Social justice here and now

Vimal Malik, in his April 4 letter, “Where does human respect live?,” says we must look at the world we actually live in, not through the “stained glass of dogma.” I agree, yet it apparently is Malik’s “dogma” that social justice sprang up spontaneously from late modern secularists and Scandinavian social planners.

At least in the West, the development of human rights has been inextricably linked to the Judeo-Christian patrimony.

The celebrated Montesquieu observed that it was Christianity that hastened the abolition of slavery in Europe itself (“Spirit of the Laws,” Book 15, Section 8).

The actual history of the abolitionist movement, reformers like William Wilberforce who ended the slave trade, and the Jesuits’ anti-slavery work in South America all showed the central role of religion in an evolving conception of human rights.

When St. Paul admonished Philemon that a slave must be treated as a brother, he didn’t rid the world of a 5,000-year-old scourge overnight, but he did provide a revolutionary moral framework for advancing human freedom.

Martin Luther King would be surprised, I think, to hear that human rights were invented in Stockholm just yesterday.

Even in India, religion isn’t all about reincarnation. I seem to recall a Mother Teresa and her followers caring for the dying and bringing compassion to the poorest of the poor very much in the here and now.

thomas clark
tokyo

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.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ andrew Sheldon

    Thomas Clark seems to neglect that Jesus would have us ‘suffer in faith’ and obedience rather than defy dogmatic edicts. Who had the public standing to reject such edicts but Christians themselves. Its was inevitable that reform would first have to occur within the church; but you cannot then argue that Christianity was the source of freedom…which I will argue has still alluded us since none of us have economic rights. Simply look at religious texts. What so shallow foundation did they consider for rights as ‘dogma’ when there was a body of science to discover. Again by Christian rationalists who had access to science. Did they control science for the community, or as our political masters do (with state education) to ‘keep thy enemy close’. Constantine did the same. Freeing slaves? Between religious and liberal crusades for freedom, they seem set on any indiscretion except their founding principles. One might well ask – what were they running away from?

  • Mints

    St. Paul didn’t rid the world of slavery—he helped prolong it for around 1,800 years with his clear teaching that slaves should be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5).

    And St. Paul did not admonish Philemon that a slave must be treated as a brother. Philemon was a slave owner, and one of his slaves had escaped and met Paul in Rome. Paul sent the slave back to Philemon, asking him not to punish the slave harshly. Paul even suggested that he would like the slave for himself. This is hardly a “moral framework for advancing human freedom.”