The New York Times Tries Out God's Megaphone

The New York Times ran an article the other day called "Does God want you to spend $300,000 on college?"  God couldn't be reached for comment, so the New York Times went to Notre Dame's Father John L. Jenkins.  When Father Jenkins's response was unsatisfactory to the reporter, the reporter went to himself.  It seems a better question would have been Does God want us to pay reporters to look for God when we could just ask New York Times reporters? – to which the answer would invariably be that He did, because The New York Times paid one.

These questions seem silly, but at their core, they're essential.  The New York Times was not alone in reaching its decision about the $300,000 payment because it had the help of the Catechism.  And within this Catechism the Times found a passage, and the passage said social justice ensures that every man is able to get his due.

What exactly this due is has yet to be described, but if we were to formulate any kind of a guess, we would guess that different men would formulate different answers.  This is the reason we have "just" answers and "unjust" answers in the first place.  For instance, what is the due owed to someone who believes that Notre Dame is worth $300,000?  The still small voice within us says a $300,000 charge.  What is the due owed a man who believes it's our duty to give every man what's coming to him?  No comment could be gotten from Father Jenkins, but the book of 1 John leads me to believe that it's a wedgie.

What The New York Times has forgotten to mention is that the concept of dues is subjective.  Many believe that it is the duty of others to listen to us, and it is the sincere opinion of others that in light of their schedules, they shouldn't.  In fact, there are countless people around the world who rate themselves higher than they deserve, and the only ones to tell them otherwise are everybody else.  Our bosses think we should get less, and we think we should get more; the artist thinks his work is better than all the other works, and most other artists disagree; and the mother thinks her child is more special than all the other children, which leads her to get in fights with the other mothers.  The New York Times thinks its opinions are the same as God's.  The one thing standing between us and an army of $75-an-hour burger-flippers and self-declared prophets is that we get to value what we value at the rate that we value it, and if somebody is charging us more, we walk.  We choose, not them.  And when the tables turn and we begin asserting our values to others, they choose, not we.

Against this principle of liberty stands social justice.  Social justice at the bottom of the matter is a tyranny of valuation.  It says, in effect, that someone is going to tell you how to feel about someone and that you have a duty to believe it.  It doesn't matter how you actually feel.  It doesn't matter if someone else is willing to pay you $300,000 because he agrees with you.  What matters is that someone else, some spiritually enlightened micro-meddler, decides for you whether someone is pretty or praiseworthy or useful or brilliant, whether you owe him your time or your money or your body or your worship – that you're a tool for the furthering of another, not a thinking, breathing, loving, hating, dreaming being of the highest nature in nature, and that you ought to be respected as such.

Social justice is asking how God values Notre Dame instead of asking how you value it.  And when God isn't available for comment, it asks a person to value it for you.  It doesn't matter whether Notre Dame charges a hundred or a million.  It matters whether this person, who is not you, who does not care about what you care about or share your religion or love your children or work as hard as you worked to earn what you earn or to build the college you built, agrees with the charge.  As such, the question in social justice is never actually how much is charged or how you should feel.  The question is who will decide it.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

The New York Times ran an article the other day called "Does God want you to spend $300,000 on college?"  God couldn't be reached for comment, so the New York Times went to Notre Dame's Father John L. Jenkins.  When Father Jenkins's response was unsatisfactory to the reporter, the reporter went to himself.  It seems a better question would have been Does God want us to pay reporters to look for God when we could just ask New York Times reporters? – to which the answer would invariably be that He did, because The New York Times paid one.

These questions seem silly, but at their core, they're essential.  The New York Times was not alone in reaching its decision about the $300,000 payment because it had the help of the Catechism.  And within this Catechism the Times found a passage, and the passage said social justice ensures that every man is able to get his due.

What exactly this due is has yet to be described, but if we were to formulate any kind of a guess, we would guess that different men would formulate different answers.  This is the reason we have "just" answers and "unjust" answers in the first place.  For instance, what is the due owed to someone who believes that Notre Dame is worth $300,000?  The still small voice within us says a $300,000 charge.  What is the due owed a man who believes it's our duty to give every man what's coming to him?  No comment could be gotten from Father Jenkins, but the book of 1 John leads me to believe that it's a wedgie.

What The New York Times has forgotten to mention is that the concept of dues is subjective.  Many believe that it is the duty of others to listen to us, and it is the sincere opinion of others that in light of their schedules, they shouldn't.  In fact, there are countless people around the world who rate themselves higher than they deserve, and the only ones to tell them otherwise are everybody else.  Our bosses think we should get less, and we think we should get more; the artist thinks his work is better than all the other works, and most other artists disagree; and the mother thinks her child is more special than all the other children, which leads her to get in fights with the other mothers.  The New York Times thinks its opinions are the same as God's.  The one thing standing between us and an army of $75-an-hour burger-flippers and self-declared prophets is that we get to value what we value at the rate that we value it, and if somebody is charging us more, we walk.  We choose, not them.  And when the tables turn and we begin asserting our values to others, they choose, not we.

Against this principle of liberty stands social justice.  Social justice at the bottom of the matter is a tyranny of valuation.  It says, in effect, that someone is going to tell you how to feel about someone and that you have a duty to believe it.  It doesn't matter how you actually feel.  It doesn't matter if someone else is willing to pay you $300,000 because he agrees with you.  What matters is that someone else, some spiritually enlightened micro-meddler, decides for you whether someone is pretty or praiseworthy or useful or brilliant, whether you owe him your time or your money or your body or your worship – that you're a tool for the furthering of another, not a thinking, breathing, loving, hating, dreaming being of the highest nature in nature, and that you ought to be respected as such.

Social justice is asking how God values Notre Dame instead of asking how you value it.  And when God isn't available for comment, it asks a person to value it for you.  It doesn't matter whether Notre Dame charges a hundred or a million.  It matters whether this person, who is not you, who does not care about what you care about or share your religion or love your children or work as hard as you worked to earn what you earn or to build the college you built, agrees with the charge.  As such, the question in social justice is never actually how much is charged or how you should feel.  The question is who will decide it.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

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