My life in China always brings a contrasting perspective to me when I try to understand the social issue(s) I face in the U.S. So does social justice. After becoming disillusioned by the Chinese government’s response in ensuring social justice in 1989, most Chinese tried to pursue social justice for themselves as individuals. In reality, this pursuit has produced more social injustice, corruption, chaos; it has twisted human nature, and distorted human relationships. Only a small percentage of people still try their best to consider justice for others, and are even willing to take a risk for this social goal. For example, some human rights lawyers have been put into prison.
Coming to the U.S. with my background from China, I always appreciate the freedom Americans have, the human rights they pursue, the courage they hold, the opinion(s) they present, etc. No matter what challenges Americans are facing, including social injustice, I always have a positive and optimistic attitude to encourage Americans around me, because I see great power and potential from both the freedom, and Christian faith the majority of Americans have.
However, having lived in the U.S. for a longer time now, I have gradually started to realize that, it seems Americans are losing their direction and/or focus in pursuing social justice and human rights. It seems Americans have neglected the meaning of freedom and the significance of the Christian faith they have. Based on my limited, objective observation of American efforts in seeking social justice and/or human rights, my reflections are as follows:
First of all, concerning the range or nature of justice, social injustice is a systematic and institutional issue rather than a one-dimensional problem. However, the seekers of social justice easily focus on only one or a few social problems.
Second, concerning the demographics of social issues, the seekers of social justice easily overgeneralize their specific issue, and hence, ignore other social injustice issues. As a result, while trying to get justice for their needs, they either forget, or go against others’ pursuit of social justice. This means that they fall into a trap: namely people who are seeking justice for themselves can actually become unjust.
Third, concerning the root of injustice, the seekers of social justice might forget the causes of social problems, and concentrate instead on dealing with the outcome of social injustices. Particularly, while psychological and biological voices are so strong that human moral and ethical perspectives are easily dismissed or thought out of date, the pursuit of social justice easily loses its foundation.
Finally and eventually, the seekers of social justice lose the freedom, power, and vision beyond themselves that have inspired and empowered them to pursue what they want. That is the root of social justice from Christian faith. Christian faith can clearly explain the reasons for social injustice as a human nature issue. It also claims that social justice is for everyone, and it tells us that God had a final plan to deal with human injustice from the beginning when He created humans. God is the great resource for us to face all the challenges of human injustices.
As a Chinese Christian, I have become aware that, while more and more Chinese who have experienced overwhelming tortures from the cruel regime over the years and have been dehumanized by the distorted society, eventually find their hope in Christian faith, Americans are experiencing the strong attack of secularization and unconsciously are leaving their precious Christian faith.
I am wondering why these things happen in my lifetime and what I can learn from these contrasting pictures? Why can Americans not see the above problems I have seen?
A famous Chinese ancient poem inspires me. “Bu Shi Lu Shan Zhen Mian Mu, Zhi Yuan Shen Zai Ci Shan Zhong” – You cannot identify the real face of Mount Lu because you are on the mountain. My experiences living in both China and the U.S. bring me a meaningful contrasting perspective that helps me see both the positive and negative sides of the two countries.
Dr. Ruth Pickens is Associate staff member of Ambassador for Christ (AFC), and a Chinese Christian writer. Two recently published books by AFC are: 1) “Hope in God’s Love: Encountering Your Soulmate in a Strange Land” (2015), 2) “Desire to Grow Holistically: Pastoral Response to Chinese Students’ Voices” (2016)