Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Cincinnati for the annual conference of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), a network of over 500 non-profit ministries ranging from grassroots, community-based groups to large relief and development organizations. The common bond for CCDA members is their shared mission to serve under-resourced communities and marginalized people through holistic ministries that address both physical and spiritual needs.
During the end stretch of last year’s heated presidential race, Barack Obama was tagged by some as a “socialist” for his controversial tax plan, which called for a system of redistribution of wealth. Now, with President Obama’s equally controversial vision for universal health care taking center stage in the political arena, the “socialist” label has surfaced again. But what some Christians view as a dangerous slide toward socialism, see as a needed step toward a more biblically just health-care system.
Without taking sides in the political debate, we want to explore this issue of biblical justice vs. socialism. To help bring clarity to the subject, we went back to a 1993 book from the pioneering evangelical social activist John M. Perkins. In Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development, Perkins lays out a broad vision for incarnational ministry, which includes both spiritual and economic outreach. In this excerpt, he challenges believers on the importance of social justice and explains how it differs from manmade economic and political systems.