FAST, Faith and Action for Strength Together, is a well meaning group of church-goers from about 40 interfaith congregations in the Tampa Bay Area. They rally around “Social Justice” and claim their actions are based on calls in Micah (6:8) to “do justice”. However, FAST is not promoting social justice, it is perpetuating injustice and abusing the trust of its many parishioners who do not agree with the FAST agenda. FAST needs to stop pushing its political agenda in the name of its churches and social justice unless it changes many fundamental theological and moral flaws with its approach and its organization. Hopefully, as FAST prepares its next “Nehemiah” action assembly, local elected officials, the community and the media won’t be heed their advocacy agenda and will instead consider the proper role of government in our lives. Over the next two weeks, this blog will describe the many problems with FAST based on intense involvement of this author with that organization over the last two years. First, an evaluation of the claim that FAST is working toward “Social Justice”.
FAST advocates for “Social Justice”, a term which has its derivations from Catholic Jesuit theologian Luigi Taparelli and has been embraced by many progressive members of our society to mean redistribution of wealth and the use of government to create a utopian vision of a “just society”. The Sun Beam Times showed how the Term is properly defined in the actual current catechism of the Catholic church. Unfortunately, many within the Catholic and other Churches abuse the term Social Justice and apply it all too loosely in their advocacy agenda. A simple reading of the Catechism indicates that Social Justice can NOT be achieved without respecting the individual dignity of man, that society should never be put before that individual dignity and that authorities must not seek to supplant the functions that more properly belong to families or individuals. A pertinent quote (paragraph 1930*) points out that the rights of the human individual are “PRIOR to society”. This is important because FAST is constantly advocating for programs that actually violate the individual dignity and rights of one group of men purportedly to benefit another. For instance, they offer an ordinance that would require the city of St. Pete to hire people who live in Pinellas County. This creates no new jobs, causes those who live out of the County who may be more qualified to be automatically disqualified from working in the city on city contracts. It may cause one person who is willing to work at a lower price to feed their family to have no job and thus deprive that person of “what is their due” (the right to work) to satisfy some political agenda (see paragraph 1928 of catechism’s definition of Social Justice*).
Further, FAST continues to believe that merely showing up for a few meetings and forcing elected officials to legislate a result is achieving some moral good. FAST simply refuses to work to have its 3000 or so members who show up at the assembly commit to more direct action with their neighbor to fix and injustice. For instance, FAST could form a prison visitation program to help convicts re-enter into society, avoid re-arrest and recidivism. Rather, they demand that the Sheriff reinstate a failed “SMART CHOICES” re-entry program that was over-priced and had a high drop-out rate. They demand the government purchase of a dubious reading program by the school board rather than actually forming a tutoring program for troubled students. Thus FAST seeks to impose justice through legislation when it fact it the Catholic Church teaches that legislation cannot achieve justice and only charitable action of neighbors can.
FAST is going down the wrong path and actually promoting injustice. It is creating unintended consequences – an end that the Catechism warns against when speaking of moral and immoral actions (Good and Evil Acts below – 1755). This author is a Catholic and notes that Catholic Churches are leading in FAST with encouragement of the Diocese. So, a thorough analysis of the teaching so of the Catholic Church seem in order if my Pastor is promoting FAST as religiously justified. This author disagrees that FAST is religiously justified. FAST is well-intentioned, no more, and that is not enough for moral action by this organization. Very telling is the fact that the New American Bible (The Catholic Bible in America) does NOT include the quote that was advertised for Micah 6:8 in our recent Catholic Church Bulletin. The Quote was purported to say that Catholics and Christians are called “to do justice, love mercy and to walk faithfully with him”. However, the actual Catholic biblical quote is:
“You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, New American Bible).
If the entire mission of FAST is largely predicated on one verse of the Bible, it seems an injustice to advise Catholic members of the interfaith group that the Bible says something that it does not actually say. FAST needs to re-examine its methods, goals and philosophical basis to regain the actual moral high ground it claims to occupy.
*1928 Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority.
*1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church’s role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.
*1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,’ above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.” No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a “neighbor,” a brother.
1755 A morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together. An evil end corrupts the action, even if the object is good in itself (such as praying and fasting “in order to be seen by men”).
1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context….