Yesterday I arrived in Chicago with my co-worker Jacque Isaacs for the Justice Conference, one of the largest biblical and social justice conferences. It is expected to draw together 3,000 Christian leaders, justice practitioners, students, and learners from all over the world to discuss issues surrounding faith and social justice.
The conference offers a film festival, a poetry slam, musical performances, and speakers covering topics like global poverty, race and reconciliation, faith and peace, anti-trafficking, and activism. Speakers include Dr. Cornel West, Louie Giglio, Eugene Cho, Bob Goff, among others.
While the church’s relationship with social justice has been a rocky one, from the theologically liberal Social Gospel movement in the early 20th century to the Evangelical Great Reversal that still persists in many ways today, the Justice Conference seeks to take hold of the ever-swinging pendulum of faith and justice, bringing it to a place where Jesus and justice are so intertwined that Christians can’t think of one without the other.
The conference theme this year is “Live Justice Together,” emphasizing the importance of fostering a community of people to work together to live out and bring about justice together.
This topic is salient to the ongoing conversation on IFWE’s blog about fighting for social justice right where you are and the importance of the role of a strong church community in fighting poverty. As first time Justice Conference exhibitors, we are hoping to offer a unique angle on how Christians can work together to fight global poverty.
At IFWE’s exhibit booth this weekend, I’m excited to learn more about what attendees think about the decline in poverty over the past 30 years, reducing the world’s population living in abject poverty from 43 percent in 1981 to 15 percent in 2011. We are giving attendees we speak with a notecard and asking them to write down one major factor they think is responsible for this dramatic shift to display at out booth.
I suspect some attendees will write the word “business” on their notecard, since microfinance is a poverty-relief strategy growing very popular among Christian social justice crowds. But I wonder if anyone knows that free enterprise is the number one reason millions have been lifted out of poverty today.
Based on the description of the pre-conference global poverty stream on the Justice Conference website, it seems like business and free enterprise will not be a topic of conversation. We are looking forward to fostering this conversation by offering a fresh perspective on the way Christians can think about poverty relief. Fighting poverty requires economic freedom harnessed by a firm rule of law, a business-friendly culture of creativity, a culture of voluntary generosity, and a strong moral culture fueled by the church.
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