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Restorative justice and the economy of grace

October 21, 2011

…While punitive justice does little to actually mend wrong, restorative justice in contrast is all about making things right, about changing negative dynamics and helping people to overcome hurt. That’s what grace is all about: It does not ignore problems, but in fact addresses them on a much deeper level than punitive justice does. So while grace may be in conflict with a strictly punitive understand of justice, it is not in conflict with restorative justice. In fact, grace is all about restorative justice.

 … On an international scale, the way the Truth and Reconciliation Commission responded to the violence and injustice of Apartheid stands out sharply against the backdrop of so many other places in our world where cycles of violence just seem to be never-ending, each side finding a justification for their continued retaliation. In the entertainment industry, it is extremely rare to find a movie that plumbs the depths of grace, and so common to see yet another film or television show that glorifies violence and paints the world in black and white. Yet when something like the musical “Les Miserables” comes along, it is an international sensation.

…These are all lofty examples, and they can therefore feel overwhelming and out of reach. But the issue here is not ultimately about being virtuous or good (let alone is it about tolerating injustice!). It is about allowing healing to take place in our lives, and refusing to be sucked into the perpetual cycle of violence and toxicity. Grace is indeed hard, but even taking a few small faltering steps in its direction can open the doors for healing to start and violence to stop. That’s why grace is not an ideal luxury, but quite literally a life and death necessity. Grace is the very means by which true justice comes about.

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