at the risk of seeming ridiculous…

Justice Too Long Delayed is Justice Denied

Posted in visual thoughts, written thoughts by Charles on August 23, 2007


 “In the gospel accounts one never perceives Jesus to complain about the difficulties of existence.  He never asks why evil exists side by side with a God who is Father and Love.  It is clear to Jesus: Evil does not exist to be understood but to be fought and conquered by love.”  –Leonardo Boff, Jesus Christ Liberator    

 A friend showed me a news article today.  The grotesque nature of this random act of violence was not the most disturbing thing for me.  The fact that it was an innocent 5-year-old boy made me feel sick to my stomach.  It is at this point where any person with a heart would ask, “Why?”

The question of suffering in the world is perhaps the most important, if not the only, question to agonize over.  For we know that in the face of suffering, all other questions, interests, and ambitions seem to retreat to the periphery.  It is a question that we all address in our lives.  Some are satisfied with the answers they arrive at, others get disturbed enough to the point where they end their lives.  In any case, I believe that we all wish to understand why it is that suffering still ravages a world, particularly the world of the innocent.  In the spirit of Dostoyevsky, one wonders if the suffering of the innocent can ever be vindicated by some future justice.

This theodicean problem presents a particular dilemma.  If God or some future justice is going to vindicate the suffering of the past and of today, we are still left with the suffering of the past and of today.  On a practical level, is this future vindication of good over evil what we tell the oppressed today?  Even in the midst of their present suffering, is this what we ought to tell them?  As idealistic or logical as it might seem, there is an underlying sense of absurdity within that counsel.  How can any future vindication ever justify the present and past suffering of an innocent child?  Like Ivan Karamazov, I’d have to confidently decline such a notion.

MLK once wrote from a Birmingham jail cell, “We must come to see… that justice too long delayed is justice denied.”  It is easy for people not under the heavy sword of oppression to speak of a future justice.  But it is imperative for people under the sword to will its quick removal.  The senseless acts of violence and hatred are things to be stopped now because people have the power to stop them.  If it is within our power to do so, the notion of a future justice becomes more of a unnerving pipedream rather than a philosophical insight.

But I realize that there is a major difference between seeking to understand evil and actively willing its removal.  It is really a difference between the conceptual and praxis.  Reflecting upon the problem of suffering can too easily become a purely introspective endeavor.  When it remains conceptual, suffering can be thought about, discussed, and conclusions can be drawn without even coming face to face with those in the struggle.  It is a devious way to make oneself look like they are serving humanity when really they remain within the comforts of their conceptual prisons.

This is not to say that thoughts about suffering are unnecessary, but rather that they in themselves are inadequate.  The true posture is that of warfare.  You fight evil to overcome it.  It is a dialectical relationship.  Knowledge of evil must be used to propel oneself to fight it.  It is only within this practice that justice has integrity.  And it is within this framework that I believe Jesus showed us how to live.

It makes me wonder if I even have the courage to live that sort of life.  Dostoyevsky once wrote, “My greatest fear is that I will not be worthy of my sufferings.”  Am I even worthy enough to partake of that cup of suffering?


5 Responses

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  1. zee zhao said, on August 24, 2007 at 16:39


  2. christine said, on September 18, 2007 at 05:47

    great writing.

  3. jsuh said, on October 31, 2007 at 20:14

    Nice post, picture, writing.
    New Democracy is one of my favorite murals, perhaps even works of art . it really is beautiful. my breath was taken away when i first saw it. if you ever get the chance i recommend seeing the painting itself. it will change you, sincerely.

    Agreed. Without suffering we would not try to understand why things Are.

    Tich Naht hahn is a very wise man.
    “It is very important to come out of your suffering and there must be ways to get out of that kind of suffering. Suppose you suffer because there’s so much violence and despair in you. If you know nothing about the art of transforming your anger and your despair, if you don’t have a real taste of happiness, how do you expect to help other people not to suffer? We need to reduce the amount of suffering within us and in our society. Life has meaning only when you see a path that leads you and other people out of suffering. In the Buddhist tradition, understanding suffering is very important. Suffering is the first noble truth. If you look deeply into it, you can discover the second noble truth, the making of the suffering, the cause, the root of suffering.

    When you understand the nature and the root of your suffering, the path of emancipation can be seen. To suffer and not to understand your suffering — suffering in that case has no meaning, has no value, has no use.

    Understanding the nature of your suffering, you begin to see the path leading to emancipation. When you have the path, you have the energy and the courage to practice and to help other people. And in that case, suffering is helpful. But if you don’t understand suffering, if you are drowning in the ocean of suffering, suffering is not a very noble truth. You can’t be proud of your suffering because it does not help you. It does not help anyone. You must look deeply into your suffering and understand it. When you understand your suffering, you see the path of emancipation.”

  4. Ted Burrett said, on April 24, 2009 at 11:36

    The topic is quite trendy in the net right now. What do you pay the most attention to when choosing what to write about?

  5. Charles said, on April 27, 2009 at 19:57

    i don’t know if i necessarily have a pattern or strategy to sort through what to write about. i usually just write whatever i’m feeling. and it’s usually sparked by something i read, see, or listen to. this one in particular was sparked by reading the article i link. so i suppose i try to take something that happens specifically to me in everyday life (whether it actually happens to me or i hear of it through a different medium)… and i try to connect it to the bigger picture.

    anyways… i appreciate you reading through this, ted.

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