Friday, October 26, 2007

The search for justice is a journey into joy

And very often Christians have somehow failed to get across any idea that ethics, whether individual ethics or social ethics, is about joy. Those two words which you may not habitually associate – ethics and joy; but that is a theological failure, because the search for justice is very profoundly a journey into joy. If it’s true that this is what the world is, if it’s true that the nature of our participation in the life of God is a participation in God’s self-forgetting bliss, then, our work for a society in which people have the freedom and the dignity to give themselves to each other in love, is as creative as any other act we undertake.

- Rowan Williams, Creation, Creativity and Creatureliness:
the Wisdom of Finite Existence

This speech by Williams is worth reading in full (though the opening may be hard going if you're a little rusty on your Russian theologians) for its insights into the relationships between creation, creativity and creatureliness.


Anonymous said...

Yes, that sounds very nice, and I imagine that, somehow, it is more true than I am able to comprehend. However, it seems to me that the search for justice is also very much a journey into broken-heartedness. Perhaps, with the proper (and necessary) provisos in place, I would want to say that the search for justice is captured in the command to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn" (Ro 12).

However, there may be more to this joy thing than I have yet been able to understand. I would find it very helpful if Williams could give a concrete example of what he is talking about. Specifically, I would like to hear how the search for justice, as that search relates to the place of homosexuals in the Anglican communion, has been a personal "journey into joy" for the Archbishop.

Grace and peace.

byron smith said...

I like your Romans 12 point. I doubt that Williams was attempting to give an exhaustive account of justice here (and though I haven't read many, know that he has said much more in other works). In the speech, which was a suggestive piece linking ideas and pointing to possibilities, he does give a couple of examples immediately before the section I quoted:

"Labour and creativity in human relations are as much an act of holy wisdom as is the artistic enterprise and as much a kenotic matter, a ‘being for the other’. Bulgakov was thinking about this very early on, as early as 1912 when he published his book on the philosophy of economy. Any student of economics picking up that book expecting to find detailed discussions of markets and surplus values would have had a nasty shock, because it’s mostly about God and ethics and justice and things like that – which economists are (strangely) not interested in a lot of the time.

But of course the implication of that for our situation in the modern world is quite challenging. It means that campaigning about debt or fair trade is creative, it is an exercise of what our humanity is called to, it is the kenotic and sophianic search for a justice which is beautiful, a justice which uncovers what the world fundamentally is; a world of interdependence and interaction, a world in which self-forgetting brings joy, common, shared joy. And very often Christians... [etc.]"