Martin Luther King said, “…we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” He was, of course, paraphrasing Amos from the Old Testament. Amos was particularly concerned about the poor and downtrodden and how they were treated. The justice he referred to was social justice, so it’s apt that King would quote him. Just before the part about justice and righteousness, God says, according to Amos, he doesn’t care about your religious festivals, or assemblies, or sacrifices or singing. You want to worship God, then be righteous, which means treat others with kindness and respect.
Bart Ehrman, the agnostic Biblical scholar and early Christian historian, claims in his new book, The Triumph of Christianity, there is a strong possibility that Christianity would have become the dominate religion in the West even if Emperor Constantine hadn’t issued the Edict of Milan and promoted the religion. Ehrman goes on to claim that one of the major reasons for this is because Christianity offered a more compassionate and ethical worldview. He readily admits and points out that Christians could do horrible things in the name of their religion, but still there is this advocacy for righteousness, honesty and concern for the poor and less advantaged.
We are all shaped by our culture no matter if we’re consciously aware of it or not. Every day I see righteous statements from friends, many of whom aren’t particularly religious, and some are hostile toward religion. Christianity has been and continues to be used in nefarious ways. Many of us have been greatly harmed. But I wonder if our society would be as concerned about doing the right thing if Jewish and Christian influences hadn’t been part of our cultural heritage.