I fear that we Western Christians often confuse our understanding of the world with the biblical writers understanding of the world. In this we are able to morally justify our actions, no matter how wicked, in the name of God. The following is one example of the stark degree to which our conceptions of justice, a key theological category, differs from the biblical writers.
*Note* I’m not convinced all of these are true, but I think most of them are.
1. Western Justice is avowedly impartial, but biblical justice is biased in favor of the poor and critical of the rich
2. WJ believes poverty is caused by the poor, but BJ believes poverty is caused systemically by the powerful
3. WJ accepts poverty as a given, but BJ sees poverty as a product of injustice
4. WJ is abstract (blind folded), but BJ is earthly and sin conscious
5. WJ is reactive, but BJ is proactive
6. WJ is primarily punitive, but BJ is primarily benevolent
7. WJ is individualistic, but BJ is social
8. WJ stresses merit and individual social rights, but BJ stresses need and the social dimension of rights
9. WJ considers property rights to be sacred, but BJ believes in redistributive empowerment of the poor
10. WJ is ecologically insensitive, but BJ stresses stewardship of the earth
11. WJ is conservative, but BJ is revolutionizing, calling for creative systemic corrections
12. WJ is nationalistic, but BJ is universalist and solidaristic
13. WJ is minimalistic, but BJ is effusive
14. WJ seeks to end litigation, but BJ seeks true shalom
15. WJ is pessimistic, but BJ is guardedly hopeful
If only Plato were here, I believe he’d hold a long dialogue with us about what “justice” really is.
Excerpt from Daniel Maguire, The Moral Core of Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.