Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The American debate goes on: but is it less government, or less Law? How say you, Paul?

When there is a pronouncement on governing, it is not always clear whether the reference is to the majesty concept of Law or the mundane, individual laws. A negative view might be over-simplified as laws are like a mountain range fogged in with regulations. In contrast, we might hear from mouths half tilted that the slogans about diminishing government are from those who have seen too many John Wayne movies about the Wild West. We have even had a Oscar-prize-level TV comedian spoofing us about the high water mark of our thinking is set by money.

Not at issue is that the questioning of legal statutes and regulatory agencies is one thing, the undermining of respect for Law is quite another. 

The need for Law must have emerged as the hunter-gatherers clustered first in villages and then in commerce connected cities. The reciting of folk ways gradually evolved into the need for writing. The felt need for laws must have gradually made its way up out of the same sensations as had the unceasing need for problem solving. Its function in educating people must have been no less real, nonetheless, than for setting limits on their acting out. As you would expect, the priests finally got into the act.

Our particular interest, however, is that the debate is couched by some against a background of religion, particularly the New Testament and Mosaic Law. In actuality, the setting is more often that of Luther and the Reformation. Since Luther, in the main, centered his thinking on Paul we ought to look at that. 

Looking at the great Apostle from the perspective of the post-traumatic process is a great advantage. We can divide his life roughly Into three stages. In the first, in the as yet “Saul,” there is the striving to get out from under the burden of having been a persecutor of Jesus. In the middle section,on the one hand, there is a celebration of the gift of freeing grace that comes to us who are “in Jesus Christ”  and then, as well, an appreciation there was a sort of English common-like law in the Empire. In a final countdown, we can sense the aging process when Paul was writing that last letter to Timothy. He began to reminisce about the time when Moses came down from the mountain with his stone tablets and the people had rebelled and were dancing around a golden calf.  He had come to terms with the wholeness of his life; peace at last.

The reality is that when it comes to laws we have troubles with proliferation, and when it comes to Law we have troubles with perfectionism. Nevertheless, before we resign ourselves to being completely bogged down in our human setting - which never excludes sin – we need to consult the mind of Christ. It always rules in the direction of loving your neighbor as yourself.  

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