There has been a question on a mind that has been bugging me as of late; Do we actually care about people, or do we just say and/or pretend that we do? A nasty fact of life is that the world is filled with people who are hurting with a lot of that pain being caused by the communities around them. A fellow acquaintance and “left-wing” Christian on a forum I follow made this startling assertion:
Unfortunately, you sometimes have to force people to do what is best for both society and themselves.
I hate to say it, but a lot of us have this idea at our base that lends to the direct and indirect advocacy of this pain. Ideas like this have consequences Often there are good intentions behind this idea, but the consequences always seem to be devastating upon the less fortunate in society. How does this idea translate into society? “Gulp.” The greater good for society apparently, whatever that actually is. (Hitler had some interesting ideas about the greater good. Very nasty and deadly ones.) Granted, the author of this statement doesn’t intend for this notion to be used to oppress people, but this idea does precisely that when followed to it’s logical conclusion. I can only feel somewhat guilty as a Christian that I have not done enough to do my part in countering this idea in popular culture today.
Huh? Let me formulate my thoughts a bit further. Unfortunately this is an idea that must be constantly refined and the imposition of the idea closely examined in every circumstance . This idea is the very nature of law. We assume that society functions best when what is best for society and members of society is established through law; more specifically through the force behind the laws determining exactly what that is “best.” Scary eh?
Well how do we address the extreme implementation of what is “best” in a completely post-modern society? Just in the 20th century we have seen the above quote used to justify the murder and oppression of tens of millions of people. We have seen the poor trampled underfoot and the miscarriage of justice become commonplace. This is of course what happens when the extreme of this idea becomes an idea of sensibility in people’s minds. (Notice this idea in both current political parties?) The question is: how do we balance this idea correctly, fairly, and reasonably? Note the subjective nature of those 3 previous adverbs in society. Therein may be our deepest problem.
By what standard do we determine what is correct, fair, and reasonable? If not a Biblical standard, then what do we appeal to? Tyrants and dictators have used these three words to oppress people and to justify that oppression for as long as we can remember. Are we going down a similar path in America? Most Americans would insist that they do indeed care about their fellow American, but do they really? If we implement ideas that are good and beneficial for society by the force of law, do we run the risk of oppressing those who disagree? Is the legislation of any idea into society always the best approach to solve the many problems we encounter on a daily basis?
We’ve made many, MANY laws in this country. On January 1st of 2010, we introduced on state and federal levels over 40,000 laws on the books and 40,000+ more laws in 2012. Granted PoltiFact disagrees with these numbers for 2012, but even in the lower thousands, the number is still astonishingly high. Just think about having to be aware of a few thousand new laws and the time and effort that would demand. (Note that I couldn’t find a conclusive figure regarding the amount of laws passed in 2011, though it appears to be around 30k. Also something to point out is that not all of these laws come into affect the next year, but over the course of several years.)
So how in the hell are we ever supposed to be consciously aware of every law out there? It’s impossible, but as any judge will tell you, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Well, that’s rather unfortunate for the poor single mother who can’t afford a lawyer, but at least whatever law she may have violated had good intentions ins mind, right? Just how easy is it to be “ignorant” of all these laws, just for the ones implemented in 2010? The publisher at amelia.com had an insight as to the what we face on a daily basis in regards to ignorance of the law: I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169¬† 8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.
I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169¬† 8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.
The task of becoming familiar with laws that can reign all hell and possibly prison bars upon our lives is very intimidating. When you drive down the street and see someone pulled over – Round Lake Beach anyone- do we consider just how many possible traffic violations they could have committed? You’d be shocked by the amount of well-intentioned traffic laws that exist in Illinois.
I myself have been a victim of “unknown” traffic violations. Prepare for a story/small rant. A few months back I got a ticket for Scott’s law. I’d never heard of it before. Neither did anyone I know or my Aunt who is actually a police officer in Algonquin. Scott’s Law has a minimum fine of 100$ to a maximum of 10,000$ plus the possibility of a license suspension. When I looked up the law online, I was scared out of my mind. I managed to plead the violation to a lesser violation in court, because having Scott’s Law on your record is like having a bulls-eye painted on your car for every cop in Illinois to target. Just imagine a single mom in the Round Lake area or some minimum wage worker getting hit with just a 1000$ fine for a violation of Scott’s Law. Yes, justice really does favor the rich. I was lucky in that I only had to fork over 150.00$ for a lawyer, plus the fine which ended up being only 75$ but totaled over 300$ because of the 200$ in court fees that our state charges. Yea, let me repeat that, 200$ in court fees. No wonder they always try to make you show up in court for a ticket!
This is yet another example of laws with good intentions being used to essentially squeeze more money out of people who are barely making ends meet. It won’t stop here. Expect the amount of “good-intentioned” laws to skyrocket. The fact that I live in Illinois simply means that people will vote in the same politicians who will in turn keep churning out new laws to “solve” the problems we face just in this state on a daily basis. To make matters worse we encourage politicians to be “lawmakers.”
What have our good intentioned laws bought us? Over two million Americans in prison and growing. Let’s think about that for a moment. Two million Americans in prison. Prison Song anyone? That’s a guaranteed two million broken families. Did we actually bother to think about the impact of the drug laws that were supposed to stabilize society? Look at Chicago as to what the war on drugs has wrought upon the families there. Isn’t it obvious what happens to the teenager with a jailed father who has literally no one around him to keep him accountable, to make him stay in school , and to discipline him for the small things before they escalate into prison term offenses? The war on drugs has done far more harm to the African American community in this country then racism ever has. But hey, those laws were for the good of society right? Those people doing drugs obviously don’t know what’s good for them, so we need to force them to do what is good for them by passing more laws! Did we ever think what happens to the people we’ve thrown in jail after they are finally released? Good luck getting a job!
I look at communities around me that face some very real problems; distraught and broken families, failing schools, high crime rates, high youth unemployment, ect. Instead of truly going out of our way to actually help them, we either throw money at the problem -which usually never ends up going to them- and/or pass a few laws to try and discourage whatever element we think is contributing to the problems. We’ve been recycling this process of dealing with issues despite the fact that it has not worked. How about we change the way we address these problems? Pro-tip: You can’t solve the above issues through legislation. You can only solve them through revitalizing and restoring communities. As Christians we should be fully aware that this is what the Gospel was intended to do! The Gospel is what brings hope to the broken and repairs the damage to the families in our communities. Even the secular humanist is aware that addressing the problems this country faces starts in each of our homes and our surrounding communities. Should we not be even more aware of our callings as commanded by Scripture rather then by man’s selfish attempts to do what he or she thinks is good?
The Church needs to get back to what it used to do; strengthen and build up communities. We have a responsibility to the shattered communities around us. We have a responsibility to the broken families, the single mothers, and the children turning to gangs in a desperate attempt to find community. We have a responsibility to show that Christ cares about the broken, the downtrodden, and those in the worst of situations. The early church cared for the babies left to die, the poor in the streets, and the unjustly oppressed. Are we doing the same? Are we advocating for abortion laws in Washington and forgetting about the single teenage mother with no income?
Are we proclaiming the Gospel through our actions or just through our words and to each other in our own little Sunday morning bubble? Our lifestyle and what we do with our time should clearly communicate what the Gospel is all about. Let us take a stand on the issues of abortion and homosexuality -as the church rightfully should- but let us not forget that there is much more to God’s Word. We can talk all we want about Christ’s love, but we must actually demonstrate and show His love in our communities, our time, and our finances every day of our lives. Let us escape from our own little bubbles and start to become apart of the many different societal bubbles around us so that the truth of the Gospel is displayed for all to see. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.”