accurate lens it is unmistakable that acceptable "social justice" then (& to Jesus' views) would be considered beyond intolerable today. Which suggests that the "social justice" values of some modern churches are very out of synch with Jesus actual values per the few surviving statements we have from Him.

Which, again, indicates that what these churches are really up to is suspect.

Also, didn't Jesus tell the parable of the three servants each given a bag of money -- with the clear lesson being to make the most of what one has been given?

And also consider the comment about 'knock & it shall be opened; seek and you shall find' etc. (from which comes the paraphrased, "the Lord helps those who help themselves").

Sure Jesus (& afterwords Paul) were keen on helping those in need -- but they present some very clear benchmarks that indicate that help is limited and does NOT include a complete restructuring of society (what G. Beck is concerned about) to coddle some people perpetually -- this is what many if not a vast majority of churches espousing "social justice" are about...which is NOT supported by a complete reading of Jesus' views or those of his immediate successors.

The issue NOT being addressed here is that when one reads the Bible as a source, one MUST consult ALL relevant portions to complete the picture.

By Ken | Posted on July 21, 2010, 3:39 pm

I don't typically listen to talk shows much and this is the first time I've seen this website about this study, but the Glenn Beck comment debate caught my eye, so I have to reply.
I tend to totally agree with Beck on this. I've come to the same conclusion (and have stated it myself to friends) over some years of observation and experience. Namely it seems to me to be like this: those whose primary focus in their religion/spirituality is "social justice" tend to way to put this delicately, not very deep in their spirituality. They also are often quite "anti-authority" in their words and actions in all spheres - including church authority. For me, I guess it ties into the Faith & Works "issue". Protestants say "by Faith alone" and Catholics say not just faith, but works as well (James 2:14-26). I take the Catholic position. In other words, works are an outgrowth --a result of faith --and a very deep spirituality and relationship with God. The Faith part comes FIRST, yes. But in too many "social justice" focused congregations, the WORKS part comes first--and is not based in a "listening ear" to the word of God. Maybe it didn't start that way, but it so, so often ends up that way. These people and their efforts burn out b/c they are not strongly "grafted to the vine". Not surprising. That "listening ear" part is not easy. It comes generally after many years of quiet meditation & contemplation and dying to self. Mother Theresa didn't go out there on the streets of Calcutta on a whim or a fit of rage about the unjustice of it all. It came out of many years of prayer, sacrifice and the development of a listening heart to the whispers of God. She felt it was what GOD was asking her to do--not that everyone else had to do this, just HER ...and the rest was in God's hands.

By Karen | Posted on August 6, 2010, 10:17 am

Having read the Lucifer Effect some years ago, and however profound the conclusions may be on the potential for evil within human nature itself, resolving the issue of 'evil' has yet to happen. This was the responsibility claimed by religion which has self evidently failed to deliver on the promises of the Incarnation.

As religion, at least mono theism, is founded upon the interpretive process generally called theology, one might ask against this failure, if theology isn't the problem? Presuming or pretending to know the mind of God by a process of natural reason. For if reason was able to know God by itself, there would be no need of a revelation as we would all understand the will the God.

The tragic irony would be if religion itself wasn't standing in the way of moral progress? That is the argument being made by a wholly new interpretation of the moral teachings of Christ spreading on the web. And this interpretation comes with 'teeth' theology can only dream of! So anyone interested in resolving the problem of evil might do well to start at:

By Robert Landbeck | Posted on August 8, 2010, 8:54 am

The Rev Brooks is no more a Christian than Lucifer himself and that is the point of of the "Lucifer Effect" and how evil so easily inculcates an individual. She may be heavily into her goal of "social justice" but that has nothing to do with Christianity. Her willingness to view all theologies as equal [you'd have to be comatose to view that as "Christian"] and her ardor to perform marriages between homosexuals [may as well drive the stake through the flesh personally]show that she is irrelevant in any discussion of historical Christianity - except as an object lesson and a warning to the depravity and apostasy of endtime humanity. I'm sure her two adopted children and her "partner" like her as a person but she is simply not a Christian in any sense of that word.

Judas was enamored of 'social justice too' when he was outraged that a years wage worth of ointment had been poured on the feet of Jesus. In Jesus's reply to him you see that 'social justice' itself is not mocked - just the use of it as a tool to deny that "the poor you will always have with you".

New morality social engineers attempt to use Christianity - not follow it.

