Justice is what happens when we display just behavior to others. JUST is defined as what is morally right and fair. Justice is characterized by a genuine respect for all people by seeking equality, being impartial, open-minded, nonjudgmental and nondiscriminatory. Justice has been reached when we have insured that all people have gotten what they deserve. We start with the belief that all people deserve basic human rights.
Our lives are organized under the Constitution and, if you are religious, under God. Micah 6:8 is often quoted as a summary of our obligations to each other:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act JUSTLY and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
In just fifty-two words, the Preamble establishes the purpose of the Constitution:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Through the lens of poverty, four of the five elements in the Preamble relate to justice.
1. establish Justice (create equality for all, in its many forms)
2. insure domestic tranquility (there cannot be peace while there is injustice)
3. promote the general Welfare (not just for some, all)
4. secure the Blessings of Liberty (no one is to be oppressed)
Our culture of individualism, consumerism and competition distort both religious and civil frameworks (voter suppression, money-driven politics, economic inequality, racism, misogyny and bigotry). Vast freedoms for some, but oppression of others is the antithesis of democracy (self-rule by the common people). The Bible and the Constitution have not failed us. We have failed their implementation. The difference between what is and what could be should energize us to eliminate all threats to human dignity and equality.
Imagine that you’ve been given a chance to create the rules for a just society on another planet where you will eventually live. BUT you don’t know what human traits you will have until arrival. You could be Jewish or an atheist. You could have a disability. You could have brown skin. You could be female. In fact, upon arrival you could discover that you are a disabled, poor, black, Muslim woman.
How morally right and fair would you try to make that society? I’m guessing you, like me, would work very hard to make that society just.
A just society requires that all individuals act justly, but it also requires that all man-made institutions be just (government, churches, police, corporations, NGOs). When we act together for the common good, we are working for social justice. Social justice is action that leads to the fair distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.
A New NBC-WSJ Poll indicates that a staggering 63 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track while only 28% believe we are on the right track. Could Americans be saying that all people aren’t getting what they deserve? In these dark times, our activism can help insure that goodness will carry the day and that the better angels of our nature will prevail.