Monday, 18 May 2009

Justice

In continuing to read Viv Grigg's (1984) book, “Companion to the poor,” he reminded me of the call for justice that is evident in the bible. He draws from Isaiah 42:1 where God chooses and empowers to bring forth justice. This is also a theme that Jesus picks up with respect to his ministry when the talks of the “Spirit of the Lord” empowering him “to preach the gospel to the poor” so that justice might be done (Luke 4:18). Neither Jesus or the prophet, Isaiah, saw this as justice being brought forth in power but rather a gentle bringing forth (Isaiah 42:3). God starts with those who are suffering, building them up, and strengthening.

Reading this material made me think about what justice means in the current economic downturn. Who suffers the most in these circumstances? Some companies are failing but it isn't the managers or executives who suffer most. In many cases, these executives who have borrowed beyond the limits of the company, are still regarded as leaders in the community. Is it really likely that these leaders who brought us into this situation, can claim to lead us out of it? Yes, I am aware of the literature of learning from failure and have used this in my own teaching to help students learn. However, in this situation, the type of thinking that will lead us out of this mess isn't the type of thinking that lead us into this mess.

It isn't just the financial state of the world where this applies. It also applies to “the war on terror.” A recent letter to the editor in the Communications of the ACM highlights the issue (El Moulat 2009, p 9). My concern with “the war on terror” is that those using the terminology assume that the western approach to trade and politics is superior to any other. They don't recognise the injustice caused by western capitalism. This is despite the obvious failure of the current economic practices. A new style of thinking is required that places more emphasis on economic and political justice for all.

I would like to argue that this should be based on Christian principles but feel that this has supercharged meaning and that these principles have been distorted in the current situation. The prosperity gospel has no place in God's system of justice nor does the gospel of personal salvation at the expense of others. Christians need to rethink their understanding of the gospel in light of goods call for community salvation. Also arguing bluntly from Christian principles ignores the ethical claims of other groups. In making this claim, we need to recognise that capitalism isn't a Christian philosophy although it has built its roots in Christian communities. God's call for justice should make us look to the interests of others ahead of protecting our own stake in this world.

References:

Viv Grigg (1984) Companion to the poor. Sutherland, NSW: An Albatross Book.

Othman El Moulat (2009) What role for Computer Science in the War on Terror? Communications of the ACM 52(4). p 9.

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