Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Charity vs Justice

Some thoughts from a member of St. Mary's. It will also appear in as a bulletin insert this Sunday.
Charity vs. Justice: What is the difference and why should we care?
By Carol Lange,
Graduate student and member of St. Mary’s Social Justice Committee

Charity and justice are often used interchangeably when describing acts of service associated with social outreach programs. It is true that both answer the Christian call to reach out to society’s marginalized: the poor, the tired, the hungry; the imprisoned, the impoverished, the lonely; the sick, the weak, the vulnerable. Both encompass compassion towards one’s fellow man in the model of Christ described in the Gospel. Yet, there is a very distinct difference that separates these two components of social ministry.

Charity and justice serve as the opposite, yet complementary parameters of our faith spectrum. At the one end, charity aims to relieve the immediate suffering and discomfort of our society by providing food, clothing, or shelter. Charity is often a private or individual act of reaching out. Global humanitarian efforts are generally met with approval and offer some instant gratification to both benefactor and beneficiary.

Justice sits at the opposite end of the spectrum and focuses on achieving long-term solutions to a difficult and uncomfortable problem. Justice is a joint effort, requiring every member of a given society, or perhaps every citizen of the world, to seek sustainable and everlasting change. Justice is often considered controversial because it is so public, and often political. While charity answers the question “How may I help relieve your suffering today?”, justice wants to know “How can I remove suffering from the equation?”. (
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