Saturday, March 28, 2009

Love & Justice

The other day I had an interesting conversation with a recently fellowshipped UU minister about his experiences with the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee (MFC) and his assessment of this blog. He questioned where "beloved community" was in the MFC process. He wasn't sure that his question belonged in this blog, which he categorized as being "technical."

Well, I'd heard of "beloved community" and knew it was central to the thinking of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. This article from Christian Century provides more information. This Wikipedia article credits the U.S. pragmatist philosopher Charlies Peirce as being the original developer of the concept.

King recognized that his beloved community was not a present reality, but a promised land for which those of good will should strive. It was to be a place of love and justice.

Being brought up Unitarian, the related Christian concept of "kingdom of God" made no sense to me. Hadn't we had enough of kings and kingdoms? Why would God want to be a king?

Seminary taught me that my thinking was anachronistic. There weren't a lot of flourishing democracies in Jesus' neighborhood. The choices were Roman Empire or Jewish monarchy. Under Roman rule, the return of Jewish monarchy looked awfully good.

Jesus was offering up another kingdom. He wasn't comparing kingdoms with dictatorships, republics, and democracies. He was picking rulers.

In the 20th century, humanity gained lots of experience with dictatorships, the modern form of absolute power. Their violence has reminded us of the importance of the rule of law. It helped inspire the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which includes the statement: "It is essential . . . that human rights should be protected by the rule of law."

Now I would be the first to admit that the rule of law does not guarantee justice. As Charles Dickens, whom we sometimes claim as a Unitarian, wrote (cited here at IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) from the 1948 film "Oliver Twist"):

Mr. Brownlow: The law assumes that your wife acts under your direction.
Mr. Bumble: If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass, a idiot! If that's the eye of the law, then the law is a bachelor. And the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience.
While Dickens was making a humorous comment on the state of law and marriage in his time, there is one marriage I hope we all can honor: the marriage of love and justice.

This blog, to quote the 2nd UU principle, is about "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations." Or, to say it more succinctly and specifically, it's about justice and love in ministerial examining.

Law, regulation, and procedure can go frightfully wrong. However, the laws, regulations, and procedures that are promoted in this blog are designed to promote love and justice. While the devil may be in the details, grace too resides there.

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