Category Archives: Law

Racism, Abortion and the Constitution

To add to the conversation from my last post, I mentioned that my buddy Dwayne had problems with States Rights because of racism. Dwayne mentioned that there were a few individual states calling to keep people segregated. For an example we had the infamous Jim Crow Laws where blacks and whites, were not allowed to marry or drink at the same fountains, sit at the front of a bus or move or get off the bus if there was no room for whites, etc. Thus, there are some problems with States Rights or so many on the left think.

Such laws are not only foreign to our way of thinking and behaving (legally) today, but the question needs to be asked how we got from there to where we are now. Why is the state (on the federal level) allowed to say, no to slavery but not to abortion? The answer to that is in the founding document, “The Declaration of Independence.” In there it says:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The basis of the US Constitution is found in this document and this portion of that document. It is one of the reasons, that some on the right say leaving abortion to the states is a half-way measure. It doesn’t fulfill that portion of the document. Why, if the unborn are full persons, don’t they have these inalienable equal rights?

The problem of saying that blacks were not created equal (as other human beings, namely white) was based on the arbitrariness of skin colour. So that had to change and eventually did via the US Civil War. Again, to say that blacks are not human and to keep them enslaved via state rights is so unpopular today to be as unthinkable as making state laws against people driving cars or telling people what toppings they can put on their pizza for dinner tonight. (In a sense we DO tell people what to put and not put on their pizza’s, like, for example, bleach, but we don’t make laws covering every contingency. Even bleach is covered under personal harm to another or murder laws).

In relation to abortion, both concern humanization and dehumanization and how it intertwines with state and federal law. In some philosophical/metaphysical respects, they overlap, (personhood/humanness) in others they don’t.

In the case of abortion, the thing in question is (going back to what was asked above in the second paragraph):

  • Is the state, in this case the federal government, allowed to make a sweeping law for dehumanization and thus death? Or should that be left to the individual states?

In the case of slavery and blacks, the thing in question is:

  • Is the state, in this case the federal government, allowed to make a sweeping law declaring dehumanization on all blacks so as to enslave them or should/can that be left to the individual states?

This is essentially what my buddy Dwayne was asking. Why is it left to individual states to declare who is a person in one case but not in the other? The answer goes back to the Declaration of Independence where all men are created equal. In the case of slavery and blacks, they are humans persons created equally as other human persons.

In the case of abortion, the question would, it seems, hinge on whether the Founders INTENDED the unborn to be INCLUDED in the statement of them being created equal (as the already living) and having inalienable rights (as the already living).

If one wants to argue that the “spirit” of the Declaration of Independence should include the unborn, and thus be reflected in a sweeping law in which all states CANNOT have abortions, then all I can say is, GOOD. LUCK. WITH. THAT! Hence, the reason that abortion is and should be left to the individual states and not the question of blacks and slavery. If one really sought to make the unborn as a part of the spirit of the Declaration of Independence then the next level battle would have to be Amendments to the US Constitution of which I really don’t see that happening. Most of the population today would not allow for a federal law or state law declaring other already living human beings non-persons based on the Declaration of Independence, the 14th Amendment and a Civil War. It would be hard to make that shift with regard to abortion through the process of amendments to the US Constitution and I doubt pro-lifers are going to start a war over it. Thus, the question should be left up to the individual states.

Bringing Christian Ethics and Theology to Bear on Culture, Politics or Otherwise

Was talking with my buddy Dwayne Polk (he used to work at Greg Boyd’s church in St. Paul MN, Woodland Hills) privately about politics on Facebook Messenger. He wanted me to put forth my BEST argument for voting for Trump.

“I want to truly go at the best BIBLICAL and THEOLOGICAL grounds for supporting Trump for 2021 President. I mean the best.”

For D, everything hinges on the “Great Commandments”—loving God and your neighbour. I told him that we would need to look at individual issues and then I picked one—abortion. So he asks,

“Lets start right here:

Are the GCs *ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY* for being a disciple of Jesus? Yes or no?”

