Warning for all you non-religious types… I’m about to exercise my first amendment right and share my secular and religious thoughts based on my personal beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and quote a couple scriptures and LDS church authorities below in support of my beliefs. Naturally all of this article is my own opinion and I’m not speaking for the church. Just in case anyone might get confused about that… ;)
Periodically someone asks me a question like this: “how does this ________ nonsense get into our children’s schools?” Lately I’ve had that blank filled in with social justice. It seems to have gained an unfortunate sympathetic ear among people because they think it’s about helping the poor, when it reality it does just the opposite. There’s a load of articles on the web about how various Common Core players and organizations have come together to promote social justice through the curriculum and assessments they have developed. This article will not focus on those elements, but on the misguided concept of social justice.
A couple weeks ago, someone sent me a link to an article from BYU’s Frontier magazine which is an online magazine for alumni of their college of physical and mathematical sciences.
In the Fall 2014 issue on page 18, you’ll find an article entitled “Solving social injustice one math problem at a time.” The article is about Dr. Kate Johnson in BYU’s Math Education department and her background and experiences which lead her now to entwine social justice into her math teaching.
As if it isn’t hard enough for children to do word problems on new concepts, lets add social justice into the mix so they can feel the plight of the poor and downtrodden and learn about how evil capitalism is.
Now some parents might want this type of class for their child. They might say, yes, I want my college child well rounded by wrestling with these issues in math class instead of laser focusing on the theories and functions of math so that when they go to teach little children, they can help them understand how the rich are evil and the poor are oppressed. Love live the Communist Manifesto!
News flash: This style of teaching isn’t going to improve math education, nor will it fix social injustices. Social justice is the gospel of envy, not Christ’s gospel of love.
It is abundantly true that the scriptures teach us to take care of the poor. However, in each instance, the Lord is commanding people to take care of the poor as a matter of free will, using our agency in an individual charitable endeavor.
Lets get started.
Here are relevant quotes from the Frontier article about Dr. Johnson (emphasis mine):
“Through struggling with how to handle the hard questions her students raised about the world, Johnson realized that math could help them sort through the many differing points of view. The way this is done is through typical math tasks, like a story problem, but the subject of that story problem would be sharing wages in a sweatshop rather than sharing crayons in a classroom.
“The ultimate goal of teaching math for social justice is to help kids better understand the world around them in conjunction with math,” Johnson said. “Students are going to talk about those issues whether or not we give them math as a tool to do so, and so to me, we should be giving them math as a tool to think and talk about those issues so they can see the utility of math and so they can make stronger arguments.”
“I’m interested in teachers’ identities, as it pertains to mathematics teachers, particularly in the context of teaching math for social justice,” Johnson said. “So basically that’s like teaching math in contexts that help bring to light social issues in addition to teaching key math principles. If that’s the way you are going to teach math, then how does your race, gender, class, or awareness of your privilege play a role in the way you teach about those topics? Basically, when you state it broadly, I’m interested in how who we are shapes what we do as teachers.”
“I realized that teachers are learners too, in part because I got student teachers and I just started to become interested in the kinds of things they needed to know in order to be productive math teachers,” Johnson said.
“I wanted to broaden my impact,” Johnson said. “When I was a high school teacher, I used to say that I was teaching the world one deaf student at a time, and then when I went back to school to be a teacher educator, I said teaching the world a little more than one kid at a time. Because if you impact one teacher, it will impact more children that way, and teaching math through social justice to those teachers will bring about greater social change.”
This article in Frontier is all about this particular teacher and I’m not publishing this to get her in trouble because she certainly isn’t by any means the only teacher educator doing this. I just felt compelled to expose what is happening in our schools of education where teachers are taught and ultimately comes to your children’s classrooms. Many of the educators in BYU’s Education and Math Education departments embrace John Goodlad, Bill Ayers, and Linda Darling-Hammond’s left-wing philosophy on social justice. They have attended workshops, joined their organizations, read their books, and even presented at their conferences. I believe the year was 2006 when BYU even hosted Goodlad’s NNER conference. Here’s an ad from just a few years ago for Goodlad’s conference to teach teachers how to implement social justice and the GLBT agenda in your children’s classrooms.
