Abstract. Throughout human history, men and women have longed for justice but proven unable to attain it, no matter how just our legal systems appear to be. Drawing on examples ranging from Les Miserables and nineteenth century social justice movements to the recent racial unrest in the United States, Professor Skeel will argue that Christianity provides a surprisingly compelling explanation both of our optimism that we can achieve a fully just society, and of our repeated failure to do so. Christianity is the only major religion or system of thought that rests on a story in which law fails. Yet Christianity is not nihilistic about justice. Christianity offers the most compelling basis for human rights, as well as a counterintuitive vision of justice based on the insights that, with law, less is often more; and that law can sometimes be used to foster relationships. This vision of justice can be seen in laws as diverse as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and contemporary bankruptcy law.
David Skeel (S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania) teaches and publishes on bankruptcy, corporate law, sovereign debt, and Christianity and law. He is the author of True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World (InterVarsity, 2014); The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and Its (Unintended) Consequences (Wiley, 2011), Icarus in the Boardroom (Oxford, 2005), and Debt’s Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America (Princeton, 2001). His commentary has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Weekly Standard, Books & Culture, and elsewhere. This Spring, Professor Skeel has been the Bruce Nichols Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he taught courses on Corporations and Christianity and the Rule of Law.