A look into some of the many faces of ‘the’ Law…
That’s the kind of law which governs the Affordable Care Act, paying taxes, stopping at red lights, having to wait until you’re 21 to drink alcohol, as well as all the penalties accrued and assessed for violations. Man’s Law also includes a majority of ‘God’s Laws’—those governing ethical behavior, e.g. the No Kill Law, the No Stealing Law—those things we all just sort of don’t do, as a rule, but just in case we forget, Moses brought the stone table down from the mountain and made it official.
Man’s Law, at least in the US, excludes any and all rules pertaining to False Gods, Swearing, Keeping Holy the Sabbath, and Honoring Your Parents. Oh, and Coveting—we do all get to covet with complete impunity.
Man’s Law governs and includes all judicial decisions. The way that Man’s Law is an Ass can be understood best in terms of a few recent US Supreme Court decisions, e.g. Kelo v City of New London, 2005, which expanded ‘public good’ to include ‘tax revenue and jobs created by condemning and razing an old lady’s house and building a shopping center.’ Seriously. The government can condemn your property and sell it to a developer.
Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commisson, 2010. Corporations were given personhood, and therefore the government is prohibited from restricting a corporation’s contribution to political candidates, parties, PACs. Representative government becomes government not of, by, or for the people, but for those with the most bucks. The Monarchy of Money. So much for democracy
Then there’s the Hobby Lobby decision. That’s the one where a company, and presumably a private individual as well, can use a deeply held belief in God’s Law to decide which one of Man’s Laws they don’t have to comply with.
I actually like that one—I can opt out of lots of things on those grounds. Taxes—ain’t gonna pay for war no more.
But, seriously, it’s a whole boxful of Pandoras (a famous saying by former NM Governor Bruce King) that we as a country of 300 million probably don’t really want to let out.
Render unto Caesar?
…that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s—so says a gospel of Matthew.
And there you have it. Man’s Law is Caesar’s Law—Caesar of course being ‘the government.’ Therefore, the “Render unto Caesar’ rule must extend to keeping its laws. Except when it’s a privately-held corporation with deeply held religious beliefs, and then God’s Law supercedes. Good thing we don’t think God wants us to stone women of other faiths to death, or fly airplanes into tall buildings.
What if obedience to Man’s Law (or God’s Law) causes or allows suffering of others to continue? Should one steal food to feed one’s hungry children or let them starve? Is this God’s will? Should hungry people get away with stealing food?
Deities can be spectacularly subtle
In my ecofantasy novel, Corvus Rising, the Jesuit priest, Alfredo Manzi, struggles with whether to obey Man’s Law and be considered righteous and without blame, or to commit a criminal act that will alleviate the suffering of another. He prays to God, asking for guidance. Does God want us to break laws? Alfredo wonders, but receives no answer.
“Deities can be spectacularly subtle,” Charlie the blue-eyed crow tells the priest. “That’s been the corvid observation of human gods in general over the years.”
“As well as spectacularly unhelpful,” Alfredo said as he drew the outline of the grounds of Rosencranz in the sand. “Sometimes God wants us to find our own way, I guess.”
“Well, it might help if you ask a yes or no question,” Charlie said. “Then the deity could catch a bush on fire, which would be a yes answer I would think. However, silence could also be construed as consent, albeit far less dramatic.” -excerpt from Corvus Rising
In other words, sometimes we’re pretty much on our own.