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FAVORITE THINGS
Justice
Where Love and Truth Converge.

by Everett Wilson
September 9, 2006

I'm not sure whether an abstraction like "Justice" can be a favorite thing or not, but in this column I get to call it. 

Justice wasn't a favorite thing until I got a handle on it about a dozen years ago. I had gotten weary of the subject because it had become a buzzword in theology and politics, two subjects I know something about. It no longer stood alone, but appeared to need a modifier: criminal justice.  racial justice, social justice, gender justice, even "poetic" justice. The modifiers confused rather than clarified, and made it appear as though the modifier affected the definition of  justice.  Justice in race relations, for example,  was of a different order than justice  in a criminal court or   a marriage. 

Justice  presented in this modified way usually includes an agenda for applying a modified version of  justice. Compassion and justice  thus become muddled, as in the inexact conclusion  of the  "situation ethics" of forty years ago: "Love and justice are the same thing."  

When I read the agendas presented, I might agree with their provisions on grounds of policy or preference, but not of justice. 

Those bringing  the issue forth  in this form do not seem to be as interested in establishing justice as they are in Making Their Case. The impassioned prose in which the agendas are presented   suggests that all  right-thinking people   agree with the case presented.   I know something about this because recently   I was on both the mailing list of the ACLU and of Focus on the Family!   Seldom, if ever, am I asked to discern the truth and be moved thereby to action in these mailings. Usually I am asked  to sign a statement and send  money.

I am for free speech, obviously, because this column and journal are expressions of it. I do not want those who pester me to be silenced by anybody. I am  but expressing the pious hope that  people would understand justice before they start demanding their own modified version of it. 

In the place of these modified versions,  I present to you a modest definition and  defense of justice as the convergence of love and truth, no matter what the occasion. When I say that justice is a favorite thing, it's this convergence I am talking about. 

Modifiers do no more than state the occasion for justice. They cannot define the nature of justice itself which, as a cardinal virtue,  stands unmodified.

It complements nothing and can be modified by nothing, but it is not created out of nothing. It is the convergence of love and truth. Where either love or truth is absent, justice is not present, any more than water is  present when either hydrogen or oxygen is absent.

"Convergence" may be a metaphor in this definition, but love and truth are not. 

This is not a technical philosophical statement, but the straightforward observation that without truth nobody knows what is going on, and without love no one cares! In this usage, love is as disinterested as truth, because it accompanies truth in the cause of justice; if love is prompted to lie, or even bend the truth toward a predetermined outcome, love and truth no longer converge and justice is impossible. Equally in this usage, as truth affirms justice as an abstraction, so love opposes injustice as experienced by its victims. 

If you have read this all the way to the end,  thank you!   



About the Author:
Everett Wilson will be attending a scholar's symposium on justice at the end of September, not as a presenter but as a member of the limited audience.


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