<Previous Edition | Volume 22 Number 2 2005

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Editorial Matters

The evangelical ghetto

Perhaps evangelicals have not been very good at justice. It tends not to feature strongly in their theology, Bible study, theoretical thought and organizational matrix. Many are involved with particular matters of justice, but it is not clear how it is reflected in their worldview. For a century and a half evangelicals have scarcely been strong on the national scene in presenting an understanding of law, justice, penal policy, economic fairness, international justice or legal reform. David McIlroy says later that his study of evangelical views did not even reveal a decent debate, let alone a common understanding. This requires us to ask 'how is it that a dominant biblical theme is sidelined in our biblical response and theology?' David's article, 'Why do evangelicals have nothing to say about justice?' pushes the issue to our attention and gives a number of reasons for this vacuum. He mentions the reaction to the Social Gospel, World Wars and a lack of biblical engagement, especially with the Old Testament, but it is the echo of the silence he pinpoints which stays. It is interesting that many who strongly claim to be biblical can ignore vast tracts of biblical content involving the themes of law, justice and political rule. Texts that focus on rulers and justice can be transmogrified to speak about Anglican ordination. Not quite the same thing. Perhaps we do not realize the extent to which we have been conditioned to ignore this obvious and important content of the Bible. The God who is just from beginning to end, who is the great lawgiver, who weighs nations in the balances and insists through the prophets on addressing the injustices exhibited by rulers and peoples, cannot be corralled into a privatized Christianity.

Yet, it seems that this is what has happened. For some evangelicals the word, 'justice' is, like 'mass' or 'pope', theologically suspect, tainted with liberal overtones. Perhaps, too, the law, prophets and histories of injustice in the Bible slip into the same category, suspect texts much less reliable than Paul. On this view, all that is social and political needs to be sublimated as part of the world which is lost and heading for perdition. Like Bunyan's Pilgrim we run from the city of destruction with our fingers in our ears. This analogy may not be too fanciful, because for a hundred years or more after 1660 nonconformists and evangelicals were forcefully told to keep their noses out of politics and issues of justice, and many of them so did, retreating to inner sanctification as the sole meaning of the gospel. This habit has stayed. Yet the mark of both Jesus and Paul was the way they went to their cities of destruction, Jerusalem and Rome, proclaiming the justice and peace of God.

There was some move from this Restoration withdrawal in the work of Wesley, Wilberforce, Fry, Shaftesbury and others towards the beginning of the nineteenth century. They acted on slavery, labour bondage, family breakdown, education, drink, mental illness and even animal abuse to restore a sense of justice to the nation. Previously, you could be hung for stealing a sheep, but they directed justice away from control by the landowning aristocracy in a God-ward direction. Some recent evangelicals now make this their reference point for action on justice, but they should note how soon this period passed. The heroes of this era produced little biblical or theological reflection - Shaftesbury did not have time to read books - and when the work of the few stopped, other preoccupations took over. Many evangelicals, especially the affluent ones, became absorbed in millennialist debates. For others the difference between High and Low Church was the only issue worth consideration. A retreat from the world reasserted itself and evangelicals moved within a generation from being a major national movement to a retreating ghetto. The concerns with justice in God's world narrowed to the piety of individuals who did not drink, smoke or dance.

During this era the public debate on justice was formed by Liberalism, Socialism, Marxism, Nationalism and Conservatism often with weak or limited Christian input, especially from evangelicals. More than this, Fascism, Communism, and even Democratic Socialism, told evangelicals to go and practise their religion in private and not bother their little heads about politics. And so many of us have done. Under the guise of conservative biblical orthodoxy, sub-doctrinal issues like the ordination of women and the terms of eternal damnation have held sway, while the great scope of biblical revelation is lost. God's sovereignty over all of the nations, the prescriptions of just ways for rulers, economic powers, empires and nations and the world-wide proclamation of God's government of humankind magically disappeared from biblical study and theology. Many evangelicals willingly walked into a theological ghetto where areas like politics, economics, law, sociology and philosophy were not wired up to their doctrinal brains. In Britain, explicit Christian political engagement was inconceivable on the basis of a sacred-secular dualism which, eschewing thought about the subject, forbade Christian political understanding, actions, communal stance and witness. Most of the traditions of evangelicalism put their energy into the ecclesiastical institution with the implicit assumption that the kingdom of God is only expressed in church activities. Of course, really we know this is not true, but the culture has provided the box and we have jumped into it. And so it continued for much of the twentieth century - faith as personal, individualist, out of the public arena, detached from bigger issues of politics, justice and law. This is the way we are conditioned to think. No wonder David McIlroy did not find much evangelical discussion to work on.

