On Justice

The following quotes come from my reading tonight in Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, pp. 217-219. 

But first, a definition:

enlarged thinking” or “double vision” – “Moral judgment, [Hannah Arendt] insists, ‘cannot function in strict isolation or solitude; it needs the presence of others “in whose place” it must think, whose perspective it must take into consideration’ (Arendt 1968, 221)” (Volf, 212).

“…we enlarge our thinking by letting the voices and perspectives of others, especially those with whom we may be in conflict, resonate within ourselves, from their perspective, and if needed, readjust our perspectives as we take into account their perspectives” (Volf, 213).

Now, on to the good stuff (again, from Volf, 217-219; italics are original, bold is my added emphasis):

“Is not ‘enlarged thinking’ good for the suburbs, but dangerous in the inner cities and on the killing fields? Will it not draw laughter from tyrants and sighs of despair from their victims? As we stumble toward agreement, injustice runs rampant!

“…the human ability to agree on injustice will never catch up with the human propensity to do injustice. We must therefore not only make judgments before agreement is reached — something we in fact inescapably do (Nietzsche 1996, 32); we must also act in accordance with these judgments. The Scriptures uniformly call us not so much to reflect on justice as to do justice.”

“…To know God is to do justice (Gutiérrez 1988, 194ff.). Consequently, reflection about justice must serve doing justice. If ‘double vision’ has a legitimate place in Christian life, then it will not be something we do before engaging in the struggle against injustice, but as we engage in this struggle.”

“…the problem is no longer how we can afford to go on reversing perspectives, but how we can afford not to do so. The principle cannot be denied: the fiercer the struggle against the injustice you suffer, the blinder you will be to the injustice you inflict.”

“…Is neutrality the proper stance, however? For those who stand in the prophetic and apostolic traditions of the Scriptures, no neutrality is in fact admissible. These people hear the groans of the suffering, take a stance, and act. Then they reflect by engaging in ‘double vision,’ take a stance again, and act.

I can’t begin to describe how relevant the quotes above are to my experiences this past year at Cedarville University. Untold numbers of debates about justice sprouted everywhere from the cafeteria, to the dorm rooms, to the Facebook pages. Sadly, most of the cries for something resembling “double vision” came from those who refused to speak up or act.

What about you? Do you have a concrete example that resonates with Volf’s quotes above? Do you find his vision, as represented in the quotes above, compelling? Foolhardy? 

Give feedback in the comments.

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