A Just World?

There was some talk on Andrew Sullivan’s blog about the Just World Hypothesis by guest-blogger Jonah Lehrer. If you don’t know what the Just World Hypothesis is, here’s a quote from the post:

“The moral of the Just World Hypothesis is that people have a powerful intuition that the world is just and that people get what they deserve. While I’m sure this instinct makes all sorts of social contracts possible, it also leads to one very troubling tendency: we often rationalize injustices away, so that we can maintain our naive belief in a just world. This, I believe, is what happens when we read about innocent people getting sent to Guantanamo, or the wrong immigrant getting waterboarded, or why it’s so easy to brush aside calls for prison reform. We might acknowledge the awfulness of the error, but then quip that he shouldn’t have been hanging around with the Taliban, or that the guy who got sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit was still a creep, or that the Madoff victims should have known their money manager was a fraud.”

And you certainly see this in the church. There are lots of Christians who will tell you (usually off the record) that the poor are lazy, or that they should be grateful for the wages that they do get. There’s also lots of reflexive support for the death penalty (usually built off of a shoddy understanding of Romans 13) without much consideration of whether the innocent could be killed. The reality is that there should be little doubt from the laments in the Psalms or from the words of Amos or the ruminations in Ecclesiastes that the Bible teaches that the world in which we live is manifestly unjust. The just world hypothesis gives us a false comfort and a view of the world that, whatever else you want to say about it, does not square with the Bible. If anything it’s positively karmic.