Sunday, November 25, 2007

Justice — a missing Quaker testimony?

My ruminations in the silence of this morning’s Quaker meeting left me with unfinished business.

I’ve long agreed with those who assert that peace and justice are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other.

Peace, or course, is among the five Quaker testimonies, but I have been perplexed that justice — so essential to peace — is not among the other four.

So the question that filled my silent meditation was this: What does justice have in common with the other testimonies — simplicity, community, equality and integrity? Are the four adequate to satisfy peace’s requirement for justice?

I decided to search for an answer by pairing each testimony with justice.

Justice — Simplicity
Of the four testimonies, simplicity bears the least obvious connection. I suppose the simpler our desires are, the easier it is to arrive at justice. My guess is that the simpler our lives, the less likely questions of justice even arise.

Justice — Community
This one is like peace. Injustice is antithetical to community. Successful communities are, by definition, just.

Justice — Equality
Written into law is the idea that we are equal under it. We will be judged equally. To the extent we aren’t, there is injustice. Beyond strict legal considerations, we believe in social justice and social equality, which are closely related. No community can be at peace — can in fact be a true community — without social justice and social equality. By social justice and social equality, I DO mean economic justice, but I DO NOT mean economic equality. Economic justice means economic needs are met. In a world of limited resources, economic needs are dictated by the global requirement for simplicity. The maxim “live simply so that others may simply live” is a statement about justice.

Justice — Integrity
Of the five testimonies, I find “integrity” to be the most illusive. In its most basic it means being trust-worthy and fair. Certainly justice must be that. If we can’t trust our system of justice to be fair, if it lacks integrity, all the other values mentioned disintegrate.

Finally, it helps to look at peace’s relationship to justice. As noted, without justice, there can be no peace; without peace, there can be no justice. War is inherently unjust.

Beyond that, the administration of justice should create peace. Establishing and preserving a lasting peace should be built into any just resolution. Likewise, anyone committed to peace and its maintenance, must establish an accepted, durable conception of justice, one that incorporates equality, simplicity, integrity and community.

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Anonymous Terry said...

Do you meab "illusive" (= Illusionary) or "elusive" (= Difficult to define or describe)?

11:53 AM  

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