By Litebluesky | Posted on August 26, 2010, 1:24 pm

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone can classify me as "not Christian" without knowing what is in my heart. Throwing stones, and judging others...surely Christians aspire to a higher standard. Even more ironic is the assumption that someone with adopted children must therefore have a "partner" (implication: homosexual partner). The teachings of Jesus emphasize that we have a duty to act as neighbors to one another. The ointment story shows Jesus in a compassionate moment, honoring the life-transforming insight of the woman who poured out the costly ointment. The honoring is what Judas didn't get. Jesus's comment, "The poor will always be with you," was a quiet critique of Judas's timing and tin ear for redemption. In the face of riveting revelation, Judas totted up the material cost. Jesus asks that we be attentive to the lives in front of us; that we honor their struggles and their growth. He counts each life transformed as a major triumph. But nothing in that story says that it doesn't matter how we treat the poor, or that we must refrain from efforts to eliminate poverty. To the contrary: helping the poor is more likely to save us than save those in material need. Social justice is the recognition that until the reign of God is established on earth we humans have a lot of work to do, and it is transformative. After all, Jesus didn't criticize the Samaritan for being a Samaritan. Jesus told us: Go and do likewise...without casting stones.

By Rev. Jennifer Brooks | Posted on August 27, 2010, 1:27 am

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone could classify themselves as Christian who denies all of the major tenets of Christianity, and cherry-picks the broad morality sayings , in order to support a socio-political goal/viewpoint - while ignoring their context both within the Scripture itself and within Historical Christianity .

Do not judge others or throw stones are not sayings with ANY intention or sense to allow you to "marry" homosexuals or to pronounce that - one theology is just as good as another. There are many sayings of Jesus that command 'righteous judgement' by believers and Jesus was hardly against "throwing stones" in all cases. biblically He is going to be treading the winepress of the "wrath of God" and what He calls 'sin' - for which He lovingly gave His life to rescue fallen man - is a huge thrown stone. Jesus never meant for the "believer" to sit on the throne and decide what is righteous or unrighteous or to decide where stones need to be thrown - but he certainly instructed his followers as to what was against His Will and "sin" and to be avoided at the peril of ones eternal future and to speak as "salt and light" to the world about His Judgements.

Jesus never said you are not to help the poor and neither did I - that is a straw man. What Jesus did do and say - time and time again - is that everything is secondary to a personal relationship and sincere obedience to Him - Through His Word - which is the ONLY way this world even knows that a man named Jesus once walked the earth.

The type of "social justice" you espouse - is a gross denial of His Death and Ressurection upon the Cross - by means of a humanistic effort to convince men and women that homosexuality needs not repentence but a "marriage license" and that 'any old religion' will do.

I commend your interest in the misfortune of others and hope you continue to work toward your goal of relieving it and you seem a 'nice enough person' - but what you are doing is denying the Cross - which calls for a new creature in Christ through repentance and obedience to the commands and morality of the Lord - starting with "Hear O Israel The Lord Our God is One God " There is One Door , One Shephard and One fold and it's a narrow and straight way out to the pasture -requiring both compassion and obedience , in Spirit and in Truth ... I am sorry to be so blunt. I would ask you to refrain from claiming Christian belief.

In conclusion , let me state that I never said it does not matter how we treat the poor [actually it matters most how "i" treat the poor] or that anyone should refrain from helping - but Jesus did say that the "poor you will always have with you" - not because he is a negative person but because He knows the state of men's hearts and the nature of this fallen world. Jesus knew that all the material comfort on this earth means nothing if a person is not 'born again' in Him - because that person will perish without Him. So by all means if you want to claim Jesus as your own - help the poor , but, do not marry homosexuals and tell men and women that Mohammad is "another way" to God - because Jesus called that "anathema".

P.S. I no more like telling someone they are non-Christian than Paul probably liked excluding men from Christian assembly on the basis of their sexual actions. You may also note that Jesus commanded his listeners to follow every Word that the Pharisees spoke but NOT to do as they did - because the Pharisees sat in the "Seat of Moses" - which is the chair in the synagogue from which the Law and Prophets were read.That includes the 'stoning of homosexuals and adulterers among many other judgements. At His incarnation He did show that He , as God, had the power to forgive what the Law could not and foreshadowed that His Own Blood was to cleanse men from all unrighteousness -after His Death and Ressurection - the blood of bulls would not be necessary. After His Ressurection and the gift of the Spirit of God - men then had a way of repentence that the Law never knew or allowed - as only the Blood of the Covenater may pay for the annulment of the Covenant.

In essence I judge you not a Christian in the same way I judge Obama not a Republican - his acts, beliefs and intentions run counter to all this is 'scripturally' :) and historically "republican".

