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Teaching for Justice

Helping others is the most essential element of the Christian message. The Christian university should help the student translate this principle into developing a sense of service for his or her career. In his influential article Teaching for Justice, Nicholas Wolterstorff reflects on the challenge of helping students develop a social conscience:

If a college is to commit itself to the God of the Bible, it must commit itself, as an academic institution, to serving the cause of justice and peace in the world. If it does not so commit itself, it is serving another God... So Christian teachers can and should discuss among themselves effective and sensitive ways of teaching for justice. They can and should discuss effective ways of opening up their students to the wounds of the world. They can and should discuss effective and sensitive ways of handling the controversies that will arise when they teach for justice.[1]

Father Pedro Arrupe, the superior of the Jesuit order from 1965 to 1983, rededicated his order and its universities to an emphasis on the call to service and social justice: “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others… men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”[2]

Service Learning

Many schools try to develop social sensitivity in its student by offering courses that exposes them to the real needs in the community where they are located. Examples of such courses are Public Service Communications, Engineering Projects in Community Service, Community Garden Outreach, Public Administration Internship. These courses are handled through interested faculty members and administrative offices that procure community partners.

New Samaritans

Jesus went through his life helping and healing others, and for most of us, the primary way in which we exercise our love for others is through our professional work. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, has written extensively on the relation between work and the Christian vocation: "The charity of the gospels has long been identified with that of the good Samaritan, who picks up the victim, bandages him, and gives him such solace as he can... For our generation, love of mankind can have but one meaning, to devote oneself with all one’s energies and all one’s heart to man’s effort."[3] Bernard Cooke applies this specifically to the future graduates of the Christian university:

Our ideal should be to form graduates who have the hallmark of genuine maturity: they are men unafraid of love, faced with the prospect and the need to commit themselves to a life in which love must be exerted on every hand... Love will demand that they make some courageous decisions, decisions which perhaps will not exactly coincide with their own personal selfishness, their own pleasure, or their own secular benefit. That they love this way, however, is a dictate of their Christian vocation. It remains as true in our day as in previous periods of Christianity that the first law of a Christian is a law of love. It is by their love of others, a love which is deep and affective, that they will enter most profoundly into their destiny on earth, redemptive co-working with Christ


That means that our students should be taught what love really means, what are its dynamics. Not only that, they must be presented, in the various academic disciplines which they study, with the insights and the motivations which will lead them to commit themselves to life in generous and responsible love. In the experience of communal live shared in college society, they must be led to discover the love of other people and to respond to this love by their own giving of themselves to the betterment of men's life together.[4]

[1] Nicholas Wolterstorff "Teaching for Justice" in  Making Higher Education Christian (St. Paul, MN: The Christian College Consortium, 1987), 215.

[2] Pedro Arrupe, "Men and Women for Others" (1973) in  Essential Writings, ed. Kevin S. Burke, S.J. (Mariknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2004  (1973), 173, 187.

[3] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “The Sense Of Man” in Toward the Future (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 33.

[4] Bernard J. Cooke, "Jesuit Student Spirituality for Today" in Christian Wisdom and Christian Formation, J. Barry McGannon, S.J. et al, editors (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1964), 231.