I just read an interesting discussion between Mark Dever and Jim Wallis about their differing views on justice. You can read it, here: Leadership Interview About Justice
Their perspectives are interesting. Dever, a pastor of an important congregation in D.C. says that though his faith isn't private, yet it doesn't extend to creating justice in society at large. Our responsibility, he says, is to be just in the church. Wallis, long time leader of Sojourners, disagrees. His whole life has been a reflection of Martin Luther King Jr.'s form of spirituality, which is to create justice in the church and society simultaneously by changing the whole political outlook on what justice is.
I would take a third way. I think that we should begin, as Dever says, with creating justice in the church. I don't think that the church can tell society not to be racist as long as we are not firmly confronting the racists in our own church. We cannot tell society to accept the homeless and the mentally ill as long as they are marginalized in our group.
But in confronting racism among our own, and in accepting the outcast, we will find ourselves acting. Creating justice is not a matter of speeches or opinions, but a matter of action. This is what Scripture teaches-- that justice is feeding, welcoming, healing and empowering, not just having the right ethical position. As we work for justice, we will find that justice is not found in individual action, but in community. Thus, to create justice, we will have to create just communities that include the outcast. And it is in this arena that we will find ourselves intersecting with politics.
The governmental arena and the religious arena are not and cannot be completely divided. The interests of government and religion intersect in the area of poverty and how to approach it. And, of course, the government is full of religious people whose religion informs them, although doesn't decide for them, in areas of ethics and justice. And democratic government is made up of communities. Thus, as the church creates communities of justice, they will have to interact with the government, if only to survive.