If We Want Justice, We Must Build It, Together

“Charity is commendable; everyone should be charitable. But justice aims to create a social order in which, if individuals choose not to be charitable, people still don’t go hungry, unschooled or sick without care. Charity depends on the vicissitudes of whim and personal wealth; justice depends on commitment instead of circumstance.”  ~ Bill Moyers

Unitarian Universalism is dedicated to a world that is just, compassionate, and equitable. Humanity has never once accidentally stumbled into Justice; Justice requires planning, consideration, constant adjustment. Justice depends on a system that is rooted in equity and compassion for every person under its care.

People fight their whole lives to see the world become more just. It requires that they build movements and organizations to pool resources to do the work better. They knew that if we want that world, we must create it and, if we want it to last, we must do it in a way that is bigger than any of us.

Unitarian Universalist theologian James Luther Adams put it this way:

The decisive forms of goodness in society are institutional forms. No one can properly put faith in merely individual virtue, even though that is a prerequisite for societal virtues. The faith of the liberal must express itself in societal forms, in the forms of education, in economic and social organization, in political organization.”

Individual virtue dies with the individual. No one person is worthy of ultimate trust. If we want justice, we must create systems that enact it, and systems to watch those. Every voice must be heard. Every solution must be examined for unintended consequence.

“The triumph of anything is a matter of organization” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

This is how the world does better, year by year; we let people specialize (or not) as suits their skills and we make the most of what resources are available by putting them to use in effective ways. This is what it means to be a liberal; to acknowledge the limitations of the individual and rise above them as a group to do the greatest good possible. Liberal religion is no different.

We pool our talents and resources for mutual benefit and bettering the world. Some of us are called to help design or run worship; some to care for our shared facilities and tools; others to give their time to teaching or organizing events. Some have more time, others more money, and some have special skills or talents that support the mission. Working together, we build on the foundation left to us by centuries of heretics, philosophers, and liberal theologians. That legacy demands that we continue building up organizations to more effectively create good in this world.

The decisive forms of good come from such organizations; educating, healing, nurturing, and crafting laws and policies that help people be their best. We cannot leave such things to the whims of charity or the uncertainty of fate; justice depends on commitment.

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