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What Do Evangelicals Believe About Social Justice?: A Brief History

Also that year, two notable books warning evangelicals about the dangers of social justice were published: “Christianity and Wokeness: How the Social Justice Movement Is Hijacking the Gospel – and the Way to Stop It” by Owen Strachan and “Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe” by Voddie Baucham. Though the latter was accused of plagiarism and misrepresenting the work of CRT scholars, both books were received with praise among many evangelicals. 

Nevertheless, counter voices calling for a renewed commitment to social justice have continued to be present in the evangelical movement, though often at personal cost. For example, Jemar Tisby, author of “The Color of Compromise” and “How To Fight Racism,” found himself in the crosshairs of Grove City College in 2022 for a sermon he preached at the Pennsylvania school’s chapel in 2020, which the school later claimed promoted “CRT concepts.”

Anxiety over “wokeness” has continued to increase among Christian institutions, and several professors at Christian universities have been fired for allegedly promoting CRT or even for merely quoting from books written by Tisby or other social justice advocates—many of whom hold to orthodox Christian teaching and traditionally evangelical theological convictions.

In many ways, the century-old fear of the Social Gospel has come full circle, gatekeeping orthodoxy so narrowly that social justice is left outside the fold. Nevertheless, just as was true 100 years ago, many evangelicals are seeking to hold tightly to both theological orthodoxy and a pursuit of social justice.

Moving Forward

As the historical record reflects, some evangelicals have sacrificed their theology to pursue social justice. Others have sacrificed social justice for the sake of their theological affiliation. Still others have done a great disservice to both. 

Then there are those who have pursued social justice because of their theology. They have often been in the minority, and they have often been much maligned. They still are. Nevertheless, evangelicals today would do well to heed their warnings and take to heart their vision for a future church and society that is more just, more equitable, more inclusive, and closer to the heart of God.