We here at GiN have been focused a lot on the City’s handling of the Occupy Lincoln issue, first and foremost because of the need for justice – the need for justice for all. Since it’s Sunday, a day of rest and reflection seems appropriate. In considering what I might share here, I wondered what a few “tried and true” sources might have to say on the subject.
But before citing any of those sources, I must point to a recent article by Linda, which is on the same subject, only with slightly different approaches. If you haven’t read “Is It Heartless or Just Lawless? Right and Wrong in a Whatever World”, yet, then I highly recommend it to everyone.
Regarding my consultation of sources on the subject, I’m sure those much better studied, better versed, more wise, and more prayerful could find better examples from one of them in particular, for sure, but when I found a reference to justice in the Book of Job, it seemed fitting to me. Job, of course, endured many trials. It seemed fitting to me because I have the sense that people of rational sense feel like they understand Job’s plight too often today – at least from the perspective of the assault on rational reasoning. Obviously, a sense that one has some understanding of Job’s trials does not mean that any of us are enduring anything resembling them.
“1 Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
2 How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?
3 Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
4 If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
5 If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
6 If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
7 Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.
8 For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:
9 (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
10 Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?
11 Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?
12 Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.
13 So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish:
14 Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web.
15 He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.
16 He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.
17 His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.
18 If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.
19 Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.
20 Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:
21 Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
22 They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.”
Job 8 seems intended to remind and reassure about ultimate justice from a just God.
It made me think of a particular song: (Email subscribers, click HERE.)
But what is justice and can it only be found the hereafter?
The Wikipedia article on the subject begins, thus:
“Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.“
In both the ancient philosophy of Aristotle and Christianity, justice is considered a virtue. Here is one definition from Christianity of justice as a virtue:
“Justice is here taken in its ordinary and proper sense to signify the most important of the cardinal virtues. It is a moral quality or habit which perfects the will and inclines it to render to each and to all what belongs to them.”
Aristotle’s articulations about justice take into account a need for the interwoven relationships of specific virtues in the pursuit of generally virtuous behavior . Further, he articulated differences between theory – justice employed under ideal conditions (general) – and application in the real world (particular). Aristotle’s articulation of justice is often associated with the concept embodied in the image of Lady Justice, blindfolded, because his “real world” (practical) application theory noted the requirement of impartiality. Of course this icon of justice pre-dates Arisotle in the form of the Greek Titan Goddess Themis (also known in Roman mythology as Justia).
But what of our government and justice? A statue of Lady Justice, is of course, featured at the entry area to the steps of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The building also bears the inscription, “Equal Justice For All” over the main entrance.
The first President, George Washington, wrote of justice this way:
“Impressed with a conviction that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government, I have considered the first arrangement of the Judicial department as essential to the happiness of our Country, and to the stability of its political system; hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound the law, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.”
And in Federalist No. 51, James Madison wrote:
“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradnally [sic] induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.”
A word about the “majority” and the “minority”. I have no statistics or figures on the relative political sentiments within the City of Lincoln, but if the composition of our local government would be considered any indicator, it would seem that advocates of Constitutional, limited government, fiscal and social conservatism comprise a minority in this city. I alluded to that in a recent article about the Occupy Lincoln issue in noting amazement about one Occupier’s statements that she believed the tipi now in place on the Centennial Mall is a symbol of oppression (for the first peoples in America and now the Occupiers themselves, presumably). I was amazed because, I noted, the group is anything but oppressed. I concluded my thoughts on the topic by noting that the tipi is a symbol of oppression, yes, indeed, but not in the way the member of the Occupy group believes.
For many years, it is now evident, an entire system of laws (ordinances) governing the convening of events on public property (parks and otherwise) have been applied to citizens. Those laws, by the City Attorney’s own admission, are not in pursuance of the Constitution, yet no action was taken to correct these flaws. Further, much evidence exists that the law has not been administered or applied equally to all citizens. And now, the law has been thrown out.
Sadly, we are witnessing injustice in Lincoln.
And, that, ladies and gentleman, in considering first, our system of government under the Constitution, as articulated by just two of the men who were central to its formation, is the reason we’ve been focused on the subject. The articulations about justice from both Washington and Madison, could be joined in together as follows, I think:
“The due administration of justice is the most firm pillar and the first end of government and civil society”
My ponderings bring me to this conclusion…
Justice has long been prized as a virtue in individuals throughout the history of western civilization and by its core ethical systems, including that of Christianity. The administration of due justice is vital to the health of a society and the first object of the American system.
Any government that fails in its primary functions, and indeed, reverses its power to perpetrate the opposite on its citizens, tears away at the fabric of civil society, violates the natural and actual law, and undermines its own legitimacy.
We leave the many troubling questions such ideas bring, however, for another day. For the moment, we ask ourselves, to whom shall we go? When we do not find justice in the world of men, there is a higher “court” to which we can appeal, not only for comfort, but for intercession. It is possible that we may not see justice before us, in the immediate term, but it will ultimately and perfectly be carried out by a power much higher than mere men.
And of course, the ultimate conclusion is, for me at least, that God is the only perfect being; He is good, He is great…
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