Of course, now many of us are out of the ghetto, in part at least. We may, or may not, be ready for public engagement with issues of justice. We may have particular issues of trade justice or international aid where we have a clear vision. Some parties may in part reflect this vision. Rob Saner-Haigh examines New Labour's vision in the light of Catholic Social Thought. We probably espouse issues like abortion or faithful marriage where the dominant culture has ignored our perspectives, because we do not say anything worth listening to. Christians have not fought a coherent political campaign for anything recently, except perhaps international debt forgiveness. We may, or probably do not, see the need for explicit Christian political parties. We may have some awareness of the weaknesses of liberal and relativist conceptions of justice, but do not see this as an issue of faith. We may be involved in prison evangelism or restorative justice. But generally, Christians do not present, or have, a coherent understanding of justice in the political life of contemporary Britain. Perhaps we can remedy that.


The biblical scope of justice

This edition aims to address the full biblical meaning of justice - at least in part. Jesus sees justice as being a weighty matter, and castigates those who retreat from it. (Matt. 23:23) The challenge we are undertaking is most direct to those who claim to be most biblical. Vast tracts of the Old Testament are concerned with law, justice, impartiality, the norms of administering justice, office-holders, exploitation and imperial domination. These are not the context of biblical revelation, but much of its content . God addresses Pharoah, Moses, the judges, David, Rehoboam, Nebuchadnezzar, Ahab and Sennacherib about aspects of the business of justice, not about some other matter. The prophets cannot but be interpreted as those who hold rulers and people to account to obey God's law and to act justly. Yet conservative systematic theologies ignore the theme, as if the Word of God had nothing to say about the state and justice. Those who claim to be 'biblical' have to engage with the thousand or more biblical references where the words, 'law', 'justice' and 'judgment' are grafted both to God's purposes and human affairs, if they are not actually to be unbiblical. These themes are certainly more central to biblical revelation than women's ordination or homosexuality.

Nor are these themes just Old Testament ones. On almost every page of the Gospels an issue of justice is raised by Christ or brought to him. Jesus' titles of Messiah, Son of Man, King of the Jews and Son of David are justice-dealing titles of rule. Easter hinges on a trial. The early Christians then face repeated trials and imprisonment as a result of the stands they take on faith and justice issues. Paul and Silas release a spirit from a slave girl being used to make money and are thrown into prison at Philippi. Paul upsets a corrupt trade at Ephesus and is dragged before the authorities, and much of the rest of Acts concerns the trials which Paul faced as he insisted on working through the full Roman judicial system. This is a justice engaged faith, and it centres on the one who is the judge of the nations, the Christ, the Messiah not just of the Jews, but of all nations.

This edition aims to gather the considerable resources that we have to reinstate this biblical and godly theme to its full scope in Christian theology, subject to our own weaknesses. From the jurisdiction over Cain and Abel to the judgement throne of Revelation, the justice of God rules over human affairs. Justice lies with God among the waywardness of all human groups. It is partly articulated to us in the Mosaic Law. Political rule is formed in Israel within its precepts. The prophets resubmit themselves, their people and the nations to God's ways. The gentle rule of God, proclaimed and self-embodied by Christ, involves radical justice, mercy and restoration. 'Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done' is substantially a prayer for justice. Ron Clements in his contribution shows clearly that biblical justice cannot be apolitical. It is no little task to try to grasp the overarching and penetrating justice of God for human life, but it is to be our sustenance, in Jesus' words - our hungering and thirsting.

