“Giving Everyone What They Deserve”
Justice is defined in classical philosophy as giving each their due – or giving everyone what they deserve. Justice is often discussed as if it is fairness. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t want justice done – people should get what they deserve, and people should be treated fairly. That’s easy to agree upon. Where justice gets sticky is agreeing on exactly what it is that people deserve and exactly what’s meant by fair treatment.
I don’t believe in capital punishment, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the years working on death penalty abolition in our country. Ten years ago, I was serving the UU congregation in Huntsville, TX. All of the state of Texas’s executions are done at the prison in Huntsville and protesting those executions became a part of the mission of that church. There are many people who feel that executing those who commit horrific crimes is giving them what they deserve. I do not agree. Justice is giving each their due and executions are not the healthiest thing for a society. Giving everyone their due gets complicated quickly when we move justice beyond the individual to the community.
Seeing justice as fairness is no easier. Treating everyone exactly the same isn’t always what’s fair. People who promote a flat income tax will argue that everyone paying the same rate is fair and thus just. Yet no matter what percentage of income is used as the tax, losing that percentage of income is a far greater burden for the poor than the rich.
In order to approach fairness and giving everyone what they deserve from a moral standpoint, justice and equity need to be considered in tandem. Taken together justice and equity can begin to steer us toward a more compassionate and beloved community.
SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE – Experience a Poverty Simulation
It’s one thing to value justice and equity, but an entirely different thing to experience what life is like for those whose lives are defined by injustice and inequity. My challenge to you this month is to experience one or more poverty simulations and reflect on it. How did the simulation affect your thinking about poverty and people living in poverty? How did the simulation affect you emotionally? Here are some free and readily available poverty simulations for you to explore:
SPENT at https://playspent.org/ – is a free online game simulation from Urban Ministries of Durham that takes you through a series of choices in a “choose your own adventure” format.
COPE – at https://thinktank-inc.org/vcope – is an online version of an in-depth live action simulation run by Think Tank Rethink Poverty.
MONOPOLY – Yes, the classic board game. Play with at least three other people, but instead of every player starting the game with $1,500, draw lots for starting positions as follows:
Player 1 – Goes first and starts the game with $6,000. Player 1 begins the game on Boardwalk already owning Boardwalk, Park Place, and all Green Properties – all with hotels already on them, as well as all the Railroads, and both utilities, and one of the Get out of Jail Free cards.
Player 2 – Goes second and starts with $3,000. Player 2 begins the game on Illinois Ave, already owning all the red properties – each with three houses already on them – and double the usual starting money.
Player 3 – Goes third and starts with $1500. Player 3 begins the game on Oriental Ave. already owning all the Light Blue Properties.
Player 4 – (and if there’s more people, all the rest of the players) – Goes last and starts with No money. Player(s) 4 (and 5,6, etc.) begins the game on GO.
Other than this starting arrangement all Monopoly rules apply as usual.
As always, I’d love to know how you did with this challenge. Text me or call me at 508-344-3668 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.