Crushing the Innocent
I recently wrote about society's boundless energy to rebuilding the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately I remain convinced that Christians engage on the front lines of these attempts to regulate out evil and its consequences. In all manners this is an unlawful pursuit of a holy end. This is not that much unlike the Jews seeking righteousness (a good thing) by their own works (not a good thing). Ultimately, I argued, God's law teaches us to protect the innocent from false convictions, prosecution, and abuse. Yes, this means that the guilty will occasionally go free. But the intent of the law is to never convict an innocent person. And yet instead what we have done in America is endorse a government system that permits its law enforcement to convict innocent people.
Yes, I am continuing my dig at over-regulation. I am kicking a dead horse because many continue to ride it into the ground. I am persuaded that outside of abortion there is nothing more sinful occurring in America. Yes, sinful. Meaning that Godly preachers would and should preach against it. Our culture, in attempting to eradicate all possible evils, has passed laws that lead to obscene convictions of innocent people. No handheld phones while driving, wear seatbelts, no one-use plastic bags, and similar laws (here in Austin) go beyond the scope of God's law. They do not even come close to common sense laws. They do not pay just desert for crimes. They move to the realm of preventing the potentiality of a crime. Preventing. Potentiality.
To me the concept is utterly idiosyncratic. Remember that Tom Cruise movie? No, the other one. Yes, that one. At least in Minority Report they had prophetic vision/confirmation of a future crime. No, we've done them one better. We convict on the potential of something bad happening. What makes this movement away from retribution-centered legislation most interesting is the balance of its practice on both sides. The liberal movement away from capital punishment (again this is not a capital punishment post) is a rejection of desert/retribution arguments. Conservatives who "believe the Bible" endorse the death penalty yet turn around and do the same song and dance away from retribution-centered legislation. They consistently endorse the state's regulation of non-crimes. Screw retribution or just desert: We are in for the long haul of "don't let your kids play outside without parental guidance" and eventually "don't let them breathe non-regulated air."
Let's step back and evaluate this from an admittedly Libertarian paradigm (see Libertarianism for Reformed Dummies). For a crime to be committed there needs to be a victim. This is not merely a philosophical concept. This is fundamental to the Old Testament law. There are no prosecutions of potentiality anywhere in the Old Testament. There is only righteousness. God did not condemn Adam and Eve before the fall (despite knowing it would occur). He waited till it did, in fact in history, occur. There must be injustice/sin/lawlessness for righteousness to reign. Injustice. This principal requires a victim. Against whom has injustice been done by not wearing a seatbelt? Is a great evil committed when a wreck occurs and someone is not wearing a seatbelt dies? Of course! But that's not the point of legislation! When we legislate against potentiality we convict when no evil has been done. We have begun to attempt to prevent the potentiality of evil. This isn't a disgrace to mere philosophy but to God's holy law. There is no sense of retribution in this style of legislation. No instead at best it is a deterrent to "acting out." At worst it is a farce to collect money for the local government.
Yes. Prince John has legislated so that the Sheriff can collect "taxes" from you via some "crime" you committed. The only Scriptural example of this behavior is Pharisaicalism. Yes, only the pharisees went beyond the law to condemn non-laws that might possibly be interpreted as breaking the law. Christians easily see this in them but they will fight tooth and nail to defend the state. This defense of the state is also a Pharisaical practice by the way (remember "no king but Caesar?"). Of them Christ said, "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Matt 23:4).
We tax...I mean "fine" people who choose not to follow these burdensom regulations. Now yes, I think we should obey the laws that are not sinful. Yet...YET, it is our own fault these legislation even exist. This is not much unlike the old joke that "dancing leads to sex." American legislation is built upon the principal that citizens will accept the "dancing leads to sex" argument. We have bought it hook, line, and sinker.
And in all of this the innocent are crushed. The very thing the law condemns! American citizens have allowed to occur daily. God's holy law! Too "legalistic" for some and yet we disregard all the protection it provides for the innocent. The depth of depravity required to allow this goes beyond sinfulness. No, instead it is deeply rooted in the pervasive world view of a statist dogma. A dogma that many Christian wouldn't recognize if it slapped them in the face. But they damn well would sue if they did get slapped. I think Saint Paul said something about that too...