Faith, values and social policy
Christian social teaching challenges all of us to strive for a just society. In the words of Bioethics and Religious Thought Professor Cory Labrecque “Social justice is not ‘beyond the call of duty’, social justice is the call. It is the mission entrusted to us by Christ’s inclusive ministry.” Our quest for a more equitable society has born many fruits. In Australia, the churches have historically led the way in founding social services, schools, hospitals and health care, and had a major influence on the shaping of other state or community organisations in these sectors.While still engaged in shaping public policy, various pressures have seen religiously inspired voices pushed out of the public forum, and to privatise their views and activities. But many religious traditions resist this pressure, and claim a right to engage in the public forum in debates.
It is within this context that Fr Bruce Duncan addressed Social Policy Connections on 21 November 2012 with a talk entitled Faith, values and social policy, a talk which showed how faith perspectives and values could help shape policies to address the major issues of equity, social justice, and climate change.
After the global financial crisis, leading economists and commentators have been calling for a renewal of the value base in our culture. Central to values are our notions of ‘the good in life’, and what constitutes genuine human wellbeing, not just for privileged people, but for everyone. This is home territory for the churches and other religious and ethical traditions. Pope Benidict's address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 30 April, 2010 affirms this position:
The worldwide financial breakdown... has also shown the error of the assumption that the market is capable of regulating itself, apart from public intervention and the support of internationalized moral standards. This assumption is based on an impoverished notion of economic life as a sort of self-calibrating mechanism driven by self-interest and profit-seeking. As such, it overlooks the essentially ethical nature of economics as an activity of and for human beings.- Pope Benedict XVI
Fr Bruce Duncan outlines how faith offers a context for meaning in life, as well as added motivation to undertake the difficult tasks of social transformation to build a fairer world for everyone.
Fr Duncan maintains the need to dialogue within religious groups and to extend this conversation to those who profess no faith based affiliations. “This process is, of course, difficult, and requires considerable professional expertise about how to shape public policies, as well as attentive listening to the experience of people about what works best in practice. There are no easy shortcuts here.” While Fr Duncan affirms that there is still a role for religious leaders to engage in the reasoned public conversation, increasingly lay people will be needed to lead social justice movements.
To read the full text of this talk, click HERE.
If you would like to learn more about Social Policy connections, or would like to volunetter, please click HERE. If you would like to purchase Fr Bruce Duncan's book "Social Justice: Fuller Life in a Fairer World" Please click HERE.