Social Justice 101
So what is social justice? I found this awesome 5 minute video online that explains this concept really well. I particularly loved the statement by the U.N. that if you believe truth and justice are concepts independent of their agenda, you are essentially an enemy of social justice. Truth is so overrated…
I periodically engage in discussions online with people who espouse that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and that the government is well within its rights to do this. But they fail to remember one core principle of our government which is that it was established by the people, for the people, and of the people. When the people created the government, we delegated to government the ability to do certain things we have a right to do ourselves in order to make those things more efficient. I have a right to defend myself and my property so we created a sheriff and the military to protect those things on a larger scale so I can focus on other things. On the other hand, I don’t have a right to go to my neighbor’s home and take $500 from him and give that money to someone else I know is needy, so I can’t get government to do that for me and keep my hands clean of robbery. Frederick Bastiat called this “legal plunder” in his classic work, “The Law,” when people use government to do things to others that they can’t legally do themselves.
These people further claim that the scriptures and Christ’s teachings justify redistributing the wealth. But what did Jesus teach?
Did Jesus go to the Romans and ask them to exact a tax on the rich to help the poor? No.
Did he go to the Sanhedrin and ask them to do likewise? No.
He told the rich young man to go sell *what HE had* and give it to the poor.
He watched the widow cast in her 2 mites and announced that she had given more than all the rich yet didn’t mention how evil the rich were for not caring for her needs.
Did he organize a redistribution effort among his church? No. He taught compassion, charity, and to put away our jealousy and envy.
The gospel is one of individual responsibility with individual mandates to care for the poor. We have no right to force someone to salvation by making them take care of the poor and in so doing, create just the opposite effect within the breast of those whose compassion we need.
What does our progressive taxation system do? We say if you make X amount of income, you pay 15% taxes. If you make up to Y, then you pay 28%. And so on up the ladder. The more you make the larger the percentage you pay. What does that do to a person who makes more money?
- It can destroy their ability to be very charitable.
- It makes them feel like they are already giving more for social programs and they don’t need to do more individually.
- It destroys the entire holy principle of charity because those with wealth don’t have the opportunity to *give* someone money. It’s taken from them and they never see the needy people it helps, thus causing them to not have their hearts moved with compassion on the plight of the poor. Social justice ROBS the rich of this critical enrichment activity.
What was the Lord’s plan? 10% whether you’re rich or poor? A fascinating contrast, don’t you think?
The very people who want to have the wealthy to have compassion upon the poor have erected a system that prevents it from being possible. They have created a system of hatred where the rich feel taken advantage of. Where did this progressive taxation idea come from? The father of modern-day envy, Karl Marx, a co-author of the Communist Manifesto. This document is the exact opposite of the God-inspired U.S. Constitution. Only in an atmosphere of liberty, can the gospel of Jesus Christ thrive. Personal choices are paramount to the gospel plan. When some seek to overthrow that plan by focusing on social justice instead of God’s justice, and enact man-made systems of charity instead of God’s perfect system of charity, they mingle the philosophies of man with God’s perfect plan of salvation for his children and corrupt society through vanity.
Think about this…some people are born into wealth and some into poverty. It is a social injustice, but it is not injustice on the part of our divine creator who has a perfect plan for each of his children. His plan is to exalt his children and bring them back into his presence. In some instances, that necessitates trials of wealth, and for others trials of poverty. Each individual is born into this world with their own unique challenges to deal with but it is their own personal plan of salvation that God crafted for them. Under no circumstance does the wisdom of man exceed the wisdom of God. We should stop trying to serve the Lord in the devil’s way. Only the gospel of Christ can provide the spiritual salvation God’s children need.
In the April 2010 General Conference of the LDS church, Elder Todd Christofferson said it well.
“In a complete reversal from a century ago, many today would dispute with Alma about the seriousness of immorality. Others would argue that it’s all relative or that God’s love is permissive. If there is a God, they say, He excuses all sins and misdeeds because of His love for us—there is no need for repentance. Or at most, a simple confession will do. They have imagined a Jesus who wants people to work for social justice but who makes no demands upon their personal life and behavior.”
If I may offer an interpretation of what he’s saying… The people had turned to wickedness but they thought that a collective salvation under the gift of God’s incredible mercy for his children would save all of them regardless of their personal choices. They made up a false Christ by imagining a God that makes no demands on our *personal* lives, yet they weren’t forced to comply with heaven’s mandates.
In the April 2013 conference, Elder Christofferson gave another great talk which included much about temporal redemption for the poor. In this talk he pointed out that sometimes when needs are more widespread, larger organizations may need to be involved when needs exceed the ability of individuals to personally take care of the problems.
“Some forms of temporal redemption come by collaborative effort. It is one of the reasons the Savior created a church. Being organized in quorums and auxiliaries and in stakes, wards, and branches, we can not only teach and encourage each other in the gospel, but we can also bring to bear people and resources to deal with the exigencies of life. People acting alone or in ad hoc groups cannot always provide means on a scale needed to address larger challenges. As followers of Jesus Christ we are a community of Saints organized to help redeem the needs of our fellow Saints and as many others as we can reach across the globe.”
Does the church exact a tax on its members to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? No. The church teaches doctrine and invites people to participate in a gospel plan that helps the rich meet the needs of the poor. He concludes with this powerful statement.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.”
In my own words, we have an individual mandate to help the poor, but if our own personal efforts to help the poor don’t actually bring them to Christ and redemption through his atonement, then the gospel is only a gospel of social justice which may give someone temporary assistance with their temporal needs, but does nothing to provide the ultimate redemption we all need.
In the recent October 2014 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey Holland gave a great talk on taking care of the poor as well. He pointed out that when Mary anointed Jesus’ head with the expensive spikenard and Judas complained that it could have been sold and distributed to the poor, Jesus rebuked him and said, “Why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work…She hath done what she could.”
Judas’ envy had got the better of him and he wanted that wealth taken from Mary and given to someone else. Perhaps he was jealous that he hadn’t saved his own money in the way Mary had done. Regardless of Judas’ personal motive, Jesus obviously knew that Mary’s choices were her own and she was choosing to do good in the best way she saw fit. Judas had no right to complain or to force Mary to sell her goods and give to the poor. As mentioned above, Jesus never told the government or the church to take from the members to give to the poor. He invites us individually to participate in the work of temporal and spiritual salvation.
Elder Holland goes on to clearly point out the individual mandate we have:
“Now, lest I be accused of proposing quixotic global social programs or of endorsing panhandling as a growth industry, I reassure you that my reverence for principles of industry, thrift, self-reliance, and ambition is as strong as that of any man or woman alive. We are always expected to help ourselves before we seek help from others. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves. But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again.”
Over and over again we are reminded that helping the poor must come from a personal desire to do so and not from someone elses compassion with other people’s property.
We also have this clear explanation in modern day revelation. From the Doctrine & Covenants, section 104 we read:
15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.
The plan and the choice are clear. God wants the rich to take care of the poor to exalt the poor and humble the rich. But he wants it done by the use of agency. We don’t have any right to erect a system of force that destroys the agency of man. In so doing, we destroy God’s plan. God has a punishment prepared for the rich who do not turn their hearts to the poor when the Lord presses upon them to be compassionate. When government takes from the rich to provide for the poor, it is in essence proposing to guarantee God’s rewards upon the rich for so giving, yet no godly characteristic is formed in the heart of the rich because they aren’t the ones giving.
What should teachers at BYU be focusing on? In my opinion, they should be focusing on building faith in Christ in their students. When people come to Christ, they live His gospel and keep his commandments. The wealthy do help the poor and the people become of one mind and one heart. You can’t force that, but pure doctrine changes hearts.
If you want poor kids to excel and get better jobs, and overcome their life circumstances, teach them real math and stop distracting them. They need to compete in this world with those who may have had more advantages due to their wealth. If you are under the illusion this isn’t possible, watch “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” It’s free on Netflix.
To teach the poor to look upon their situation as a plight may in fact lead them away from Christ as they question why a “fair” God has put them in their challenging circumstances. By gifting them envy instead of encouragement, we indoctrinate them in the doctrines of the devil. Instead we should teach all to have faith in Christ, solely. Social justice is faith in government that they will take enough from the rich to give to you to meet your needs. That is not the gospel.
Professors and teachers, do not suppose that you know better than the parents who have sent their children to you. Do not suppose that because you have those children in your care that you have permission to do anything contrary to grounding them in truth and building faith. Teaching is a sacred duty and where it is not a faith building, joyous experience in embracing truth, it is not of God.
In Doctrine & Covenants 105:5 we read, “And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself”
What is that law? The law of consecration, which is a choice to participate in. You cannot prepare people for life in a celestial realm by forcing them to do good and contribute to the causes you deem just through government intervention.
If an all-powerful God who could easily right the wrongs of society and compel men to provide for others, doesn’t interfere with our choice and agency here on earth because of Celestial laws, what gives anyone else the right to do what God Himself rejects, and impose on mankind compulsory systems of tyranny all in the name of brotherly love? We should probably stop second guessing God and start trying to mimic him.