After a little finagling I said, that they were. Then I asked him, “How the GC (Great Commandments) would work out CONCRETELY with regard to Roe v Wade. He went into the abortion issue at which point I said that I had asked him a specific question about Roe v Wade and not abortion. I was asking about the LEGAL judgment of RvW and not all the arguments or ethics surrounding abortion.

Essentially, my argument was, it is not loving God or your neighbour by forcing a sweeping claim on everyone in a country that says, “No state can determine their own abortion laws”—some across the board, “right to privacy” that is not found in the US Constitution. The Great Commandments don’t allow a federal branch to strike down laws of individual states in which legal tradition for over 200 YEARS was just swept under the carpet JUST. LIKE. THAT. (snaps fingers). While that isn’t full blown communism, it is the federal government exceeding it’s authority. Could you imagine if a federal court said, “You shall not grow cucumbers?” Or “People cannot ride tricycles?” If it’s not mentioned in the Constitution then each state should decide these things. The reason why you never hear about states making laws against the things mentioned above is because, well, they would be so unpopular. Actually, they ARE unpopular.

Well, the same thing applies to same sex marriage. The high court makes a law legalizing SSM in all states. There is absolutely NOTHING loving here about the Court striking all laws down by fiat in all states. This isn’t loving God or your neighbour—ruling over others in such a way. Think about all those churches that don’t believe in SSM. Across the board, if you are against SSM or you don’t support SSM, then you are discriminating and if you are discriminating, you should lose your non-profit status and/or whatever other penalty they can throw on you with the eventuality of non-existence. Relatedly, if you don’t believe in gay priests, you are discriminating and thus you should lose your non-profit status and/or whatever other penalty they throw on you as well as, ultimately, non-existence. THAT’S THE GOAL. In both cases (abortion and SSM), freedom of religion is at risk.

Let’s turn this around a bit. If a church said, we don’t believe in heterosexual marriage (as strange as that seems because even the most liberal of churches insist on both homosexual and heterosexual marriages which they think is the middle/neutral ground, (it’s all about the love man!) while conservative churches (said they) believe in heterosexual marriages, both should be allowed to practice what they believe. They should be allowed to practice and exist without governmental interference ie., blessing or having their own “weddings” or “marriages.” They should be able to hire the gay priests they want instead of heterosexual ones. That is TRULY following the GC of loving God and neighbour. It’s pluralistic. It’s truly the neutral ground. I’ll put up a part two hopefully this weekend because Dwayne then responded with what he thought was the problem of States rights: Racism.

For me, the truly problematic issue with liberals, progressive Christians or the radical left is their inept understanding when it comes to legal and Constitution questions. I get that they want to bring what Jesus or the Bible has to say to bear on the issues of the day, (obviously the Great Commandments was of concern to my progressive Christian brother) but in order to do that you have to understand “the facts” of the issue (the actual Constitutional and political issues) in order to integrate your Christian ethics or theology in it. For example, it would not help (to use an example that John Stott used so many years ago) to bring the GC to bear on the law for people being attacked on the side of the road (the Good Samaritan story) if in fact it is not the case that people are NOT being attacked. Dwayne and I can agree that love is the ultimate standard to be brought to bear on the culture, legal and otherwise, but it is justice that helps with discerning how that might be so. And that requires looking at the facts of the issue or reality first (not meant chronologically).

So far, the question about legal abortion is not the “best” argument (as if that isn’t a category mistake—how is one question on one issue supposed to be the best reason to vote for a candidate? The word “best” doesn’t seem appropriate here. If I was only allowed to vote on ONE AND ONLY ONE issue in voting for Trump and that was abortion, then I would bring forth one of the strongest arguments for voting for him: the Constitutionality of RvW.

