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Evangelicals should applaud Justin Trudeau’s sense of social justice

When social conservatism gets in the way of social justice

I use to think being an Evangelical was synonymous with being a social conservative—a belief that the Christian faith is solely about our adherence to traditional moral and religious standards and how we express these standards in our liberal culture.

The thought of ever supporting or agreeing with a “liberal” politician or “progressive” Christian leader is often seen as a “mortal sin” in many Evangelical camps, and is sometimes met with self-righteous judgment by those who say you can’t be an Evangelical without being a social conservative too.

But should we not be willing to “forgive”—to overlook—the social liberalism of leaders like Justin Trudeau—who by the way considers himself a person of “deep faith and belief in God”—when it’s clear they’re compassionately sold to welcoming the least of these and bringing forth justice for the vulnerable and mistreated?

Applauding social justice when we see it

Although overly ambitious and imperfect, the Trudeau government’s efforts to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada should cause Evangelicals to applaud Trudeau’s sense of social justice. What we do for the least of these should not only define who we are as Canadians, but who we are as Christians as well.

Similarly, Trudeau’s promise to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, although far-fetched and probably not achievable, reveals something about our new Prime Minister we should at least be proud about: He cares about the vulnerable and abused in our midst. He cares about social justice.

Compared to our previous Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who outright dismissed the need for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada, Trudeau instead has shown compassion for the broken-hearted families and the 1,200 daughters they lost to God knows what.

“I believe that there is a need for a national public inquiry to bring justice for the victims, healing for the families, and to put an end to this tragedy,” Trudeau said in a statement. The guy has a heart. But this shouldn’t be surprising for a person who grew up influenced by Jesuits.

God works in secular people and public spaces to bring about social justice

As Evangelicals, we may not like everything about Trudeau’s social liberalism when it comes to his position on issues like abortion, marijuana and euthanasia, for instance, but that shouldn’t cause us to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” In other words, we shouldn’t let our social conservatism get in the way of embracing leaders like Trudeau who have a biblical sense of social justice.

But let’s address the elephant in the room. Many Evangelicals would argue that Trudeau is a “nominal” Christian at best, perhaps not even so at all because of his hyper-liberal social philosophies and his severe separation of Church and State in public service. These are legitimate concerns for Evangelicals who think faith should influence public policy to some extent.

So let’s indulge the nay-sayers for a second and pretend that Trudeau isn’t a genuine or practicing Christian in the New Testament sense of the word and ask the question: Can God still work in such a person?

Yes. We know that God is able to (and often does) work in secular people and public spaces; many faith traditions affirm this reality.

John Calvin and those in the Reformed tradition would appeal to the doctrine of “common grace”—grace that God gives to humanity through common political establishments, for instance. Similarly, Martin Luther saw God’s work in political leaders and secular spheres as the “fingers of God” working to bring blessings into the world. John Wesley appealed to the doctrine of “preceding grace.” Wesley scholar Howard Snyder explores this in the context of God’s mission in the world:

“A key missiological implication of preceding grace is that God is the first, the originating missionary […]. God is already active in all persons, cultures, societies, and to some degree in many (not all) religions.” He adds that non-Christian religions, institutions and people “are not in themselves a means of grace, but God’s grace to some degree works in them—if in no other way, at least to restrain evil.”

And so, when we applaud Justin Trudeau for his sense of social justice, we are recognizing that God’s grace is working through him—genuine Christian or not— to restrain evil and bring about justice for the oppressed. And a major way God restrains evil and suffering in the world is through social justice.

Seeing the world through a Jesus-lens

I’m a social conservative on many contemporary issues facing our culture, including my position on homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and the like. But I’ve learned—perhaps the hard way—that my social conservatism shouldn’t be the defining factor of Christian mission in the world.

God doesn’t call us to be moral crusaders, but peace-makers and love-proclaimers. Click To Tweet

God doesn’t call us to be moral crusaders, but peace-makers and love-proclaimers. When our approach to Christian mission is propelled by a rigid application of the former, we will only see sin in the world and vilify those who don’t meet our standards for “theological correctness” and pristine morality.

This ends up creating a dualistic conceit in our minds and hearts that paints a black-and-white world of insiders and outsiders, where we—the moral crusaders—become the insiders favored by God, and everyone else—the irreligious and liberal—become inferior outsiders smitten by God for their “sin” of violating the social conservative group consensus.

When we think this way, we reject the Bible’s claim that people outside God’s family— “who do not have the law, [but] do by nature things required by the law”—can have God’s law of love already “written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:14,15).

Christian or not, Trudeau is leading with grand gestures of love and social justice. The things that Jesus is made of.

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Josh is a faith and culture commentator, an award-winning writer and columnist, and a nationally-recognized voice in the Canadian faith community. He holds a MDiv from Tyndale Seminary, and is the recipient of the Stanley A. Boswell Expository Preaching Award and the Dr. Ross and Carol Bailey Theology Award. He lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with his wife and their two adorable daughters and blogs at

  • Vanitas

    One problem, the Syrian refugees are neither Syrian, nor are they refugees. Is gullibility also a Christian virtue?

  • stonehands

    I agree with the guy below. Wake up people. This article is crap. We are to love those that need it but not directed from a wicked earthly government. Let the spirit help with that. When the Bible spoke of the Kings of the old testament it would say. He did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord. Justin does that which is evil. One vision of social justice does not a saint make. Wow Josh you’ve won some awards. Even if jesus came back tomorrow and wanted to teach these Christians they’d never hear.

  • robert slimm

    Wake up. Out of bed. Clear the cobwebs from your head.
    Justin Trudeau allows only pro-abortion members of the Liberal caucus “because he’s the leader.”
    He believes members of cabinet should be chosen based on gender rather than the content of their character “because it’s 2016.”
    He says Canada has no values of its own and that ours is perhaps “the first post-national state.”
    Although ISIS was explicitly targeting Christians, Kurds and Yazidis, he adamantly refused to vet refugees on religion or race.
    When Trump stopped American support for abortions overseas (mostly in poor African nations), Mr Trudeau upped Canadian contributions.
    He celebrates dictators such as Fidel Castro and communist regimes such as China “because their basic dictatorship[s] allow them to turn their economies around.”

    Trudeau needs our prayers, not our soft-hearted support.

  • Jeff Sleigh

    Just came across this article….

    “God doesn’t call us to be moral crusaders, but peace-makers and love-proclaimers.”

    Ephesians 6:10-17
    10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

    Yes, God does indeed call us to be moral crusaders. Yes, we proclaim Biblical love(not society’s twisted version of love) and promote peace, but not at the cost of righteousness. Our Lord was not a hippy who just held hands with people and yelled “Love love love”. Neither Him nor His apostles were afraid of calling a spade a spade.

    Sorry mate, you can’t call someone like Trudeau a social justice advocate when he actively promotes abortion. Abortion is in the Biblical sense murder of a baby, the most innocent of us. Keep in mind too, money Trudeau throws at other countries or foreigners are the taxpayer dollars, not his own. His vows were to aid Canadians, not foreigners. Taxpayers dollars should not be used as charity funds. If you or Trudeau want to give away your own personal money to foreigners who are poor, that is commendable. But it is not commendable to take someone else’s money and use it for charity.

  • Dave Murphy

    God calls us to be a disciple of Christ…who obeys the great commission to make disciples. We are to adhere to the great commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. Why would we call Jesus Lord and not do what He says?