Nor is this some introverted, closet task, for it involves taking on the cultural movements which have held sway in this area. Nationalism, State Socialism and Fascism buffeted Christianity in the modernist era, often eclipsing its understanding of justice. Christians have not understood or engaged with the assaults of liberal individualist and rights views of justice, or the deconstruction brought about by neo-liberal consumer capitalism. The philosophy of justice has often been cast in positivist, rationalist or sociological terms. Often will-of-the-people popular democracy is seen as being the last word on the formation of justice, but the people can be wrong. Theories of justice from Islam are now on the world stage, offering expressions of the will of Allah. The public arena is not empty. Yet, rather than merely reacting to these cultural domains, we need to try to view them with the scope of biblical writers, critique their shallow assertions and see them in a bigger map. We are required to do the philosophical, cultural and socio-political thinking that this engagement requires.

And the same is true within Christendom. Is the assertion of Christian rightness among United States' neo-conservatives actually Christian? Can Christians dump just war theory? Is the existence of a 'superpower' consistent with Christ's insistence on the gentle rule of God? Michael Northcott in his piece, 'Confessing Christ in the War on Terror' and much more fully in his book, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, looks at, and critiques, aspects of American cultural Christianity. Clearly, as a Christian community we have got to do much more than validate those who say, 'Lord, Lord' and ignore biblical norms. Do Christians plead partially for our own interests? Do warring groups within the churches proceed with justice? Do Christian organisations and leaders act justly? There are penetrating questions to be asked of ourselves. More than this we have to reflect on the failure of Christian witness to justice in British politics. Why is this? Do institutional churches and theological colleges dampen the political dimensions of the gospel? These are heady questions about the direction of British Christian life and faith, and we can try to address them.

Some guiding perspectives

Many discussions get too quickly lost in details without the discipline of an overall agreed perspective within which issues can fruitfully be discussed. Here, in order to prevent such mislocation, we present a simple framework within which this edition can take its place. In involves identifying levels at which justice must be considered. They are biblical, theological, cultural, historical, socio-economic, philosophic, ethical, political, policy and practical, and all of them are needed. This seems a daunting list, but human justice requires thought. Solomon sought God's wisdom for justice and so must we. Saying we have a right to carry a gun is not good enough; we have to think about it. We accept that justice is a matter of godly wisdom involving thought at all these levels. It might be worth saying a few words about each of them.



The biblical study of justice centres on God. God has created all peoples and is partial to none. The nations are weighed in the balances. Will not God bring forth justice? The Bible presents us with God's requirements of justice and particular human reactions to its claims across many cultures over a period of some two millennia or more. There are warnings about perverting, withholding, discrediting and denying justice. It can be distorted into poison. The theme appears on almost every page in a complex of situations which weave a rich tapestry. We can study God's justice in relation to poverty, empire, punishment, mercy, restitution, work, sexuality, trading, property, war and taxation. This corpus is there for study, for God talks about justice and actively seeks to teach humankind the ways of the Lord. Throughout the Bible it is clear that the justice of God rules beyond our partial and sinful responses. Part of our openness to God as saved Christians is that justice is to be sought, studied, maintained and to flood through our lives. We also go beyond the word to its lived meaning. The sense of justice conveyed in the relations between Abraham and Lot, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharoah, David and Saul, Esther and Hamaan are all germane to the theme. Most of all this biblical study needs to be aware that the great biblical narrative of God's dealings with humankind offers the most significant world-wide understanding of justice available. We are not looking at something marginal, but at the seminal understanding of justice, law, state purposes, international law and justice for humankind. All humankind owes a debt to the God of Abraham and Moses, and supremely to the judge of all nations, whether they acknowledge it or not.

