…there is another way in which human judgment often aspires to God-likeness: when it seeks to control the future course of events, preventing future evils, rather than merely rectifying existing wrongs.
Of course, there is a plausibility in this aspiration, since prudence is one of the essential political virtues, and prudence is above all concerned with weighing future consequences, with planning and forethought, with mitigating foreseen harms and maximizing prospective benefits. But prudence, in the scheme of cardinal virtues, must remain always the handmaiden of justice.
For three weeks now, I have been listening to Mary’s Magnificat sung as a part of the mid-week evening prayer service in my congregation. Last week, I leaned over to my five-year-old and told her, “This is the story of Jesus’ Mommy when she was pregnant with him.” Rereading a paper that I wrote on this text in college, I critiqued an over spiritualization of these words that are “a vivid proclamation of God’s eternal justice and intention to uplift the weak and lowly in a ministry of love…a call to social action on behalf of humanity.” Now, as I sit with the text, I can only say that it is all of this and more…
Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is obsessed with the question: what are the conditions of possibility for political judgment? Judgment, as Oliver O’Donovan has written in The Ways of Judgment, “both pronounces retrospectively on, and clears space prospectively for, actions that are performed within a community” and is therefore “subject to criteria of truth, on the one hand, and to criteria of effectiveness on the other” (9). Although judgment must meet both criteria, very often in the world of politics, they appear to be in rivalry. Truth-telling, in a world of fickle voters and predatory media, in a world of terrorists and hidden threats, can seem like a very unwise proposition, a luxury that must be dispensed with if order and justice are to be preserved. This tension haunts Nolan’s trilogy.