Evolving awareness of justice

Zushi, Kanagawa

Regarding Thomas Clark’s Jan. 17 letter, “Keep Christianity in Perspective“: In no way was I saying in my previous letter that religion is the only reason for inequality in developing countries.

Obviously specific historical and economic factors are critical in any given country. But we should at least consider religion’s influence when data show that 90 percent of the world’s 20 most unequal countries (based on the “Gini coefficient”) are Christian.

This trend is evident in Africa. Among the 35 African countries included in the CIA’s Gini coefficient rankings, predominantly Christian countries (14 in total making up at least 70 percent of the population) account for eight of the top 10 most unequal countries and one of the bottom 10.

Perhaps the Gospel message that wealth can be an obstacle to faith perpetuates inequality. Or maybe people in unequal societies are drawn to Christianity for its promise of salvation to the poor. Or perhaps the Vatican’s teachings against condom use are contributing to poverty in some of these countries.

As for Europe, Clark is right that a long-term view is needed to understand the comparative equality there. I suspect, though, that Europe’s evolving awareness of social justice had little to do with the “Judeo-Christian notion of the equality of people before God,” given the church’s role in sustaining monarchy, feudalism and slavery for centuries. Enlightened thought as well as labor and suffrage movements were more important for leveling wealth.

In that light, to answer Clark’s question about where a progressive movement in China will come from “without God,” burgeoning democracy, human rights and organized labor movements are obvious candidates.

scott mintz
zushi, kanagawa

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.