By Litebluesky | Posted on August 29, 2010, 12:40 am

At the ripe age of 61 years, I am back in school to see what we have learned about mankind and ourselves in community with one another. In the past year I have studied research methods and as a child of the sixties, I question everything.
Having read Philip Zimbardo's work(s) I come to the conclusions: 1] Methodological Narcissism 2] failure to heed and obey his own suggestions 3] complete failure in ethical behavior, then and now.
A far better sample for the voting would have been to gather data from the same number of Dems and Repubs. Failure to give a clear definition of the ideology of the two political parties allows far too many variables to come into play. For the past ten years I have questioned individuals from both parties (and other parties - Green, etc) and not even the State party chair was able to give a clear, concise definition of what a Republican or a Democrat represents.
One of the human conditions (and Philip Z. writes of it) simply is stating the fact you made a mistake and correct the mistake. Here, it is not stated that a mistake has taken place. The lie is perpetuated and the base is continually re-fortified. Has the experiment been performed and performed again adjusting the variables and using dis-associated observers?
Has a persons religious convictions colored the landscape?
As a child and the eldest of eight children in a catholic family, I was named Michael after the Archangel. I was an alter-boy and went to catholic schools. I went to Vietnam in 1969 and observed the behaviors of humans and compared and contrasted that behavior to the behaviors of animals.
Conclusion: I see little difference. Humans have developed capacity to lie, to fabricate stories to gain that which they desire. Religion is used for control of others and it is fear based. "And he descended from Heaven and smote them all"..... Having lived 2/3's of my life outside the US, I have a better understanding of how others live. Having studied our history and the history of many other cultures and countries, I have a much better understanding of what is really happening.
I attended a Homeland security sponsored training on WMD and in the lecture a myth was reinforced about why young men of Muslim faith strap on bombs. An absolute lie. I will take the time to explain it like this: In the Ten Commandments it reads "Thy shalt not kill". When living in Israel I learned this is incorrect and should read "Thy shalt not murder". Who changed this and for what reason? In the base language the Ten Commandments was written, the words have not changed. One must kill to protect home and country and sometimes ones self. To murder is a different matter. Why change the words? To what end?
I could provide several answers. These would be my unscientific responses. You work on it to find the human truth for yourself and try not to lie to yourself.

By Michael | Posted on September 12, 2010, 12:50 pm

Fascinating reads about who Jesus was, what he stood for, and what he would do in specific cases. I disagree with anyone who wants to pigeonhole Jesus, making him a figment of one's imagination. Tosay Jesus was not a Marxist/Communist, whatever is to take a leap of faith. One does not have to abuse/misuse/mischaracterize Marxism to remain 'good' christian. Indeed, the Lucifer effect and the banality of evil characterizations are apt here. Here is a bunch of know-it-alls who come up with the strangest assumptions only because their theology maintains an antagonistic relationship with the ideology of Marxism. I suppose Jesus was a capitalist, whatever that entails! I am sure such preposterousness finds refuge in some theologies Whatever Jesus was, whoever he was, he inspired a whole movement- with benign and not-so-benign consequences

By madzuraM | Posted on September 15, 2010, 5:23 pm

Arguments like this develop polarized views because of a core issue: differing understanding of the terms at the root of the argument.

The Rev. Brooks writes as if everyone knows what social justice is, and assumes her understanding of the term is the same as everyone else and then goes on to make an eloquent and elegant point-- supposedly in opposition to another comment attributed to Mr. Beck. The trouble is, what exactly does the term "social justice" mean to Mr. Beck? And what does it mean to others, too?

This term is one that has a floating definition, depending upon who is speaking.

This kind of thing it seems to me is by design, because the core strategy of our two-party electioneering is to create a polarized electorate. Then a political party has a large vote they can count on, and need then only scramble to get the vote of 1 or 2 percent of the voters. Thus adjustable definitions are popular because they create arguments, where two are polarized they believe about an issue, when the real problem is they are using the same words but not arguing at all about the same things.

The result is a version of the dilemma posed by being required to answer with the EXACT DATE: "When did you stop beating your wife?"
No-- it is not acceptable to say "I never have"---- you MUST answer with a date, or be shamed as we must conclude you NEVER QUIT beating your wife which means..........."

So, who can be against social justice? Must it mean that you are in favor of Social Injustice? Except who has the authorized agreed definition on what that all means?