Moreover, the biblical presentation of justice dwells within a rich family of meanings which are cognate. Mercy, judgement, justification, impartiality, law, precept, restitution, righteousness and compassion dwell with justice. Biblical justice is often loving justice with an eye for the person or group to whom justice should be done - widows, orphans, poor and aliens. It is a positive principle, bringing people into good living. It involves setting people free from patterns of slavery and domination, as cheap evangelical dismissals of liberation theology do not acknowledge. It reflects various areas of institutional life; already within the Mosaic Law there is marriage, family, trade, tort, property, work, penal, immigrant and international law and justice. Jesus insists on locating marriage law and justice within the overall perspective of God's creation ordinances and the command to love our neighbours as ourselves. Not surprisingly, Ron Clements does the same in his contribution, showing the scope and implications of the Second Great Commandment for our understanding of justice. For loving our neighbours as ourselves is the underlying principle of fairness and justice, and it plays out in many directions. Justice is from God and indwells the character of God whom we are to love with heart, soul, mind and strength. The God who has created humankind has made us to dwell in relationships which are just, and these are not therefore relationships which are arbitrary but reflect our Godward lives. The central principle of justice lies in the command that we love our neighbours as ourselves. This is fair and honours all whom God has created, and Ron explores this theme.



We cannot be satisfied with theology as it is. Theology has sometimes been sidelined as one discipline among many, occupying a separate sacred domain. Not just with State Socialism, Fascism and in contemporary France has there been a strong bid for a secular state. Yet even a cursory reflection on the theme of God and justice in biblical or theological terms rejects this amazing dualism. How can the God of the nations be kept out of politics? Good theology requires a God-centred response to law, justice, and the structure of human normativity. We have to recognize how counter-cultural this is. It is not a position which is remotely understood within Europe or Britain, and all it can be pictured as is right wing, coercive, fundamentalist Christianity or Islam.

Yet this is a travesty. There is a Christian tradition of political theorists of amazing richness, which has undergirded much of the best of western societies. Nor are we talking of distant historical figures like Augustine, Grotius and Milton, but of more recent Christian political theorists like Acton, Tolstoy, Keir Hardie, Kuyper, Tawney, Maritain, Martin Luther King, Tutu and others who have contributed a great deal. Alongside them are a series of theologians who have reflected in this area - Barth, Bonhoeffer, the Niebuhrs, liberation theologians, N.T. and N. G. Wright, the O'Donovans and others. We also have in David McIlroy's book, reviewed here by Ian Millar , a recent evangelical view of the biblical sweep of the understanding of justice. Christopher Marshall has also given us a fine study in Beyond Retribution: a New Testament vision for justice, crime and punishment (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001). There are resources, but they need gathering and assessing. The theological reflection involves two processes. The first is to see what of biblical revelation these people have grasped that ghettoized evangelical thinking has not, and the second is to see where secular worldviews have edged into Christian thinking. As many theologians in the thirties embraced elements of Fascism or modernism, so many today uncritically accept moralism or even think in terms of the American superpower. We could ask, on past performance, whether God might be so disposed.

Political theology, including the theology of justice, should be a living vibrant theme, fed by many streams and rigorous in its biblical roots, which will speak to all humankind. It behoves us to make sure our languages are not subcultural and our disputes marginal. We cannot come to Jesus like picky Sadducees, but must recognize the unlimited magnanimity of the Son of God on justice. As the parable of the importunate widow announces, God is an avid bringer of justice to the faithful. Moreover, it is clear that the richness of Old Testament teaching in this area is instantiated throughout Jesus' teachings. Always he advocates fulfillment of the law. Yet the theological terms - 'law', 'justice', 'judgement', 'judge', 'restitution', 'mercy', 'atonement', 'penal', 'redemption', 'forgive' - dwell beyond the forms they are often given in contemporary debates. Sometimes it seems that the law-grace discussion of Paul is the only dimension of law of which evangelicals are aware. Both in theology and political philosophy our perspective must run deeper. The justice of Christ is the healing of the nations.



We need cultural analysis to understand where we are. There are various elements to the present culture of justice. The old modernist ideological positions of Socialism, Fascism, Conservatism and Liberalism seem dead, and there are serious problems with them as philosophies of justice. Yet, on the whole, they have retained the requirement that God should be excised from politics. This mantra, that God and politics do not mix, was accompanied by persecution under Fascism and State Socialism and many Christians acquiesced. Not just from France, this ethos is also being fed into the European Union. This pattern needs to be resisted and demolished as untenable.