The Flash: Social/Political Ramifications 

I just started watching he first three episodes of “The Flash.” I just finished episode three on Netflix. Anyone else enjoying this TV series? This third one was one of the best episodes yet which has helped me reflect a little more deeply about principled pluralism (it also has some interesting philosophy about our running away from problems as well as running TOO something). Gonna put a spoiler out there to demonstrate what I’m talking about.
Barry has now had some time to think about his father in prison. As a matter of fact, he has being thinking about how he could rescue him since he first went. But now that Barry has supersonic speed he KNOWS he can free him without going through the proper channels and in fact he says so when he he talks to Detective Joe West in the hospital. But alas, both realize that the best way to get his dad out of prison may take longer (going through the process) but it is right and good that they do so in the end. And why is that? This scene, more than anything I’ve watch or read so far on authority demonstrates clearly what Austin Lee spoke about in his book, “Up with Authority” concerning the undermining of authority. Think about what would be the case if Barry decided to break his dad out of jail on his own? First, there would be issues of public trust. Barry (Flash) would be viewed as someone not trustworthy. Who’s to say that Barry would not bend the rules whenever it suits him? Also, what would happen with law and order–something we normally take for granted and depend on–if we decided to skirt the rules and act above the law every time it suited us? Not only would there be no public trust for the “Barry’s” of the world but we also wouldn’t have trust in the system. Think about it. You believe your father is innocent (and in Barry’s case actually is), the rest of us believe he’s guilty. You may have it within your power to free him from prison, but by doing so, you’ve done nothing to convince the rest of us that he is. You may want justice for your father but by freeing him without going through the process you’ve undermined 
justice because now nobody will trust the system, ie., were those in authority in on it? The scope of concern is wider than the more immediate need (in this case).

In saying this, I’m not talking about certain rules that can be bent WITHIN the “ground rules.” I’m talking about the ground rules themselves. Certain things can or must NEVER be broken.

Capital Punishment and the Christian Faith

So Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is sentenced to death for the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and for killing a police officer. After reading, “Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call For Reckoning” I’m convinced that there is no real tension between the Christian faith and the death penalty. Having a little discussion on facebook with one of my friends, Keith Pavilschek I made mention of what Gilbert Meilaender said:

“Evidently Christian sensibilities about forgiveness do not actually require forgiveness, since something called “punishment” is still permitted.”

Apparently some Christians (and yes, I’ve seen them in the media) believe that forgiveness requires no death penalty. But for some reason, it would require punishment. Hmmmm…thinking there is a contradiction there when forgiveness is your bottomline. Keith pointed out that,

“if the death penalty is ‘state sanctioned murder’ as some abolitionists insist, is imprisonment ‘state sanctioned kidnapping’?

and I pointed out

“And how about the ’emotional abuse’ one ‘suffers’ when one is stuck in a prison for the rest of their days”

On Racism

My buddy Tom Belt wrote an interesting piece on racism that you can view here.

I do have a couple of things to say about this though.

A. Dwayne and Tom see systemic racism to be a failure to truly love someone because of self-perception. I really don’t know if I would identify this as the “systemic” portion of racism. Of course, one could say the same thing about blacks against whites. One could also say the same thing about sexism. The list could go on and on. Not trying to say this is not true. As a matter of fact I do see this as a pretty plausible explanation. But an explanation that seems to have to fit into a wider view of justice.
B. Some Christians are fond of saying that Christian morality should not be forced on to others. Something like, “You can’t force non-Christians to love” through law. So, if this is a Christian understanding of racism, I would like to know how this could ever be reflected in law. Should such a view be encoded in law? COULD it be reflected in law? Sure, a non-Christian may not be able to love the way they should if the Spirit was guiding them, but I tend to think that the Spirit is still at work in unbelievers as well as I tend to think that if a view such as this was encoded in law, it may be able to be done without the Christian trappings. In other words, how could we all perceive ourselves as “one?” Forget law. Just put it in policing policies.
C. I do think that this explanation is helpful with regard to responding to the question that was actually proposed to me on Facebook: “Do you think the police want to kill others?”

I don’t think these question are irrelevant. I think the questions Tom raises is one side of the coin while my thoughts are the other side. Theirs is theoritical. Mine is trying to see this as an outworking in law and policing policy. I’ve been guided by a saying that goes something like this:

“Justice fulfills what love cannot.” You can start out with love–looking at what the problem is or what you think the problem is. You can come up with solutions, ie., deal with the self-perception issue, ., ie, we’re all one. But it also needs to have a practical outworking–justice.