Continued evidence of confusing Christian charity with Social Justice

In the Open Journal of Occupational Therapy this month there is an opinion paper written by Barbara Hemphill entitled Social Justice as a Moral Imperative.  The position presented is that Social Justice belongs in the AOTA Code of Ethics, that it is embedded in the tradition of the OT profession, and that it is not a political matter.

There continues to be confusion and conflation between the concepts of Christian charity and Social Justice.  The author states that Social Justice is not political, but this is refuted by literature review.  The originators of this movement in the OT profession have overtly stated that social justice is political (Wilcock, 1998; Townsend, 1993).  This is an inarguable fact.  

I have already written rather extensively on the topic of whether or not Social Justice was a Core Value of the occupational therapy profession.  I don't have too much to add to that original essay and would point to it as my response to the author's assertions on this topic.

One additional point that requires rebuttal is the statement about the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The author states that this parable is an example of Social Justice.  Here we are able to understand the author's characterization, because the statement is attributed to Jim Wallis, who is a very controversial and left wing Christian activist.  Reverend Wallis is editor of Sojourner's magazine, which has received millions of dollars in funding from George Soros' Open Society Institute.  Reverend Wallis regularly espouses an extremely politically liberal viewpoint.  Referencing a politically partisan individual undermines the author's assertion that Social Justice is apolitical.

The specific reference that is used about the Good Samaritan is Jim Wallis' recently published book, "On God's Side: What religion forgets and politics hasn't learned about serving the common good."  With this kind of reference it is difficult to claim that the definition of social justice has nothing to do with politics.

Aside from that, the author seems to misunderstand both the parable and the implications of social justice.  Social justice requires resource (re)distribution in order to assure equity of outcomes.  However, the Good Samaritan did good deeds by his own charity.  When the man was robbed, the Good Samaritan used his own resources based on his own choices.  He did not run to catch up to the priest or Levite that had already passed the man on the road.  He did not make them hand over their wealth to give to the man who was robbed!  If he did, THAT would have been an expression of social justice.

Instead, he took care of the man himself. That is Christian charity.

Social Justice is political and does not belong in the OT Code of Ethics.  It is important to carefully look at the references used by those who are making claims that it is not political.


embedded links above, and

 Hemphill, B. (2015). Social Justice as a moral imperative, The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 3(2).  Available at

Townsend, E. (1993).  1993 Muriel Driver Lecture: Occupational therapy's social vision.  Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60, 174-184.

Wallis, J. (2013).  On God's Side: What religion forgets and politics hasn't learned about serving the common good. Grand Rapid, MI: Brazos Press.

Wilcock, A.A. (1998). An occupational perspective of health.  Thorofare, NJ: Slack, Inc.


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