I just finished up a presentation to a group of ministries on “Strengthening Religious Identity,” identifying legal strategies for ministries to maintain their Christian witness while carrying out their missions. It’s a topic particularly salient for faith-based organizations who hold to orthodox Christian views on sexual ethics and sexual identity and who dissent from the ascendant cultural ideology around these issues.
Thinking about law through a Christian lens means focusing on the poor. “[The Lord] has sent me to preach good news to the poor,” Jesus declares in Luke’s Gospel:
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18-19) These words not only launched Jesus’s ministry. They defined his mission. The poor, the oppressed, the stranger, and the outcast – the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) – were closest to Jesus’s heart precisely because they were at the margins of society.
It’s not often one can say a law review article affected them profoundly. But for me, that’s true of “Christian Legal Theory” by the late Harvard scholar William Stuntz.
This post is the first in a series on Stuntz’s article. My goal: to illuminate Stuntz’s ideas for a broader audience, to shed some light on the question that Stuntz poses in his opening sentence: “Why should anyone think about law in Christian terms?”
It’s a simple yet profound message. And in the fight against the human trafficking and modern-day slavery — a tragedy that affects nearly 46 million people worldwide — it’s a message we all need to hear.
Last month, I wrote an essay for Ethika Politika on the church’s responsibility toward Christians and other minorities suffering persecution and genocide in the Middle East. Christians in particular, I noted, “have always lived uneasily in the Middle East”:
This weekend, our family filled Family Med Packs to help persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, or Sudan. The Family Med Packs, a program of Voice of the Martyrs, are sent to the countries and people who need them most. I love this program for two reasons.
“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr