April 6, 2016
Often, while marching in Ferguson, we chanted “No Justice, no Peace.” I thought to myself as I chanted, “Know Justice, know Peace.” However, during a lull in the chanting, I asked a young man next to me, “What do you think ‘justice’ is?” He replied without hesitation, “Put that murderer away.”
Last month, on the Books and Culture website, Tim Stafford posted an essay titled, “Why Justice Divides Us; And how it can unite us.” You can Find it here. (Tim Stafford is a self-avowed Evangelical Christian, an author and the general editor of a recent publication, God’s Justice: The Holy Bible (Zondervan).)
In his essay, he notes how most people contrast justice with mercy, and associate justice merely with laws, and punishment for breaking laws. He notes the obvious parallel between how Christians often see the “Law” of the Old Testament and the “Grace” of the New Testament. But, Stafford argues, that ultimately, Biblical justice “Is not the application of a static body of law, but a foundational component in the great story of God setting right the creation he loves.” In fact, he emphasizes that the Biblical view of justice contains and incorporates Grace and Mercy.
He writes: “The gospel is not just about personal transformation. The good news is that God is setting right everything: individuals and society, nations and nature. If the gospel is strictly about sin and atonement in the individual’s heart, “your God is too small.”” I have met many people, even Unitarian Universalists, who’s God is too small.
Many people in UU congregations struggle with what appears as an absence of a clear and unifying theology, because we have no creed. In fact, we have a robust theology (defined as “a way of speaking about the holiest and trusted source of all that is good and right in our lives”), and it centers on a Beloved Community of Ultimate Justice.
Our theology shows up in what we do and value. For example, we are often very proud of being among the first, in this country, to speak out against slavery, to ordain women, and to affirm gay and lesbian marriages. We feel energized by action on climate change, or engagement with immigration reform, or demands that our political system treat the most vulnerable and poor with a fair and generous hand. These examples show what we think is of greatest worth and that the heart of our faith is a vision of Ultimate Justice (what Stafford calls “God’s Justice”). This vision draws from all our religious sources, Biblical, and Humanistic. Thus, it is an act of worship for us to chant “Know justice, know peace” if we remember that Justice is an integration of radical mercy, kindness and reconciliation into the application of the Law.