1) The relationship between people and society
This diagram shows the basic relationship at the core of all sociology: between people and the society in which they live.
Each person is an individual who lives within a social environment. This is the way God created life to be, we are social beings made for community.
The nature of this relationship between people and society is at the core of political debate. The left tends to emphasise social responsibility and the right personal responsibility. Karl Marx believed that the economic social conditions into which people are born completely determine their life chances. In contrast, Margaret Thatcher declared ‘There is no such thing as society’ because she wanted to emphasise personal responsibility.
2) The radical impact of selfishness
We see it everyday, from individual acts of aggression and abuse, to the corporations who continually flout the laws and rip people off. Selfishness is embedded and compounded in unjust social conditions where rampant inequality creates poverty and vulnerability.
Our whole social order – the economic, political and religious, has been warped by these self-regarding tendencies. There is a ‘crack in everything’ which the Bible calls sin. It expresses itself in both idolatry (failure to love God) and injustice (failure to love our neighbour) and is manifested in both in individual choices and in the corporate and structures. Rather than being a way of judging others, sin is the best way of explaining the mess that the world is in.
3) The radical impact of the good news of Jesus Christ
The gospel of Jesus is good news which changes both people and systems. It speaks to our deepest personal needs because it is a message of affirmation, forgiveness and liberation. But it is no individualistic ‘escape ticket to heaven’. It is news which Jesus defined as bringing ‘good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind and a release to the oppressed’.
Inward change leads to outward action. A transformed individual seeks to transform the world around them through their actions. This is the essence of a radical gospel: rooted in personal commitment and expressed in social and political witness. A faith which can speak to both to our deepest personal needs and provide a vision of a transformed society.
This diagram was adapted from one in Bryant Myer’s brilliant book ‘Walking with the Poor‘