Thursday, November 16, 2006

Legal Ethical Dilemmas IV cont. - indifferent things, part III

Because so many issues in politics involve not clear moral issues, but the question of whether or not means are efficacious and the question of which costs and benefits we are willing to shoulder, it is the case that we need to be somewhat respectful, humble and kind to each other in political discourse. One of the problems is that during the last century, fascism and communism systematically worked to create entire generations of people who were angry and highly politicized. Their heirs still teach on American college campuses today and are still working to create highly politicized and bitter political partisans. The response to bitter partisanship is usually more bitter partisanship. The partisan says “compromise with me or you’re being unreasonable.” Extremism is defined as disagreeing with the politicized person. So politics seems more and more extreme. We have not yet reached the levels of extremism experienced by America during the early Federalist years when Thomas Jefferson was suggesting that it might be good for Americans to copy the French Revolution and behead a few New Englanders. Nor is it as bad as the pre-Civil War years in which congressman not only argued with words, but even caned each other on the floor of American’s legislative body. But things have become extremely unpleasant and bitter in the political world. Ideally, things would be better if we all were aware that we share the same basic goals but are arguing about what means are actually the best to achieve those goals.

Another problem though is that some people do not believe that there really are choices between certain costs and other costs. Some people actually think that through political action the world and human nature can be perfected. They think that the effects of the fall can be eliminated and the world turned into an earthly paradise. Ironically, the belief in the pursuit of paradise on earth has caused more human suffering than perhaps any other idea. In a fallen world, perfection and earthly paradise are impossible. Attempts to change human nature by force or to re-make the world through government policies usually result in efficiency and suffering. Look at the Communists, the fascists and the Islamists. They are already suffering from attempts to perfect society and mankind. It seems like an odd paradox that the desire to end all wars creates passivism and encourages aggression and thereby fuels the existence of vicious wars rather than stopping them. By contrast, working to arm a country properly and to deter war frequently prevents wars from breaking out since no one thinks combat is worthwhile. As a late 60’s and early 70’s sitcom once said, if you flood a desert you may end up draining an ocean. Politics and public policy are a paradoxical business. But they must always be understood as existing in a fallen world. While we pursue the good and seek to make things better, the pursuit of paradise usually has the opposite result. It is only the paradise of God’s eternal kingdom that will eventually end sin, pain and death. But until then, we muddle through, making due with what we have rather than obtaining perfection. Perhaps it is because in seeking to create a perfect world, we seek to put man and his wisdom and authority in palace of God. It is only by accepting who God is and seeing the world as it really is that we can make genuine progress.


Anonymous said...

One of the problems in assessing politics is that unlike ideologies which grew out of the enlightenment--whether they be of the right or the left--is that politics depends upon a cultural foundation.

This is why the church is so vitally important in creating an environment which is sympathetic to the flourishing of a Christian culture. This is not to suggest Theonomy as a political objective, but rather a system of law where you would not have a Justice Stevens who would go so far as to suggest that even a "religious" motivation for a law deligitimizes it.

The political system itself is incapable of addressing the ethical questions which we confront at the beginning of this century. This is not to suggest that moral considerations should not influence the law. Instead, we are pretending that we live in a state of moral neutrality. In fact, it is anything but neutral. It is a secular ideology which now confronts people of faith with the attack that they are against science if the oppose embryonic stem cell research or happen to believe that a truely neutral legal environment would not prohibit the teaching of intelligent design. Instead we have a federal judge recently characterize I.D. as "mythology" and that is the end of the discussion.

Secularlism and scientism are the new religions and unless we wake up we are likely to encounter a "brave new world" as frightening as any of the ideologies of the last century.

The church need not become involved directly in politics but we must not abandone the culture to those who seek to supplant our influence.

christopher said...

Very interesting stuff. This, "The partisan says “compromise with me or you’re being unreasonable.”" is a classic line.