Nicholas Wolterstorff is senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Virginia and author of Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton University Press).
Most of us are aware of North American–based Christian organizations doing relief and development work in various parts of the so-called Third World, World Vision being the largest and perhaps the best known. Some of us are aware of North American–based Christian organizations dealing with one or another form of injustice in the Third World, International Justice Mission being the largest of these.The Honduras-based Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (Association for a More Just Society) is different. ASJ is indigenous to Honduras. It has chosen not to do relief and development work but to engage in the struggle against injustice, and it has crafted its struggle against injustice to fit the particulars of Honduran society—particulars that are very different from those of North American society. In particular, it has developed a distinct understanding of the task of the state in bettering the lives of the poor and of its own role as both a critic and an advocate of the state.
The poverty in the immigrant Dutch Reformed community where I grew up was not grinding poverty, but almost all families were poor. It was egalitarian; people were treated alike. Had there been any wealth to be displayed, the community would have firmly disapproved of such a display. Much later I learned about Max Weber’s thesis that the origins of capitalism are to be found in the ethos of early Calvinism; the Calvinists, said Weber, regarded financial success as a sign of God’s favor. My father's attitude was the exact opposite. If someone in the community was beginning to accumulate substantial wealth, my father assumed that it was due, not to God’s favor, but to shady dealing.