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Justice Is Love–Love Is Justice

In an exercise that might loosely be called “applied Keats,” theologian John Crossan has written:

“Justice is love, love is justice.

That is all we need to know on earth,

and all we need to know.”

It looks good, sounds good, is clearly of sound-bite quality … at least until we give it a closer look and note that the theologian does not pair justice with love but actually equates justice with love.

In other words, we generally think of love and justice as two separate entities that may have a working relationship, justice being an expression of love, love the umbrella of which justice is but one aspect. In that sense, love and justice are good friends but not quite from the same universe.

However, as it turns out, the theologian borrows from the poet and says that justice is love and love is justice. Love and justice: not just good friends but identical twins. Speaking of the one is at the same time to name the other.

As such, since love and justice are one and the same, we can no longer profess our love without working for justice. Which is to say, lovers are of necessity justice workers.

And that’s where it gets a little personal because it is easy to profess one’s love for, say, humanity, but to work for justice for human beings (if not the whole creation) is, shall we say, not so easy.

Take hunger, for instance. Most every community will include people who deal with hunger every day of their lives. Of course, we deplore that situation, complain about the responsible parties (overlapping governmental jurisdictions), and wring our hands in despair, but none of that feeds hungry people.

Who feeds hungry people? Justice workers, people who walk, raise money, and in so many other ways advocate for the basic human right to a decent diet. So across the board: whether the right to a liveable planet, access to health care, and a just and sustaining peace, love might define the strategy but justice workers get the work done.

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With appreciation to the English Romantic poet, John Keats, in the original:

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.