By John Payson | Posted on October 26, 2010, 4:17 pm

Let me first say I was redirected here from what appears to be a college lecture on this book ( Also, in the interest of disclosure, I am employed by the Church.
Upon watching the lecture, looking over this site, and reading several of the posts on this page, numerous red flags are appearing for me. I will confine them to two observations:
1) I am suspicious of the attempt to portray a rather mundane psychological study as if it were a very deep religious truth that has been finally revealed. The lecturer (Zimbardo) was introduce by a clergy person, the lecturer donned a Hebrew/American Indian prayer shawl before he began (as if to say I am about to reveal something holy), the title of the book itself, and the numerous times religious metaphors were used in the discussion. The lecture itself was prejudiced with a specific definition/metaphor of evil: Lucifer as the first among angels (son of God?) being ordered by God to pay reverence to Adam, and therefore rebelling causing Adam to sin, this leading to Lucifer’s expulsion from Paradise and becoming Satan. This Zimbardo calls the ‘Lucifer effect’ and is the basis of his theory/theology. Leaving aside the entire philosophical debate ‘what is evil’, Zimbardo has apparently ended the debate single-handedly, portraying one of several ancient Genesis metaphors as if it is THE metaphor, and a particularly heretical one at that. Not only is this particular ‘myth’ one rejected by several centuries of Church theology because it is based on the demiurgic ‘bumpkin’ God who makes mistakes, its source is probably dualist (Manichaean). While it may appear on the surface to skirt dualism (evil is good gone bad) it in fact requires God to have both a perfect, and imperfect nature. Zimbardo needs this metaphor (in his attempt to elevate psychology to the sacred) because he is about to shift the blame of evil from Free Will to one based on an error of authority - evil is not ‘evil’, blame is not on the evil person. Authority unknowingly and inadvertently induces evil by its authoritarian quest for good. Clearly, how this could become the basis of religion in any form is beyond me. If anything, this would seem to me to be an argument against religion if one were to believe this path is ethical. It elevates dualism to the very nature of God Himself, reducing theology to a self-relevant worship of arcane metaphors and myths. God, by definition, is a search for absolutes, yet here, it is the absolute that creates the evil. It also provides a political/psychological path for Zimbardo to blame society for spiritual malfeasance.
2) It is also clear from the discussion that Zimardo has a deep seated hate for the Bush administration. The use of terms like ‘Nazi’, ‘authority’, etc. is a blatant attempt at trying to link Bush, in Zimbardo’s mind a failed authority figure, with the demiurgic god of Zimbardo’s Genesis metaphor. This, for Zimbardo, is not only an appeal to his questionable theology, but also to the data accumulated from his experimentation and surveys. While I am sure his data has a place somewhere, it is being profoundly, prejudiciously, and with deep bias, being strained to fit his scenario in an attempt to denigrate the President. By Zimbardo’s own statistics he claims nearly 100 percent compliance with evil when the authority creates the proper scenario. OK, I can accept that as true. Yet, the Bush administration was in charge of literally hundreds of prisons and military jurisdictions. If Zimbardo is correct, and compliance is nearly 100 percent as supported by his research, then shouldn’t all of the jurisdictions under Bush have ended up like Abu Ghraib? Is not Zimbardo refuted by his own study?
Certainly, social justice was a portion of Christ’s message, but social justice is not the summation of all that is religious anymore than pop psychology is. While Socrates is a man, does not mean that all men are Socrates. This is an attempt of theological light-weights to elevate a simple psychological oddity to the status of religious profundity, making themselves prophets along the way.

By Steve Jones | Posted on November 8, 2010, 12:05 pm

If it doesn't include the gospel, it really isn't social justice. That is why the enemy will use the false justice movement to appear as if he cares for people and will get them dependent or "hooked" so to speak. This whole message of "coexist" with other religions in order to "save" humanity through social justice. This sounds rather cruel I know, but if we aren't preaching the gospel to the people we feed, we are just sending well fed people to hell. They will suffer for eternity all the same as if they starved to death. They have to eat the bread from heaven (Jesus). That is justice! They are then redeemed and ransomed, justice served!

By Mic | Posted on November 15, 2010, 10:22 pm

I don't remember any passages reminding us to show up at the Synagogue, Church, Mosque or Sunday school on time, or any indication that anyone cared. I did understand that Jesus treated every one equally, one on one. it was the blind man, the woman at the well, the fishermen, or His mother, all were treated as if they were they only ones in the universe. He even feed the multitudes, one by one as they passed each other the bread. He reminded them of what they already knew and made things clear by using word pictures, like the camel going through the eye of a needle. He said, leave everything behind, come follow me, and to the thief sharing his faith on the cross, "Tonight, you will be with me..." When He healed the sick, He did so one at a time, and Lazarus had no-one to share his experience of coming back from the dead, at least to my knowledge. He exhorted each of his followers by His own example, to pray, and to do His Fathers Will.
Equaling the works of Mother Teresa of Calcutta India, is easier then getting the government to be everything to all people without unintended consequences. There's that camel trying to get through the eye of the needle thing again.
"It is not how much we do,
but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving."
Mother Teresa.

By Chet_Sr | Posted on November 30, 2010, 1:37 pm

There is only one God and He is God to all;
therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God.
I've always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu,
a Muslim become a better Muslim,
a Catholic become a better Catholic.

- Mother Teresa

By Chet_Sr | Posted on November 30, 2010, 1:47 pm

I despair at how homocentric people remain while we destroy the wild fellow beings that accompany us on this short journey of life - yes, the ones we are destroying enmasse with our overpopulation, ability to ignore suffering, killing a million "farm" animals per hour for excess protein, animal fats, and obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Trophy hunting and trapping, labs, rodeos, circuses, zoos - confinement and torture and killing for fun. I know we will not have peace for humans until we have a peaceable kingdom. With bat fungus spreading 800 miles per year and a 90% mortality rate, pollinators disappearing wholesale, oceans acidifying and dying because of worldwide human caused climate change which we CONTINUE not to address - where are our values? Wildlife populations across the globe have diminished 35% in 35 years - soon we will be alone with our billions of displaced suffering people who thought they could destroy all non-humans and have a world. Crazy does not begin to cover it.

By Madravenbear | Posted on December 22, 2010, 5:23 pm

Oh, for the love of God - I have not read all of the above comments - the first 3 were enough to drive me to skip to the comment section - so tell me, you first responders - it is ok for us to devise "laws" to protect those of us we see like ourselves - white, so called middle class citizens - who out of greed and mismanagment of their personal finances (yes, give us all your excuses but that is what it was - even if you lost your job you did had not been applying basic take care of yourself finace pricipals) to "forgive" debts but OTHER social justice - say - basic medical care for all - food??? not OK??? laughable - God and Jesus are both laughing at that one.

By terry k | Posted on December 24, 2010, 8:35 am

An actively researching psychologist leaving comments open after posting about a devisive character like Glenn Beck, with heavy notes of both religion and politics....

...I wonder whether the author has looked into internet behaviour before, or might this be an avenue he could open study.... along with anything with a conspiracy theory attached, religion and politics seem to have an instant draw to people foisting their own agenda, and ignoring the original content.

That's not to say all comments here are purely partisan, but a large portion of them are, and contain the usual diversion and semantic slight of hand used to obscure the original topic (essentially trying to shout the loudest).

One of the comments even mentions Socrates (in passing), if only true Socratic method were used here rather than [somewhat cheap] diversion, we may get somewhere!

The original article does read as somewhat of a rant inspired as a reposte to a trite & generalising comment by Glenn Beck.

I live in the UK & incidentally, I really couldn't imagine a Glenn Beck character on UK TV lasting long before being laughed out of a job.

Likewise, Philip Zimbardo's article strays from the scientific path into political assessment here, and I'm not sure that would be accepted in a peer reviewed journal.

Anyway, I guess I'm just completing the "devicive article internet comments section" set, by trying to add the balanced, neutral view, mutually condemning both ends of the spectrum above, and still sounding as much like a nutcase as the rest of the commentators!


By A Scientist | Posted on December 31, 2010, 2:40 pm


I really am an idiot.

Hadn't realised this was a "guest blogging" effort By Rev. Jennifer Brooks, rather than Philip Zimbardo himself.

By A Scientist | Posted on December 31, 2010, 2:43 pm

I just want to thank "A Scientist" for the amusing and insightful contribution to the comments here. You are quite right...the study of the dynamics of commenting on an issue involving both religion and politics makes for a fascinating study. I do hope my original blog post is not too much of a "rant"; I was conscientiously attempting to extrapolate from the teachings of Jesus into my current environment, political and social, as I have done all my life, with the overlay of Phil Zimbardo's fascinating work as the perspective from which I cast my net. Happy new year.

By Rev. Jennifer Brooks | Posted on December 31, 2010, 3:43 pm

Dear professor Zimbardo;
About The Lucifer Effect and social justice.

I am curious. Would it be of advantage to the medical community and ALL patients to repeat the study ...but this time taking into concern medical crimes?
I know of too many to mention and wonder if you do well?
If not, may I suggest you look into it? Please,Google
Kaiser Permanente Teaching Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program Crimes III
They are out there by the thousands ... including Stanford.
Would you consider that? Would you kindly let me know?
Jupirena Stein

By Jupirena Stein | Posted on January 1, 2011, 10:24 pm

I agree with Ms. Jupirena Stein. The most vulnerable populations anywhere are injured and sick patients. I happen to be a teacher who was duped by a surgeon (and more in medical field) and thinking that the "Medical Profession" would protect me from harm, even after surgery--the opposite occurred and still. see and my 2 you tube videos under Bobbie Jenke. I get NO care as I suffer from surgically induced injuries. I also cannot teach now due to untreated surgical injuries and ended up in a HUD/CalHFA low-income apartment complex where our owner runs his own cruel experiments on tenants he does not like(and more). I speak out for Health and Safety improvements here, and I have gotten scapegoated and harassed which is encouraged in this community now. see
What do I do? Too disabled to move--and I love my apartment and location. I'm mostly home bound in pain--but when out in this community--I'm often a target of harassment. I'm an easy target with mobility and pain impairments. What do I do?? my email is Ideas welcomed.
Thank you. Bobbie Jenke

By Bobbie Jenke | Posted on January 2, 2011, 6:07 pm

In order for "Social Justice" to mean anything, one must first sincerely believe that people are good at heart...Capitalism is established based on the law of nature, brutal competition for survival without regard to others...Extreme individualism... Unfortunately or fortunately perhaps, we are beings who need validation, love, acceptance and belonging...We are tribesman, not hermits...Social Justice is possible and necessary if we want less violence and more peace...
Mr. A Scientist, you need to be less cynical and patronizing if you want to get point across...

By Emine Dilek | Posted on January 10, 2011, 11:17 pm

Interesting to see the debates on this blog that are equivalent to the squabbling between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the religious sects that Jesus offended and who offended him. Jesus lived in his time and spoke truths that are still relevant millennia afterward. His job wasn't to overturn the social/political strata in which he lived. How many of you have achieved 0.000001% of what he has? None I’m sure.

Social justice is a load of crap. Didn't the first slave ships have crosses on their masts? What about the Spanish Inquisition? The church has created many social INJUSTICES in the guise of social justice. It is 2010 and in North America, land of the free, a black person has less of a chance of finding job than a white person with 5 years less education and if by chance he is hired, he is given less wage. People argue over those sneaking across borders that were ordered set up by conquering monarchs overseas. Closer to home, aside from charitable gestures during the Christmas season, do your church members all intermingle regardless of class? Do you encourage your members to mix in this manner or do you foster the same haves over here, have nots over there mentality prevalent in the church? Are you donating hundreds of thousands to missions yearly while single mothers among your membership drop their tithes in your coffers every week their children have no boots in winter, no extra snacks for school? “But we donate our used clothes every year”, you say. Please, spare me your rhetoric, how can you “save the world and make it a better place” when your house it rotting from the foundation? Practice true Christianity at home. Not charity. The Bible says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. But, the churches preach Prosperity now. In Revelations, it is written that the Holy Spirit will leave the church in the end times. By all indications, He has fled.

Jesus condemned religion for the same reason as others do. It divides, confuses and creates an "us vs. them" when it is really "us and Him". A true Christian is one who lives by Jesus' teachings, not one who ascribes to a religion. A church fellowship cannot ordain, select nor appoint you a Christian. This is false doctrine. Jesus said take up your cross and follow me, simple. But you insist on complicating matters. I find it hilarious that people are still caught up in their social trappings and hierarchical ideology. Does it really take a Masters Degree in Theology to understand a man who probably couldn't do long division?

Get over your stupid mumblings. Go feed someone hungry, clothe someone naked, and right a wrong. Stop remaining silent while others who are not "of your ilk" suffer. Children are being abused. 1 out of every 3 children you've come into contact with has been abused. What are you doing aside from sitting at your computers arguing dogma? Shut up and do something.

By Divalish | Posted on January 16, 2011, 7:01 am

Saw the Dr. Phil show, usually don't watch him as I dislike men who divorce first wives for 2nd younger one's. As my youngest son has been a prison guard for about a year I plan to purchase the book for him. I am so glad that it was in the local library, unfortunately it doesn't seem to be used much. Laws are made by every society, including non white ones. Oh yea, Ghengis Khan was a great leader/ruler but very brutal. Tecumseh was a violent dude but he was a hero of mine as he was also part Cherokee. The Unitarian is correct, social justice is something you need in this world but it doesn't start with religion. The roots of social justice and violence go back to our bacterial origins. Some social communication is found in all species but you need to look up Bacterial and viruse communication on to gain some real insight as to where all this started. We are beholden to the mitochondria which is and ingested bacteria in our early existence. So just hope that in the next reset of the universe we learn to get along.

