Robert F. Kennedy, Ed Meese, Janet Reno and John Ashcroft. These are a few prominent Attorneys General of the United States of America who preceded current AG, Eric H. Holder, Jr., who announced his resignation on September 25, 2014.
Since he was sworn into office on February 3, 2009, Holder’s tenure has been marked by criticism and controversy. Accusations resulting from the “Fast and Furious” program, for example, have hounded Holder throughout his time of service.
He did make history in one positive way, becoming the first African-American AG to have served. Beyond these controversial issues and historic moments, it’s important to hone in on the job of AG, which is to ensure justice in this country.
I will allow political pundits, other politicians—and history itself—to assess Holder’s ultimate legacy. I would rather focus on the most important aim of this office: justice.
Recall that the U.S. Constitution states in the preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The office of Attorney General is key toward this aim of establishing justice. The office itself was established in 1789 “to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the president of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments.” This office today also oversees the Department of Justice, a vast bureaucracy.
The very calling of the Attorney General, then, is inherently tied to the concept of justice. Founding Father James Madison, the framer of our Constitution, said it best when he said, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.”
In a biblical worldview, we understand that injustice is sure to occur until Christ returns and puts all wrongs to right. At the same time, the Bible recognizes that working toward justice is the key calling of government leaders. The Old Testament has much to say on this.
The prophet Isaiah gives us the revelation: “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
Even in a fallen world, effort toward justice is expected from rules. Proverbs 21:15 says, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”
Whether the AG or U.S. President, whether the local District Attorney or a Judge, all government leaders have an obligation—a duty—to ensure justice.
Thomas Aquinas defined justice as “a habit whereby a man renders to each one his due with constant and perpetual will.” The concept is closely tied to the Golden Rule, taught by Christ Himself.
Isn’t it a blessing that our Founding Fathers established a role specific to this charge? Let’s pray whoever follows Holder will take this charge seriously, biblically and justly. Our citizens deserve no less. God expects no less.