The Joy of Justice and the Golden Rule

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 11, 2020

Justice is at heart of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i and First Nations teachings. Graphic by Warren Harbeck from supplied art

A misunderstanding of what I meant by “justice” in last week’s column has prompted me to revisit the subject this week. Some readers thought I was speaking of getting even, “an eye for an eye” sort of thing, but that’s the last thing I mean. As Gandhi so famously said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

No, justice, from my Christian perspective, is about the joy of living the Golden Rule.

You’ll recall that “Justice” was the theme of Cochrane’s 2017 World Religions Conference, sponsored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community of Calgary (see my column for May 11, 2017). In addition to myself, representatives from Judaism, Islam and the Baha’i Faith shared their traditions’ teachings on justice. I’ve reconnected with the other three representatives to get their take on justice in the midst of our current events.

At that time, event organizer Kalim Ahmed, addressing the increase in global tensions then as now, said, “The root cause for the lack of peace is the lack of fairness and justice.”

In view of our current situation, Kalim adds: “The Holy Qur’an says that, ‘Indeed Allah requires you to abide by justice, to treat with grace and to give like the giving of kin to kin.’ Humanity is in dire need of the application of this universal principle. They are expected to learn the art of returning more than the others’ dues; this generosity will benefit people without obligation and become the basis of love, peace and harmony in the society.”

Shaul Osadchey, former Head Rabbi at Calgary’s Beth Tzedec Synagogue, agrees. “One of the foundational principles of Judaism is the embrace of justice as we find in Deuteronomy 16:20: ‘Justice, Justice shall you pursue.’” This is a concept of justice “that does not distinguish it from the values of faith or love.”

To this he adds: “Hillel, the great rabbinic sage of the 1st century, taught, ‘Do not do what you would not want done to you.’ For Judaism, a foundation for moral society had to be built based upon minimum standards of conduct that all persons could observe. From this foundation, individuals could rise to higher levels of respect and eventually to the highest rung of love.

“In light of the global protests regarding George Floyd’s death, justice is a fundamental expression of dignity for every human being regardless of race, gender, creed or ability.”

Judie Bopp, speaking from a Baha’i perspective, noted that “the Baha’i writings state unequivocally that justice is the essential foundation for world peace: ‘Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.’”

Responding to the current scene in the spirit of the Golden Rule, she quotes from the writings of their founder, Baha’u’llah: “O son of man, if thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.”

I’ll conclude with the Canada-specific perspective of a Stoney Nakoda First Nations member from Morley. Former Eagle columnist and currently Team Lead of the Calgary Indigenous Relations Office Dr. Terry Poucette responded to my concern that justice must not be an eye for an eye:

“I really appreciate your emphasis,” she says. Revenge is not the answer, “as it only tends to exacerbate problems. While many are angry and have every reason to be, what the Black Lives Matter protestors want is not revenge, but justice and equality. Only when Canada opens its eyes, faces reality, and works hard at genuine change can all Canadians be filled with the joy of justice.”

So, that’s our collective opinion on the joy of justice and the Golden Rule. May it be so!


© 2020 Warren Harbeck

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