Do Justice For Beauty
A new era calls for a renewed vision, a new set of lenses through which we can view justice. But first, what does justice look like?
Justice for the Sake of Beauty
When I first moved to DC to intern, I had many preconceived notions of what justice should look like. I lived a couple blocks from the Supreme Court, which has the distinct role of seeing that the Constitution is upheld and that justice is served.
But for the most part, I viewed justice strictly in regards to criminal law. Justice seemed cruel, harsh. I’d watch Criminal Minds as law enforcement teams would delve into the thoughts of those guilty of heinous crimes. I wanted the criminal to get what he deserved. I’d feel satisfaction that the perpetrator was being sentenced for his crime at the end of each episode, receiving his “due justice.”
Micah 6:8 evokes Christians “to do justice.” But I’m not a judge. I’m not even a lawyer. Doing justice is something I had never allowed myself to explore before. Not until I read what Timothy Keller had to say about it.
Of course I’d heard of social justice. But, to me, it was a political buzzword. Something both sides of the aisle tossed around in an effort to win elections.
So what is my role in justice?
Where does doing justice fit into the Kingdom?
The rest of this journal entry covers revelations I had about justice while reading— and thinking through—Keller’s words.
As we look ahead to the Kingdom, we’re called to work through grace to bring healing to our broken political systems, weak communities, and destitute neighbors.
Doing justice must be done for beauty’s sake. Not for fame, fortune, or personal gain. It’s the beauty of God’s grace that brings about justice to give him honor and glory.
How exactly should justice or “doing justice” be defined? According to Timothy Keller in his book Generous Justice, “To ‘do justice’ means to live in a way that generates a strong community where human beings can flourish” (177). His definition gave me a broader perspective of justice that I had never explored before.
Justice for the Kingdom in the Workplace
I’ve found that, in the workplace, in order to reach any objective, or to maintain cohesiveness, coworkers must lay aside differences — differences in personality, bias, preference — and must ultimately lay aside individual pride to achieve a unified purpose. Striving for unity in purpose in the workplace plays a crucial role in the pursuit of justice.
Working for a nonprofit political organization, I’ve had to choose to set aside partisan opinions in the workplace and to think objectively about policy and political rhetoric. Some of my coworkers may be economically conservative, and some may be socially conservative—but all of us are working toward the same goal of spreading conservatism in some capacity.
I’ve realized that if it’s possible to set aside differences to achieve our purpose in the workplace, then it’s much more possible that I can set aside differences for the sake of doing justice for beauty and, ultimately, doing justice for the Kingdom. This does not mean remaining neutral, but neither does it mean to be “strident and condemning in language or attitude” (169).
Justice in Political Communication
Keller persuades me to avoid marginalizing opponents, in Washington, DC, in my workplace, in coffee shop discussions, but rather to “change the climate of discourse.” He continues, “Christians can be an important part of changing this climate from one of yelling ‘injustice!’ to one of talking and seeking justice together” (168). Communication plays such an integral part in politics; but when we choose to speak words of healing, write with beauty, and converse humbly, we begin to pursue a path of justice—even in such a divisive political climate as the one in which we are currently working.
Healing will only come through a unified vision for justice. Keller references Charles Marsh at the University of Virginia to prove this through the example of the Civil Rights Movement:
The Civil Rights Movement lost its “unifying spiritual vision” – its belief that social reform could come through grassroots, local communities of faith. The movement came to rely completely on politics and government” (116).
Keller notes the failure of total reliance on the political system. The total healing of social justice will come only from the inside out.
Justice for “the Least of These”
Consider Christ’s words in Matthew 25:35-40 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Healing is not ultimately the role of the government nor is it on the agenda for a political party – it is the purpose of the Church, of those within his Kingdom. Healing should flow through the body of Christ. But our day-to-day work in politics must not contradict our faith. When the body of Christ realizes its purpose to do justice for beauty, healing can spread through political parties, government entities, and local communities.
Autumn Campbell is a training coordinator in the field of political communication for a Washington, DC area nonprofit.
Weekly Action Item:
I have a friend seeking asylum in the United States. This week I’ll be mentoring her in several ways: helping her find a job, helping her draft an effective cover letter and email, and taking the time to have her over to talk and to pray. Seek out one way to “do justice” this week, whether it is helping out a needy neighbor or family in your church, serving in a soup kitchen, or mentoring. Find “the least of these” and “do justice.”
Liberatus is a weekly journal about bringing Truth and Beauty to American politics, written by people on the inside. You can join the adventure by applying to write, subscribing to the journal, or by contributing monthly.
Journal Entry #101