Quizzing Nurturing Justice

Why should justice require nurture?

Fair enough question! Sooner or later, Nurturing Justice is going to have to answer that. And straight away another question comes to mind:

Does not nurture require justice?

We have blended two terms together to give a name to our web-site’s political broadsheet. In doing so, we give voice to our conviction that the meaning of both terms is deepened when we place them side by side in this new blended concept.

Our broadsheet’s name indicates our intention to make a Christian political contribution. That means it is intended to develop a Biblically-directed understanding of both nurture and justice. We intend to nurture a distinct understanding of justice. And at the same time we want to do justice, and thereby nurture a sense of due respect, to the complex array of responsibilities that are part of our human nurturing activity.

We therefore are reminding ourselves that for this broadsheet to promote justice justly we must give due respect to its nature. We see it as a means for nurturing justice. But political broadsheets have their limitations.

Still, it is wholly appropriate to bring these two terms – justice and nurture – together. The two questions we have posited give us a platform from which to nurture justice. They also suggest that our human responsibility to ascribe due respect to all the diverse sides of our nurturing, must also include our political tasks.

Of course, even if we have defined our broadsheet’s task “in a nutshell”, we cannot say that specific political discussion about how justice is to be nurtured so very far advanced at this point.

To complete this discussion, let us see if we can provide some kind of preliminary answers to the two questions we have posited, by considering them in political terms, in terms of what is needed for public governance.

     Why should justice require nurture?

When a government administers justice then we should expect that it is nurturing respect for itself from within its political community. The nurturing of justice by government is its normative task. This is governance. Of course we also know that governments fail to deliver justice, that governments often bring widespread disillusionment and disrespect to their office by unjust policies, by failing to address injustices. For a government to fail to address injustice is to perpetuate injustice and may even prepare the ground for future injustices. What a Government does by its action or by its refusal to act is never neutral with respect to justice.

Justice is nurtured by government by the just administration of laws, by ensuring equitable public justice for all, by extending true and equitable respect to the diverse institutions, associations and relationships that constitute the life of all within the political community, That is the way in which a government nurtures justice, the way in which a government should govern. But justice does not arise automatically. Justice requires wise judgment, and wise judgement requires insightful counsel. If government treats those governed with disrespect, by unwise restrictions or changes via some or other policy, it is nurturing disrespect and fomenting injustice and then there is only one way in which a government can win back that respect – there must be redress for injustice and any retribution must include the revocation of unjust policy, an implementation of just policy,  and a renewed effort to nurture justice throughout its administration and among the citizens.

A government administration of public justice, the governing of a political community, cannot get very far if those doing the governing, as well as those being governed, have not been nurtured to respect the task of government and all the other God-given responsibilities that coincide with and exist alongside our citizenship. This respect has to be nurtured in families, from parents to children, from older children to younger children; in schools, from teachers to students; and in the community in the various associations that flourish in social life from sporting clubs, social action collectives and church groups.

Such nurturing of a sense of justice goes on from one generation to the next; it is an implicit part of our cultural vocation to nurture a new generation by nurturing respect for all the responsibilities that are inherent in all the complex tasks we, and they, have inherited. One of those tasks pertains to our membership in the political community, to our citizenship. Public governance, as we receive it today, has taken hundreds, even thousands, of years to emerge in its current form. We inherit responsibilities for our own political communities in which we live as citizens.

Whether we like it or not, we are accountable for political nurturing of a sense of justice that prevails in our own national political community. We are also responsible for the the political communities of our neighbours in the region. The political side of our human responsibility, given by God, is nothing less than a public task of loving our neighbours with public justice. And this means that those with governing responsibilities in our kind of political communities are very much dependent upon how the citizenry has been nurtured to respect the task of forming the administration of public justice.

Likewise those with political responsibilities for nurturing international governance are very much dependent upon the way a respect for national and international justice has been nurtured across the globe in its many political communities. That suffices for the moment to suggest an answer to the first question. So what about the second question:

Does not nurture require justice?

Of course, families, schools and churches make their distinct but indispensable contribution to our lives. In a variety ways these make possible the nurturing of a many-sided sense of public justice in the political community and in particular among those who will be its future citizens and government office-bearers.

Above, I used the phrase “a many-sided sense of public justice”. This highlights the fact that the respect that is generated from within these non-state memberships for the nurturing of public justice by government, enables those involved to also respect the distinctive characteristics of these different kinds of memberships. And while family life is in need of the administration of public justice to support parents from unfair employment that restricts their abilities to participate in family life, so also public governance has an application when nurturing authority within the family breaks down and children are put at risk by parental injustice.

We could develop this line of thinking and will do so subsequently; suffice to say here: there is an inner connection between the nurturing respect for public governance by non-state institutions and associations and the public respect that is actually accorded to these non-state relationships by the laws and the policies that implement these by the state authority. For the state to uphold public justice in its laws and in its administration it will have to continue nurture public respect for the lawful authority in non-state institutions, associations and relationships.

And this is all the more reason why marriages, families, schools and churches and any other associations and organisations that contribute to political life should command due respect in legislation, administration and public policy.

Nurturing Justice makes its contribution to political life recognising that our political community requires ongoing political education.

We shall have to explore why the dominant political parties in western liberal democracies have, despite public funding for election campaigns, divested themselves of this educative task so central to a healthy parliamentary democracy. One major party after another have forsaken political education for public relations stunts. Instead of giving themselves to the task of explaining the current legislative framework in which their own policies and the policies of their political opponents make sense, they have replaced any responsibility for civic political education with manipulative schemes and advertisements that are aimed at massaging public opinion. We are inundated by polls, unsolicited phone surveys, reports of Twitter or Facebook “likes”, the policies suggested by focus groups and utterly superficial material that highlight the dangers and failures of opponents. Winning elections and seeking to manage trends revealed by public opinion polls dominate the agendas of all major parties. Any attempt to nurture a comprehensive sense of public justice in the electorate, among voters to whom their parliamentary members are accountable, has been aborted. Winning elections and keeping their party united prevails as the sine qua non of party politics over these more basic civic needs. And so it has become very difficult to hold elected members of Parliament accountable in terms of what was set out in an election manifesto. And we all suffer as a result.

So, can Nurturing Justice fulfil a useful servant role to promote public justice? As a small endeavour it will have to do justice to its own journalistic nature as it seeks to nurture an understanding of the implications of justice in all the details of public law and policy here in Australia, across the region, and elsewhere in the world today. In taking up this work, we need reminding that God is indeed patient even as there is always much work to be done until Christ returns.

Saturday September 26th 2015

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