Do churches have a role in justice? Young Christians speak out

Gen Z and Millennial Christians are actively concerned with justice and humanitarian efforts, according to a recent survey from the Barna Group. They are keen to obtain relief for the oppressed, mend the bonds of inequality and desire the elimination of corruption, heralding these values as the core of the Christian identity.

According to the Barna Group, practicing Christians ages 18 to 35 state that they care primarily about the following global issues: corruption, poverty, racism, pollution and famine. These values differ within the larger global culture, particularly from those without faith or of other faith traditions. The primary example of this is that those without a faith tradition, also known as religious “nones” largely care about climate change, with 46% stating that it was a top five issue for them, whereas only 29% of Christians were concerned about pollution.

On the other hand, the moral issue of corruption reigns supreme in the minds of millennials, with 54% valuing the elimination of corruption, while only 37% of non-believers were focused on this matter.

Emma Kastens, senior biblical and theological studies major, found support throughout Scripture for pursing the call of justice. “[Israel] gave places of refuge for those who had messed up,” Kastens said. “When other people wanted to join Israel, they didn’t exclude them … The church in Acts provided for the widows.”

Kastens also finds encouragement from faith leaders such as Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, who spoke at John Brown University during Reimaging Faith and Public Life in October 2019. “She came and talked to our class about how you can’t say you love God and not be engaged in politics. We live in society, so if we want to bring our faith into our lives … we have to bring God into our society,” Kastens said. “What that looks like is working on laws with our local government, signing petitions for things we think should be passed … Those are both good practical ways to do it.”

While both Christians and non-Christians care deeply about humanitarian efforts, they approach these issues differently. Those without faith feel that the church is not an avenue for people to be involved in social change, with only 32% stating that the church was making any difference in the world. However, upon surveying Christians, the opposite seems true. Fifty-eight percent of Christians feel that the church is making an active difference on issues like poverty and racial injustice.

Daniel Grosselin, junior chemistry and bio-chemistry double major, has witnessed churches serve through helping homeless communities. Grosselin said, “The church has an obligation to help those in suffering, but if we make it mandatory … we lose the purpose behind it and the reason that the church should be doing it.”

Stressing that Christians should encourage one another to pursue justice in all areas of inequality, Grosselin said, “We are called to be the hands of God and to reach those that we normally wouldn’t interact with.”