At the same time, the American western pattern of neo-liberal capitalism has championed the self-serving entrepreneur and consumer while sublimating many questions of exploitation, inequality and the misuse of power. Although issues of justice keep cropping up, with strong concern from substantial minorities, there is an understanding that personal and business freedoms will, and implicitly should, override them. But we do not have to accept these liberal attitudes, and the extent to which they are destroying lives, relationships, patterns of fairness and the ecosystem requires that we stand outside them. We cannot pretend that Jesus' words on acquisitiveness have no relevance to our affairs. If we coherently see a different Christian culture then attitudes could quite quickly change, but that requires us to wake up. The idea of the churches taking a concerted stand on an issue of justice and seeing it as a matter of Christian conviction is sadly well-nigh inconceivable. That should surprise us, but it doesn't. It could be different.

The culture within the churches is similarly flaccid in a way which rules out strong convictions and principles of justice. The understanding is that these divide and are best avoided. For many Christians the focus is less on justice than personal morality, usually sexual morality. Even here many have come to terms with divorce, pre-marital sexuality and adultery, making homosexuality the only test of orthodoxy. There is thus no coherent Christian understanding of justice present in the United Kingdom. Although there are a number of voices and pressure groups, the message of justice goes out on a channel which many Christians switched off long ago. It is interesting that the Prime Minister as a churchgoer does not seem to have picked up any understanding of, or commitment to, just war theory. This general pattern of the absence of Christian teaching is not good enough. The gentle structure of Christ's kingdom is one of plumb-line, required justice and all Christians should have a working understanding of what it is and what their commitments should be. We are expected to be of one mind.

And the culture is changing fast. A generation is arriving which has been brought up on ads, wants and broken families. It seems in the face of the myriad confused messages which the young face that they cannot easily develop clear principles. Most of their engagement is with commercial pressures and invitations to enjoy themselves. It may, therefore, be an era when principles die in the bud. Yet, many people question received justifications and nobody knows what convictions are forming for the coming decades. Perhaps the greatest received way is the way of the West, and the ease with which Bush returned to power, despite unjust and illegal activities, suggests that justice may be out of fashion and injustice will be strutting on the catwalk. Clearly, if the Christian community world-wide is to witness to God's ways of justice, they must understand them in a coherent and articulated way and must exemplify these standards in personal, institutional and political life. The faster we face issues, the better. Justice is a city set on a hill task, not that of a guttering candle.



We have come to the end of the era of Modernism when the West has believed that it has forged the tools for human betterment. In retrospect the arrogance of a century when one in twenty of the world's population died in war-related deaths is amazing. The historical movements of Statism, Imperialism, Fascism, Nationalism, Totalitarian Communism and Capitalism, all anti-Christian in their way, produced some appalling tragedies. The depths of the failures of these movements have scarcely yet been recognized. They have an amazing ability to justify themselves. Western leaders maintain that this last Iraq War was not about oil and that the invasion of this disarmed country was neither illegal nor unjust. But, of course, they are discredited by the evil they have produced. Many of them disdained justice in theory and/or practice, but as a result they have been under judgment, even if they have not yet gone.

It is interesting that in relation to most of these movements Christian responses were weak or late. It is important that we acknowledge our failures. Which British Christians stood against the injustices of our imperialism? The Russian Orthodox Church contributed to the triumph of the Bolsheviks. In Italy and Germany the Church was easily sidelined. Sometimes, there was heroic opposition, but at a time when the forces concerned had become overwhelming, and the direction was decided. With some notable exceptions, Christians were not the ones who stood against persistent patterns of evil. Barth, Bonhoeffer and others stood against the Nazi Movement, Luther King against Racism, Romero against dictatorship, Solzhenitsyn against State Socialism and Tutu against Apartheid. Few Evangelicals have been part of these movements for justice in any formative way, and we do not have the communities which will support this process. Worse still, the evangelical revival in Rwanda-Burundi, strong though it seems to have been, was not able to prevent genocide there. Internationally, and within Britain, we have been weak and ineffective.

