Sunday, September 6, 2015

Unjust versus Just Laws

If you've been following social media (and in some cases mainstream media) about the Kim Davis case, you'll eventually see people mentioning the Bible.  Sometimes it's the usual arguments about "does she eat shellfish" and other junk like that.  Things that make me wonder what has happened with literacy and education in America.  Even an atheist should have a basic understanding of Christian theology.  It's tantamount to trolling I think.

Since this case is about about following law, some new Biblical quotes have been thrown around like: Romans 13:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:13-14

In essence the claim is that she is cherry picking the Bible: following only those beliefs that suit her while ignoring the parts of the Bible which say to obey government leaders.  Is this true?  Must we always obey our leaders?

Well I think we need to look at the Bible as a whole.  The Old Testament contains two stories of government officials being forced to choose between obeying God and obeying government.  They are the stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as well as the story of Daniel.  They are found in the Book of Daniel.  In both stories, the characters are saved from death by God because they remained faithful and loyal to Him.  There's also the story found in Exodus 1:17.  The King of Egypt tells the midwives to put all baby Hebrew boys to death, but instead the midwives "feared God" and "let the boys live."

In the New Testament, we have numerous stories about St. Paul being thrown into jail.  Acts 5:28-29 is an example of St. Peter and the Apostles testifying that they must obey God over man.

Well what does this all mean?

It means that there is a hierarchy.  God's laws are to be obeyed first and foremost.  Those are always just laws.  And secondly we are to obey man's law so long as it does not conflict with God's laws.  Any laws that conflict are deemed unjust laws.  St. Augustine is famously quoted as having said "Any unjust law is no law at all."  We are to disobey the unjust laws.

So things like stealing are both illegal and God forbids it.  It's to be obeyed.  It's a just law.  Traffic laws are not really God's laws.  They are man-made but do not conflict with God's laws. They are also to be obeyed and are just.  And if they are not obeyed than yes, you can invoke Romans 13:1-2.  St. Paul is telling us to obey our leaders to avoid anarchy.  That said the HHS mandate which requires employers to cover contraceptives is an unjust law and it cannot be obeyed. It conflicts with God's law. For now people are using the court system to try and avoid this unjust law, but there may come a time when employers may have to close their business or civilly disobey in some fashion.  

Is what Kim Davis doing akin to Biblical instruction?  Was she morally justified?  I cannot say for certain.  The media is notoriously bad about leaving holes in the story.  You have to dig hard just to discover that she actually gave several suggestions to the judge in which she could in some fashion carry out her job.  I do think though if I was in a similar situation as Kim Davis I would consult a priest and my conscience.  I'm sure she has in her own way done so. Clearly the law is unjust but as to whether her actions were justified again I cannot say for certain.  As such, I must trust in her judgement and I think that's a fair statement for any Christian having no close connection to the case may say.

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