Friday, 22 August 2008

What is justice?


Here I cross-post an edited response to an entry in my curate's blog, Communion in Conflict, where he posited these five simple theses on the essence of the Church:
A. Nothing is properly "a justice issue" unless it can be articulated as an essential expression of the mission of Christ, which is the mission of the Church.

B. Likewise, a thing does not contribute to unity if it does not further the mission of the Church.

C. While unity and mission may from time to time be in creative tension, the privileging of one over the other eventually leads to the diminishment of both.

D. Likewise, while unity and justice may from time to time be in creative tension, the privileging of one over the other eventually leads to the diminishment of both.

E. Mission, Unity, and Justice thus form an essential triad in any coherent and integrated ecclesiology. The Church cannot enjoy the fruits of one without attending to the cultivation of the others.
Intriguing concept here, Father. I'm surprised there's no other comments. Does that mean everyone agrees?

I think the last three are the strongest points you have to make. The first two don't seem fully realized, however.

Justice - justice issue. Are they the same? What does it mean to be an 'essential expression of the mission of Christ'? For that matter, is there an agreed upon basis for understanding the mission of Christ? Are all essential expressions of this mission justice issues? If so, does that mean that the mission of Christ is only about seeking justice?

That doesn't hold, I think, as the grace and mercy of God are anything but the just rewards of our labor. So how does justice fit in? Surely, it must play some part. Mustn't the hungry be fed, the poor sheltered, and the oppressed freed? Is that justice or mercy (or both)?

Is it really just that I be ordained or not, or that she be ordained or not, or that he and he be married or not? Maybe. However, it seems like those are really more questions of equality than of justice, properly speaking. However, the kingdom of God is not about equality (though we all are in the eyes of God), but rather the inequity between us and God, about the distance that lies between his goodness and love and the depraved state of mankind. Nor is it about inclusion or exclusion or justice or injustice. No. It is about the great love of God who condescended to take part in his creation as one of us - and about our utter blindness to see his plan for us so that it took the sacrifice of himself in Jesus to break through that darkness.

That seems to be the mission of Christ - to open the eyes of man to the love of God and to be transformed in the experience of knowing it in the person Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for our sake, and who is present for us now in the Sacraments, and who strengthens us with his Spirit as he has through the ages. Any essential expression of that mission, if it be called a justice issue, will stand - thus leading to unity. Anything that stands in its way will fall - thus being a barrier to unity.

Is that too overwrought an approach to justice? It's been made a sensitive word, which is a pity, for a noble concept - but one that frankly doesn't always fit within the Christian worldview. Since we have not been dealt with justly, how then shall we demand justice for others without mercy, grace or love?