The crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is fraught with so much uncertainty - why it happened, whether it could have been prevented, how to stop it, who's to blame, what the long-term effects will be - that it may seem audacious, if not foolish, to posit any unequivocal conclusions from the matter. Nevertheless, I intend to do so, at least on one point.
Biblical justice has five aspects, the first of which we may call preventive justice. In any social order pleasing to God and reflective of His goodness and love, humans will consider in advance what steps they must take in order to prevent occurences of injustice. Hence, the command to build a railing around one's roof, so that one's neighbor doesn't swoon in the not mid-day sun and fall off (Deut. 22.8).
Preventive justice requires that we envision possible ways our actions may be harmful to our neighbors and that we take measures to preclude any such occurences. Thus, we are to be careful when burning in the out of doors, that we do not endanger the property of others (Ex. 22.6). Similarly, we must not allow our animals to graze in the fields of others, but must keep them in our own fields only (Ex. 22.5). If we dig a pit for any reason, we must be careful to cover it, lest our neighbor or one of his animals fall in it and become injured or killed (Ex. 21.33, 34).
This is preventive justice, and it reflects the kind of love of neighbor and creation that responsible parties must practice before untoward conditions arise, in order to ensure the continuity of justice and goodness in society.
Now we have learned the the oil industry, whether through poor planning, indifference, or simple inability to foresee certain possible calamitous eventualities, has not yet devised a means for capping a deep-water oil spill before it brings damage to coasts and the people and other creatures that live there.
But be sure of this: Oil-drilling in the Gulf will not continue in a status quo ante mode. The oil industry will be required by Congress - and rightly so, I believe - to devise better measures for preventing the kind of injustice that we see currently being foisted on the people of Louisianna and elsewhere. The works of the Law, Paul reminds us, are written by God on the heart of every human being (Rom. 2.14, 15). We act in the best interest of society when those "works" come to expression in enforceable statutes. So if the rails currently in place around the oil drilling industry are not sufficient to protect our neighbors and our environment, you can be sure that new ones will be required.
And, in the process, God, His Law, and the Biblical concept of justice will be vindicated.
T. M. Moore
- T.M. Moore
- May 31, 2010
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore