Have the church, media and academia abdicated their responsibility?
I think that this question deserves no time for reflection, introspection, research, or field work. It requires no analysis. Just go to any place in Africa, any household, any small township, any church, any media house. Listen to any coffee conversation, tiptoe into any academic or lecture hall and ask them what are the issues, the concerns, and immediately it will be apparent to you that in this society there is a great need of someone with some responsibility.
To put it another way, someone has abdicated his responsibility for society.
Look at the mass poverty around us. The Millennium Development Goals should be achieved in 2015. Yet in Sub-Saharan Africa poverty has increased over the last seven years. There has been some improvement here and there, but overall poverty is on the increase. Africa has more orphans today than at any other time. We in the media are publishing child abuse, corruption and bad governance. Some extremely rich people are living side by side with the extremely poor in the same nation. This is a society in dire need of someone to take responsibility.
My key argument is that actually we do need the church, the academia and media, to each play a rightful role in society for there to be wholeness, and when these three entities or institutions are playing their rightful role they will be able to tame a fourth institution -- politics. Then it will be possible to provide opportunity for social progress and development. These four entities are like four poles, and society is the arena on which they play. When there are good checks and balances between the four, then society progresses. This is where we find most of our industrialized countries in the Western world making progress.
When we talk of social responsibility in the Christian context, I cannot but think about creation in its very essence. God created heaven and earth and looked and saw that everything was good, and he created man and woman after his own image (Gen. 1), and he gave them authority over everything he had created. God gave social, economic, political, and physical responsibility to man over all creation, which includes the people who were to come, because he said multiply and increase and fill the earth. Social responsibility is a mandate given by God to man. Now man organizes the society and decides to develop institutions. Each institution has its role to ensure that this mandate is being fulfilled. Whatever society you go to, there are these institutions to ensure that this mandate is fulfilled.
The individual, the community, the state, private and public cooperation have a certain measure of responsibility for the well-being, progress and prosperity of what we call society. You may call it a sense of obligation. This is not legislated. It is part of our DNA. God put it there right from the time of creation that somehow -- even in our most selfish moments, when we realize that the well-being of a neighbor will affect our well-being, we do something about it. Of course there are incentives to enforce legislation.
These days the term social responsibility has been hijacked by business corporations, and most of the big corporations have a department of corporate social responsibility. Publicity is the bottom line. The media cover every activity under corporate social responsibility in order to increase their market share. That is one definition of social responsibility: To increase your market share.