By Hel-n-highwater | Posted on January 28, 2011, 4:19 pm

There is of course an interesting relationship between theology, law and justice. I note that judges in Australia sit in front of an ornate symbol inscribed with the words "Dieu et Mon Droit".
Yet often, when faced with a manifest miscarriage of justice, they fail in their duty implicit in those words, but also they fail to properly apply the law laid down by the Australian Supreme Court (the High Court of Australia).
Also, they would know that in Australia, after an unsuccessful appeal they would know that even where evidence of a manifest miscarriage of justice has occurred, there is no "legal" right to any further review of the case; a matter which is contrary to the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a signatory.
As intelligent people, the judges must know that their actions fail to conform to the theological, precedential and internatonal obligations which are said to be binding upon them. What are the countervailing factors? Perhaps the "situational" factors which Philip Zimbardo points to - loyalty to one's colleagues and the desire not to bring disrespect upon the 'system' which promises them so much. Yet their actions at the same time fundamentally undermine the values of the theological, jurisprudential and international systems to which they lay claim.
Foolish, paradoxical or just plain unjust?
What do you think? [the law and cases are available from my books available at]

By Dr Bob Moles | Posted on February 2, 2011, 8:15 pm

It can be difficult to separate emotion from your writing in order to provide factual information, and I will attempt to accomplish this while still feeling passionate about my thoughts. My first response is directed to some of the earlier posts provided by Bill Baar and Rev. Jennifer Brooks.

I find it interesting how they can be confused over the idea of justice, especially a Reverend who should be intimately familiar with the Christian principle of the atonement, where Christ enabled mercy in the face of God's justice because of the eternal sacrifice He gave. What is the definition of justice? Is it not: the administration of the law or authority in maintaining the law? How do we maintain a lawful society without justice? If I sign a mortgage loan, or an auto loan, or even use a credit card I firmly agree to the principles and promise to keep my end of the bargain. In return I am granted money. If I default on my promise I also agree to the consequences of my actions. How is it fair or just to not expect the negative consequences of my actions if I don't keep my end of the bargain? How could it be just or fair to expect the lender to forgive my debt when he clearly gave me the money and we agreed on the terms of the loan? This is not fair or just.

Unfortunately what is wanted is mercy. When Bill Baar and Rev. Jones state that imposing a penalty on someone in default of their loan is not fair they tell me that they truly don't understand the principle of justice and mercy. What they really want is mercy not justice. But how do we have both mercy and justice? In financial situations we may seek for new terms of a loan, or potentially a "bailout," but regardless of what happens, the lender is still owed their money. When mercy is applied the money is paid off by someone else and a new agreement reached between the borrower and the new lender.

Unfortunately in our society too many people want mercy without a new agreement. Is it fair that my tax money should go to pay off the loan of someone in default? No, but it is merciful, and as such should be used only under certain conditions as agreed upon by the taxpayers who provide the money and the mercy, not some legislative body lost in the power struggle known as politics.

Justice needs to be satisfied, but mercy also needs to be applied when needed. Yet the conditions of the application of mercy need to be agreed upon by those actually stepping in and helping those in need of mercy. Let us not confuse the principle of fair and just with that of mercy and kindness.

By Tyler | Posted on February 8, 2011, 1:43 am

Nice article, thanks for the information.

By rental elf | Posted on February 27, 2011, 12:26 pm

Ok, this is going to be harsh, but I am deeply disturbed by the rationalizations here against the very idea of Christian concerns for social justice.

I am not a religious scholar but I don't need to be to sniff out selfishness masquerading as religion. And after reading many of these comments, so elegant & sophistocated in their defense of the refusal of any social obligation whatsoever, I am not at all certain I desire to continue my association with Christian institutions.....not if its members can be so twisted as to affirm apathy & inaction in response to systemic injustice. Are apathy & inaction REALLY an authentic Christian response to conditions that CAUSE great suffering?!

Rather than Lucifer sponsoring delusions of social justice,it seems to me an evil delusion to ascribe all misfortune, inequality & poverty to personal inadequacies or choies. Indeed, much suffering does come from bad choices, but it seems the powerful & wealthy are IMMUNE from their consequences AND CAN DEMAND THE REST OF US TO PAY FOR THEIR RESCUE - Even when they damage the ENTIRE economic system! Compare that to some so-called christian attitudes toward the powerless beneficiaries of social programs, who are despised & denigrated and expected to pay the FULL price (and more!) for mistakes whose effects are much more limited in their economic consequences.