The forms of injustice are always changing. Currently, Liberal Consumerism is probably setting the trend and producing a series of major forms of injustice - sex tourism, trade injustice, multinational resource domination, consumer control, over-consumption, obesity, addictive consumption, environmental degradation and new forms of theft. The complexity of some of these forms of injustice is probably greater than those of earlier periods, but more to the point is whether evangelicals have the bottle to address any of them. Sex tourism is hardly complex. Westerners exploit the bodies of poor and weak young people in the Far East and elsewhere in a trade which builds sin upon sin, but evangelicals have not managed a public bleat between them on the issue. The question is whether we can change. SPEAK is already probably the dominant evangelical campaigning organization, and we have much to learn from them, but that raises the issue of whether any of us over thirty have anything to offer.


Political, social and economic justice

We need to consider various modes of justice; it occurs in different areas. Educational assessments can be given and marked fairly or unfairly. A book reviewer can be unfair. If the process of trial serves the lawyer by being unduly complex or drawn out, then justice is not served by lawyers. Parents must be fair to their children and vice versa. These domains of justice need considering and few of them can be fully opened up here. One we examine is part of the economic arena - market and price theory. Here, Andy Hartropp shows that the 'market mechanism', a supposed neutral domain free from issues of justice, cannot logically be seen in these terms. Markets are institutions involving justice, and the great Christian tradition of just price theory is actually the necessary framework for market analysis. Moreover, he shows the way the Fair Trade Movement is at the centre of contemporary economic debates. These Christian understandings are not tendentious; they are actually unavoidable.

We thus require Christian theorists who will take on these issues within areas of economic, social, political, legal, educational and environmental life. There has to be a degree of cohesion and detailed understanding about such a perspective. What is fair and just in transport? It is already a vast subject and will become more urgent. What is fair multi-national practice? What is just penal policy? Here we have one example of a Christian success which we also consider within the edition. Restorative justice is transforming penal policy. Biblical understanding has moved penal policy away from its modern Statist forms, where the crime was seen as against the State, to focus on the relationship between offender and victim and how it can be restored. Again, we see biblical understandings making sense and producing good results. There are many other areas where more work needs doing, like financial market manipulation, consumer addiction, sexploitation, family justice, the manipulation of fear and resource robbery from the poor. This list warns us to see the big picture and to work out the dominant forms of injustice. It also requires economic and social insight, we need an evangelical academic community wider than a few theologians and biblical scholars.



For too long Christians have peddled around the outside of the positions developed in the philosophy of law and justice without putting their own perspective in the marketplace of ideas and critiquing those that are already there. Rights theory, positivist, conventional and relativist understandings of law have held sway with few coherent Christian contributions. Yet really the field is wide open for good Christian work. Legal theory cannot really survive without a wider human frame of reference, and the man on the Clapham omnibus cannot do the job. Legal theory requires institutional understandings of marriage, family, business organization, state and other corporate groups that Christianity is most able to give. Normative theory is a Christian strength, as even this edition will show, and the old neutrality postulates of modernism have revealed their bankruptcy. The task is not easy. It involves careful thinking and analysis, but a coherent Christian understanding of law and justice could be operating both in practice and thought within a decade.



The ethical response needs to be similarly strong. Consider one area where evangelicals have produced little impact. Extra-marital sex, we say, is wrong. Yes, but that line hardly addresses the scope of the issue. Serial partners create loss, a sense of relationship failure, and hardness and they undermine the possibility of faithfulness. Many children run from fights with their parents or family breakdown into early sex. There is an industry feeding on premature sex. Often there is the sexual abuse of the young by the old. Lust is often institutionalized and other forms of relational abuse like cruelty, dominance, lying, desertion and passivity are often ignored. The scope of the problem is vastly beyond the moral bleatings we offer, and it is our task to see the whole scene. When Paul offers dozens of relational strengths and pathologies in his letters, all seen with spiritual depth, our Christian offering cannot be of a few residual moralistic responses to the culture.

