John Livingston News

Justice and Mercy

One of the mentors in my life who 20 years after his death still has a great influence on my thinking was my organic and biochemistry professor Dr. Howard Curry. After my 1st course in organic chemistry, I was 1/600th of a point away from an A-. He gave me a B+. I went to his office to plead my case. Somewhere during the conversation, I mentioned the word fairness to which he responded that there was no such thing as “fair” and the sooner I learned that the better off I would be. The pursuit of fairness is a goal not an end in itself because if any person or any society thought they were fair there would be no reason for self-reflection and improvement toward that end.

I then made the mistake of saying that not giving me 1/600th of a point wasn’t “just”. He then pointed out to me that I wasn’t arguing for justice but rather for “mercy” and it would not be fair to myself or to the other students if he made an exception to the way he was to apply the rules that we had all agreed upon at the beginning of the trimester. Neither fairness, justice, nor mercy were appropriate arguments. In every other course I took from him, I got an A. Two years later in my second and final biochemistry class and after taking 9 hours to write the exam, he met me in the classroom with a bottle of Mogan David 20-20, graded my exam on the spot, and gave me an A+.

After three years of organic and biochemistry, I wanted to show him how much I respected him and I wrote the exam on 4 yards of brown wrapping paper combining all the metabolic pathways that I had learned (and since forgotten) into one place. The question—”You eat a ham and cheese sandwich—describe all the metabolic pathways used in digestion and energy conversion in metabolizing your meal”. Over the bottle of MD 20-20 he remembered our meeting 3 years earlier and our discussion about justice—fairness—mercy.

He mentioned—and I didn’t agree, that if he had given me the grade then I wouldn’t have been motivated to continue on in Organic chemistry. Dr. Curry was a scientist and a Christian man. He pointed out after the second or third drink that the original discussion was a transaction between me and him. In that transaction, I represented my best interests, but he represented all the students in the class, not just me. He felt that justice had been served, and for his part, he helped me create my own fairness and justice. I was the only person that could do that, and that by his being merciful 3 years earlier he had motivated me to a result that I wasn’t even thinking about at the time.

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Words like—JUSTICE—MERCY—FAIRNESS are bantered about in all circles of society especially by politicians, theologians, and lawyers. The word’s meanings change all the time, but most importantly most of the time the transactions involving justice—fairness —mercy are viewed from the perspective of the parties involved—which is perfectly fine, but also myopic. When an individual is treated in an unfair manner that affects more than just that individual. When a bully harasses somebody the bully is hurt as well because the whole in his heart where mercy—fairness—justice live is made bigger—not smaller. When justice before the law is not blind and equitable and one party receives favor, all of society is hurt and the respect that THE LAW has before the people is lessened.

“Social Justice” is a term heard often. Social justice is not “Biblical Justice” Like so many terms the original ideas of social justice have been adulterated and corrupted by modern day progressives and socialists. Luigi Taparelli started the modern day “social justice movement” in the Catholic Church with his TREATISE OF NATURAL RIGHT written in 1842. His ideas then are very different than the ideas being advanced by social justice advocates today. Critical Race Theory, Black Lives Matter, and ANTIFA have no bases in classic social justice theory or Biblical Justice theology. Like so many good ideas progressive socialist Marxists have copied words and given them new meaning.

Our view of justice today has been skewed by modernist views of fairness. In the Bible, the concept of justice is ingrained in the first 5 books of the Old Testament and the New Covenant is foreshadowed by the Psalmist anticipating the example of Jesus. Throughout all the Bible and the bases of Biblical Justice found in Taparelli’s writings is the idea of Mercy and forgiveness that leads to both retributive and restorative justice.

The Social Justice movement of today is ‘Redistributive”. There is no mercy, forgiveness and thus no fairness. This new form of justice assigns government the rule of arbiter and creates a state of economic and social dependency. People—a people, who don’t have a Biblical grounding and whose values are not based on Natural Law Principles, who bring utopian hopes to the oppressed, are in the end only seeking a means to more power—which never leads to justice—only oppression.

Dr. Curry was an Organic Chemistry teacher who taught me organic and biochemistry. He also taught me about —equity—fairness—mercy—forgiveness and yes even love which is the bases of all Biblical Justice and is encapsulated in The Golden Rule and Jesus teaching that “whatever you do the least of my brethren you do unto me”

I fear we have too few teachers and coaches in our colleges and schools like Dr. Curry. As social justice theory doctrine has been allowed to replace traditional values and teachings, and as we as a society have moved away from Natural Law and Biblical Justice ideas, we are moving closer to oppression and dependency.

I was lucky to have had people in my life like Dr. Curry.

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