Tag Archives: plato

What is Just (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks, the George Zimmerman verdict (acquittal) has caught your attention. Commonly, you’ve probably heard (or seen) “It’s not just,” or “Justice failed,” or even “Justice wasn’t served.” You’ve probably also heard people counter that justice, by definition, was served in this case. This led me to wonder what, exactly, justice means.

  • Dictionary: According to Mirriam-Webster online, justice is, “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments,” and, “the administration of law; especially: the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity.” Related definitions include, “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair; the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action; conformity to this principle or ideal (righteousness),” and, “the quality of conforming to law.”
  • Philosophy: According to Wikipedia, the philosophical concept of justice is, “Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness, as well as the administration of the law, taking into account the inalienable and inborn rights of all human beings and citizens, the right of all people and individuals to equal protection before the law of their civil rights, without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, or other characteristics, and is further regarded as being inclusive of social justice.” Both Plato and Aristotle see justice as harmony, both in and between the individual and as a quality of the state. Locke, on the other hand, sees justice as an inherent quality of the universe similar to the laws of physics. By implication, law is an attempt by humanity to quantify that which God wrote into the fabric of creation.
  • Virtue: Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues, and is the proper tension between selfishness and selflessness. In some sense, it is giving to everyone what is due and as such, seems to be the pivotal virtue of the four as one can view the other virtues as expressions of justice.
  • Theology: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, “The original Hebrew and Greek words are the same as those rendered “righteousness.” This is the common rendering, and in about half the cases where we have “just” and “justice” in the King James Version, the American Standard Revised Version has changed to “righteous” and “righteousness.” It must be constantly borne in mind that the two ideas are essentially the same.”

So back to the question: was the George Zimmerman verdict just?

It seems unjust to me that an armed man can chase a boy for several minutes and then shoot that same boy while claiming no culpability in that boy’s death. Zimmerman’s actions appear both reckless and negligent. While Zimmerman may have broken no law (or did not commit murder) as he was charged, it does not remove from him the responsibility for Trayvon’s death. The tragic, and unjust aspect, is that the law supports him in killing Trayvon.

And that is, by definition, injustice.

Comments Off on What is Just (Baby Don’t Hurt Me)

Filed under Justice, Theology

On Bombings and Burials, Part 2

Last time, I wrote about the imago dei as a reason for Christians to step up and help bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At the time of this writing, it appears that someone else had the same idea. That said, let me put forth another reason as to why Christians (and the United States) needs to step up and bury Tsarnaev. First, a few questions:

  1. Do you believe the government acted rightly in attempting to arrest, and ultimately killing, Tsarnaev?
  2. Do you believe, assuming his guilt, the crimes Tsarnaev committed justified the actions taken against him? In other words, did he deserve death as a response to bombing the marathon, resisting arrest, and attacking the police?

If you answered ‘yes’ to those questions, then you’ll probably agree that justice was served in this case. We can define justice in many, many ways to define justice. From a legal standpoint, it seems to me that Tsarnaev’s death satisfied the principles of retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, reparation and denunciation in jurisprudence. It did not satisfy rehabilitation. The state’s response created harmony (as in Plato’s Republic), it followed divine command (see the just war theory and Augustine’s argument’s in favor), and is fairly consistent with natural law. By most common measures, Tsarnaev’s death brought justice.

And yet, we still resist the idea of granting his body a final resting place; we reject the idea of his innate human dignity, even in death. A question: if justice occurred, if we truly believed that his punishment fit his crime(s), if he received his just desserts (both here and in the hereafter) then shouldn’t we accept that satisfaction? I suspect that, for all of our lip service, we actually don’t believe that justice was served. If we did, we would respond to him as an image-bearer, not as a ‘monster’, or ‘walking garbage pile’ or ‘human fecal matter’ to use just three of the terms bandied about.

Admittedly, I believe that we will not experience true justice until the eternal state. All things will not be right until the King makes all things right. I also believe that we have a taste of justice in the form of good government and law in this present age—an appetizer for the main course to come. In that light, I believe Christians must cease our insensitive and contradictory vitriol toward criminals who received punishment for their crimes and instead, treat them as if justice has been served. This doesn’t mean a blanket open arms—God forgave Adam and Eve, but He didn’t let them back into the garden—but it does mean we should act according to what we believe.

So, Christian, do you believe that God is just and good? Do you believe that He can and does act through others to enact His will? Do you believe that He will make all things right? If so, then let that belief permeate all you do.

Comments Off on On Bombings and Burials, Part 2

Filed under Justice, Theology