The failure has been most marked in the area of homosexuality. Christians have considered, often badly, a single moral issue: Is homosexuality wrong? In the process, they have often ignored cross-gender injustice and within-gender injustice. The scope and destructiveness of enforced hetero and homosexual sex is vast. Its relationship to bullying is significant. Buying people's bodies is legal, although we have a good idea of the effects of prostitution on those involved. If the whole range of ethical failures in this area were considered, there could be a robust and health giving ethical response to which people would respond with gratitude. Yet our sexual ethics remain sociologically infantile and are therefore easily dismissed.

The overall failure is the bias in our evangelical ethics. Sex, some medical ethics and some environmental concerns might be up on the agenda, but little else is. There is work in Christian business ethics, but it is still too diffuse and polite to amount to much. Though Jesus majors on 'there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed' Christians have scarcely led on freedom of information, whistle-blowing and required disclosure, and many Christian organizations run secretly, and not without guilty secrets. There is not yet a Christian culture of seeking righteousness in all areas with open reflection and a sense of the ethical wholeness of life before God. Yet, there could be.



To mount political campaigning movements requires a degree of coherence and organization. The Christian record on such processes is similar to that of headless chickens. There was a generation of evangelicals who thought that Mrs. Thatcher was the best form of justice available. Another generation believed that Tony Blair was to be the beacon of Christian justice for their generation; presumably they have some doubts about that now. It was even possible to meet others who were champions of George W. Bush; shucks, he was pro-Christian and he led from the front. Bishops occasionally had views on some issues of justice, but were often divided and some were incapable of self-critique. Christian politicians like Lord Alton and Baroness Cox ploughed lonely furrows, largely unsupported. Add in some Christian Liberal Democrats and Christian political groups like the Movement for Christian Democracy and the Christian People's Alliance given little evangelical support, and the outcome was evident. Evangelicals would not think about justice in community and would make isolated decisions to vote every few years. The existing parties, of course, feared a coherent Christian voice, because it would threaten their existing hegemony and the support they normally enjoy from a divided Christian clientele. The outcome has been an incoherent political response on most issues. Muslims, fewer in number, are already far better politically organized than Christians.

Yet the underlying failure is not that of joining a Christian political organization - though that would be the obvious thing to do - as much as the failure to address questions of justice as innately part of a Christian worldview. Isaiah's word that the Christ will bring justice to the nations is not yet what evangelicals carry in their hearts. Biblical righteousness-with-justice stays privatized in their souls. This, too, could change.


Policy formation

Bringing about justice is also a matter of policy formation. Policies involve a new way of seeing things. They bring principles into play. They take into account a wide range of circumstances and issues, so that the outcome makes sense of those principles and sense to the participants. The transformation takes thought, awareness, expertise, vision, prayer and the humility to learn. It involves considering many dimensions of justice. It requires a workable time-span and steady vision. When the task is recognized and considered, its importance will be clear. Moreover, policy needs building. It takes a decade or more and many contributions. Christians have to work together with a common faith and principles to build policy.



The final element is practice or living. In some sense, it is the first, for normally when some people live justly in relation to one issue, it clarifies. It is the living that gives the solidity to the issue, that exposes the corruption, that stands against evil when it is powerful. Yet, practice is also formed within policy; we submit our cars to an MOT or look for the fair-trade logo. The ever-present danger is of Christian hypocrisy - you do not practice what you preach - and the question of this edition for all of us comes to the way we live - justly or unjustly - in our intimate and distant relationships. The call is to be substantially a just and holy people, not in hock to whatever interest might suit us best, but thirsting for justice. Perhaps, this list should be reversed. Often is those who live just and holy lives who see what the Scriptures are saying, while the rest of us remain blind. Yet all of these dimensions are important if justice is to flow in our lives and polity.



The closing Lifelines article introduces further resources but clearly this special edition on justice merely opens a few doors on the subject. Yet our relation to God's justice is unavoidable. It delineates our lives and shapes our history. Moreover, both in the Scriptures and in two thousand years of Christian history, we have the greatest formative tradition of justice in world history. When we walk out of the ghetto, we already know the city, have a good map and have access to its ruler. Surely it is time so to do.

Alan Storkey

Guest Editor