Sunday, October 16, 2005

Justice In Other Words

I recently shared with my men's group that I am at least a bit afraid of justice. I am not talking about getting pulled over, but more about how, according to scripture, we are supposed to live justly, and what it means if we fail to do so. Our conversaion, and my apprehension, do not completely leave the stage when I need to read for class. (I am studying to be a counselor.) Three things have surfaced recently in my reading/thinking/talking.
The first comes from a book by Michael White called Reauthoring Our Lives: Interviews and Essays. White is a family therapist in Adelaide, South Australia, who has serious concerns about how therapy can perpetuate cultural norms and stereotypes in destructive ways. Here is the exchange that struck me:

[Interviewer]: Can you say a little about the work in the Aboriginal Counselling Project?
[White]: I don't wish to say much about the specific developments in the project. To say something significant about this would require me to talk at some length about what I have learned about Aboriginal knowledges, and I have not been authorised to do so. As well, so many white people have been given privileged access to information and to life in the Aboriginal community, and have gone on to make success out of this--acknowledgement, honour, degrees, careers, and so on--and have returned nothing. This is a further injustice. Even without participating in this, as a member of the white culture, I know that I have a lot to return, and this weighs on me heavily, as it should. Perhaps the best way that I could respond to your question is to take it back to the Project, and you might get a response.

This is significant because so much of what I read for this degree depicts professionals attempting to sell an approach to counseling that is novel and brilliant, but still grounded in research. Whole books may be an account of why the author should be trusted, and how well this approach works, especially with difficult populations. White seems to deflate that model. He gives an answer that is congruent with his respect for the indigenous culture and his anger that others have sold this culture out. He seems to even take responsibility for others of our race in his answer. It is a wonderful example to me of a therapist backing away from the temptation to be both pertinent as well as omnicient.
A second example is less quoteworthy, but meaningful to me. In a book called The Lasting Promise, the authors (Stanley et al) discuss the issue of justice in a marriage context where trust has been broken. When one spouse has an affair, for example, the scales are put out of balance. One way to balance the scales may be to return the hurt. Another is to dissolve the relationship, to break the contract. Both of these option have obvious problems. For this reason, forgiveness becomes a better means for restoring a relationship. The injuring party works to earn trust back. The injured party works to be able to trust. In a situation that could be destroyed if justice were to be served, forgiveness allows grace to work, and for something creative to occur.
Finally, just to clear everything up, Psalm 85:10 says, "Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness (The Living Bible translates this as "grim justice"!) and peace kiss each other." Let me be content to see these two kissing, to not know where one ends and the other begins.

1 comment:

geoff said...

"In a situation that could be destroyed if justice were to be served, forgiveness allows grace to work, and for something creative to occur."

i love this bit. we make room for love and something more than just "balancing the scales" happens. justice and peace kissing - a stunning hope. i want to be around when justice and peace start gettin' it on :) can you imagine what great kids they will have? thanks ryan.