Jun 4, 2013

Public Justice and the Church

Finally, part 5 of my series on the Truth, Justice, and Pluralism. My final proposition is simply this:

A robust public justice is not fully possible without the Church's faithful work in the world.

We, particularly as legal academics, lawyers, and judges, have a calling in the area of public justice to speak against corruption, to proclaim the truth to those in power, to come to the aid of the oppressed, and to call truth true and lies false. Our call is to live within the system without being of the system-- or hiding behind it, as many of us are prone to do.

Scripture connects justice closely to righteousness, and without a virtuous Church leavening society, public justice is hamstrung. Righteousness undergirds all justice, and to the extent that a society or culture lacks virtue, public justice suffers.

Witness, for example, the shift in the ground for public justice in the United States: as we have moved to bifurcate morality and law, as we have rejected virtue in public life, as we have moved toward consumerism, hedonism, and individualism as ultimate "goods," justice has shifted more and more toward social engineering by the politically powerful. The rule of law gives way to the rule of judicial will. If "justice" is simply enacting the "will of the people," it is not justice, it is power politics.

Because we look to God’s justice in Christ as the model for civil justice, we push our institutions in that direction. Yet it is particularly the Church that can recognize that reformation and redemption are needed across the created order, not only in law and legal institutions. Jesus is King over all of life and creation. So we also teach, proclaim, and give—in every human institution:

We instruct our children
We are faithful to husbands and wives
We care for the sick
We proclaim the truth about oppression and tyranny and justice and peace to the world and to the state
We feed the hungry, we visit the prisoner
We do justice and act mercifully
We forgive as we are forgiven

The active Church in the world encourages public justice and supports and emboldens a just state.

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