Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Look. Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane.  It’s Superman! Who fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.

Everything seemed so simple back in the 1950’s.  All the shows, movies, and books had a similar theme.  There were good guys and bad guys, and it was easy to tell which side was which.  There was a constant struggle between good and evil, but thankfully, good always won out in the end.

Truth and justice prevailed.  That was the American way … one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.  Sadly, I’m not sure that is still our way.  In fact, I know it is not.  All you have to do is read whatever you consider to be the news each day to find numerous examples of lies being passed off as truth, and injustice posing as righteousness.

Most troubling, the public is divided about who the good and bad guys are.  We are overwhelmed with messaging telling us who and what to believe.  Everybody thinks they are right and that they are on the side of truth and justice.  But the ideological divisions are so vastly different that many are obviously wrong, maybe most.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  (Matthew 7:13)

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.  (Mark Twain)

What are we to believe?  Who are we to believe?  We are told the “fact checkers” make sure we are seeing the truth.  I’ve personally found they are much less accurate than those predicting the weather.  Unfortunately it’s up to each of us to dig deep for the truth.  But who has the time or energy required?

I often wish I could go back to my youthful days of ignorance and bliss; where truth, justice, and the good guys always won.  When it seemed easy to spot good and evil.  When our leaders could be trusted to do what was in the best interests of we the people.  But alas, growing up and experiencing life makes it all too clear that is not the case.  But there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

The topic for the week is Justice.  I really thought this would be a fairly straightforward article to write.  I envisioned it including the following points:

  • Justice is ensuring that all people are treated equally in accordance with the law, both God’s laws and those of the society.
  • Observe the greatest commandments, love God and neighbors (Matthew 22:35–40), and justice will be served.
  • Obey the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and live virtuously to show your love for God.
  • Follow the golden rule, do to others whatever you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12) in order to show your love for neighbors.
  • Justice for all will be the result of adhering to the above.

Simple, right?  Trouble is, as I went about conducting my research into the topic of justice, it quickly became much more challenging and confusing.  Finding a consistent definition was impossible.  How could defining a term that has been around since the beginning of time be so problematic?

It appears to me from all that I’ve read that we want justice to be whatever we individually want it to be.  I don’t exactly know who “we” is, but there are a lot of them.  These times of moral relativism have led us away from truth being truth, and justice being justice in the same way for us all.  Pretty convenient, but contrary to ensuring we are all treated equally and justly.

Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to individual choice. We all decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me.  That makes life so much easier.  Do as you please, believe it’s right, never a need for guilt or regret.

Knowing the concept of relativism helped me to understand why there are so many widely varying definitions of justice.  Most interesting were all the adjectives commonly placed in front of the word justice.  Words like social, economic, environmental, and racial to mention a few.

Social justice is such a common phrase that I assumed it at least was consistently defined.  The Catholic church has an entire section devoted to it in their Catechism which is a good read (CCC 1928-48).  But again, in researching many sources the definition ranged from ensuring that all members of society be treated equally, to demanding that all members actually be equal.

When confused, I always turn to The Bible as the source of truth.  So I searched my online bible for the term “social justice” to understand what it really is.  To my surprise, the search returned no results; zero, none, nada, not one.

Upon further reflection that makes complete sense.  Justice is justice.  What is just is just.  Justice is blind, why does it need a qualifier?  Adding a clarifying descriptor preceding justice is not necessary.  In fact, based on the highly variable definitions of those many types of justice frequently referenced, there is a high likelihood of subverting or perverting justice, favoring one person over another.  Where is the equality in that?

You must not distort justice: you shall not show partiality.  (Deuteronomy 16:19)

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbor justly.  (Leviticus 19:15)

Breaking the law is breaking the law, right?  If one harms another in some way, is it excusable for some social, economic, environmental, or racial reason? Where is the justice if the perpetrator is not held accountable?  Doesn’t the perpetrator learn from justice?  Doesn’t the victim deserve justice?  Maybe other factors should be taken into account in determining the appropriate punishment, but not in dispensing justice.

I wonder if we are confusing justice with fairness.  They can be two very different things.  Justice is objective and deals with universal principles and natural laws that do not change and apply equally to all people, all societies, everywhere and at all times.

Fairness is concerned with popular sentiment and is subject to change between societies and times.  It is a subjective and biased assertion based on individual opinion.  It is concerned with what ought to be, as opposed to what is.  Fairness seems to be whatever you want it to be.

Of course, life is not fair.  It never will be.  We all learned that at a young age.  We didn’t want to believe it then, and we don’t want to believe it now.  Life can be just, but it can’t be fair.

For the Lord is a God of justice.  (Isiah 30:18)

What about fairness in The Bible?  A quick search returned 5 references to fairness, each verse also containing the word justice.  A search for the word justice provided 238 results.

What does God think is fair?  Maybe that He gave us all life.  He gave us all special talents.  He gave us parents to show us the way.  He gave us natural interests and unique abilities.  He gave us rules to live by and a conscience.  Then He gave us free will.  The rest is up to us.

Interestingly He did not give us all the same talents and abilities.  What a boring place this world would be if we were all the same.  No, He made us all different to make it interesting.  More importantly, He made us different so we would need each other.  So we would naturally work together to help each other out.  And by doing so we would make the world the place it was meant to be; Heaven.

Here’s my conclusion.  Justice is up to each of us.  Our individual actions produce justice or a lack thereof.  We are the Supermen and women in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way.  And that way is by working every day to be our best self for the benefit of others.  By actively striving to be the saints we are all meant to become.

Your challenge for the week. Since it’s back to school week in my neighborhood, how about we all take ourselves back to school on the topic of Justice?  You’ve read my thoughts.  Do your own research to develop your own understanding of what it means, what it doesn’t, and most importantly, what you are going to do about it.

Next week we’ll delve into The Works of Mercy to remind ourselves about what we can each do in order to promote justice in our own communities.

Justice!  Scott

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