Thursday, April 12, 2007

justice or politics?

I've been thinking lately about justice and politics and church.

Lots of people think that justice is what God is all about--and that God's justice is different (as in, goes a lot farther) than our usual civic vision of justice. God's Justice isn't about punishment fitting a crime, it isn't about being "fair." it's about overturning the world order and letting the last be first, about lifting the needy and bringing down the haughty. It doesn't even seem really like it's bringing the needy up and the haughty down so they're's reversal.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that these people who talk about God's justice are often unwilling to talk about it in any specific way. We can't talk in church about politics, apparently, so talking about justice in relation to current world events (or even neighborhood events) is taboo--making it hard to talk about things like Iraq, Israel/Palestine, homelessness, hunger, refugees....because all of those are political issues. Yes, they are justice issues, but they're controversial political issues too. The fact that the prophets and Jesus talk about these things (and were horribly unpopular, and were often killed for their words), and that they said things like "you government are crap for treating people this way or allowing these things to happen and God is not happy about that" or things like "we need to do something about this"...that fact doesn't seem to matter.

I'm concerned that we talk vaguely (or historically) about justice so much that we risk making the word meaningless by refusing (or being too afraid) to talk about it more specifically. What does justice mean with no context? How can we talk about justice and refuse to talk about refugees or hungry people? How can we talk about justice for all God's people and then refuse to engage political issues?

I'm not saying we should tell people what to think, how to vote, or anything like that. I'm not saying that we can presume to speak for God.
But I am saying that the thought of constantly dancing around the issues because we're afraid to speak the word causes me to pause and wonder what justice really means and how we talk about it in the church.

That's all. Not eloquent (I had something more eloquent in my head on Monday, but before I could write it some other things happened and all those eloquent words left my brain) but it's what I've been thinking about and what I wanted to say. At least basically.

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