Some of you people seem to believe you live in a Blessed Bubble, necessarily separate from the suffering of His creatures, one who feeds her Christian hypocrisy with occasional feel-good handouts. That is not the message of the Cross, any more than a blood-thirsty "atonement", to appease a Rage that neglects the overarching At One Ment, the Love that gives Its all to Its beloved. Really, I just don't see Jesus and His Prophets taking sjuch rationalizing of apathy to the poor sitting down!

Surely, surely, whatever else Jesus taught, including his self-giving on the Cross, He would not argue that God's work is limited to PERSONAL handouts to fulfill his commands! Surely, He would not argue that God's work could not possibly include PREVENTING awful injustice & suffering by creating a just society. Surely, He would not argue that Lucifer is deluding those who work to reflect God's Kindom on earth! Surely that too is a work of Spirit. Surely Jesus stands with the Prophets who cried out against injustice and cried out at suffering!

Were it not for Jesus and His Cross, and Christians like Rev. Jennifer Brooks and others, I would become a Buddhist. At least - as far as I know - they appear to understand the Beatitudes better than many Christians on this comments board do.

By Karyn | Posted on March 4, 2011, 12:33 pm

Thanks, Karyn, for raising a number of interesting points. I particularly wanted to affirm your observation about Buddhism. While it is a completely different religious and cultural tradition from Christianity, the ethical teachings of Jesus align closely with Buddhist philosophy, especially "love your enemies" and the parable of the Good Samaritan. What, I wonder, would give God more joy...someone who works for fair immigration laws or a better health care system out of compassion for people in need, or someone who turns a blind eye to structural injustice insisting that Christians are called only to personal charity?

We humans may not always know what is meant by "social justice"; obviously there are definitional issues. But surely the teachings of Jesus invite us to see human need and respond in love. I'll leave judgment to God...

By Rev. Jennifer Brooks | Posted on March 4, 2011, 11:08 pm

Some people here seem to be talking themselves in circles in order to pretend that "Feed the poor" does not mean "Feed the poor", and
This is EXACLTY the Lucifer Effect. You argue that the poor aren't your problem/they deserve it/the market decided/Communism = bad, so the government can't have a role in any social responsibility/ etc.
Jesus was clear - like it or not - helping the poor regardless of who they are is like Jesus; Jesus doesn't talk about outcomes of economic theory. He cares about you trying to do the right thing, not making excuses like "Well that hurt/homeless guy on the side of the road probably deserved it - probably a drunk/bad person anyway".
You CAN argue what is a better way to run a society/government, but it is a lie to say that Jesus and "social justice" has changed. BS! Feeding the poor 2,000 years ago means 'feeding the poor' today.
Your arguments make Christianity un-Christlike.

By Grey | Posted on March 22, 2011, 7:12 pm

As has already been well mentioned, "social justice" is more a propaganda-phrase and rarely something specific. This ambiguity belies the underlying reality of what the more ardent social justice proponents are actually doing.

What is generically presented as "social justice" is often little more than a thinly-veiled attempt to impose one's personal belief systems on others, whether through collective social pressures, appeals to guilt, or even force of government. It is found in many social groups, especially Christian religious denominations and political movements.

There is nothing wrong with -- and it is a positive good -- to individually choose to assist the poor or hungry. And if individuals wish to do so collectively, that is their freedom. But coercively taking the property from one person to give it to another is not justice, no matter what your motivations or how many people agree with you.

The ends do not justify the means, and no amount of sophistry can change this fact.

By rosaryshop | Posted on May 15, 2011, 5:15 pm

I, too, am a Christian. I am afraid of the church being involved in POLITICAL social justice. It is honorable and directly out of Christ's words that we love our neighbor as ourselves, that we help the needy, but Christ DID NOT say to do this through a government authority. He expected us to do it directly. It is easy to demand that the government provide the social justice we are commanded to do. Where are you? Do you give or help directly the poor, the sick, the lost? Probably not. We do it by taxes or tithing. We have become detached. Government does not solve the problems of the poor. It compensates the poor. It encourages the poor to be needy with a steady supply of money. The poor in the USA are not "poor". Anyone who has an apartment, food, television, a cell phone, a not "poor". We don't know the meaning of poor in this country unless we travel outside of the USA. Our "social justice" has enslaved people into a lack of motivation and expectation. All Christians probably believe in social justice but conservative Christians believe we must do it OURSELVES, not through the government which corrupts.

By Sue | Posted on June 16, 2011, 11:22 am

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