aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

More on law abiding as a Christian duty

I posted about the value of law abiding as a Christian duty last week, citing John Wesley's practice and our United Methodist doctrinal statements. I was roundly hooted for it, including by those who I thought should know better.

Christians are, indeed, enjoined by the Apostle Paul to obey the authorities. Methodists were required to give up shady practices of all sorts in order to remain in the movement. Law abiding is one of the fundamental values of our civic order.

That doesn't mean that I endorse some kind of brutal "lawnorder" approach to things. Repression is not good civic order. The law should be enforced fairly and humanely, but the law should be enforced. And obeyed.

American civic order presumes voluntary law abiding on the part of the vast majority of citizens (and visitors). We file our own taxes and tell the government what we owe. We stop at stop signs even out in the country where no one else is coming. We don't help ourselves to products on the shelves without paying for them. The police and other law enforcement agencies apply their energies mostly toward the minority of people who break the laws, not the majority who don't. That's how a free society works.

If we assumed that nobody could be trusted to obey the laws, then the police would have to be a much more prominent -- and repressive -- force in our lives. As it is, most of us glide through our days with nary a thought for them. Doing no wrong, we fear no confrontation with the police. There are societies where this is not so. Some have much higher levels of crime; others, by the heavy-handed nature of their view of authority, create crime where there needn't be any.

There are pockets of our own society where the police or feds are far more active, and where their presence and activity is much resented. Many blacks are suspicious of the police. And, of course, many aliens, legal residents and illegals alike, fear discovery of certain situations. And yet, law abiding and law enforcement benefit these communities, too. The most common target of black criminals is other black people. Law-abiding American blacks have often expressed a desire for more effective law enforcement in their communities. They get tired of being victimized by the lawbreakers in their midst. Similarly, many Hispanic Americans, recent legal immigrants and long-time citizens alike, are not supportive of illegal immigration. Their communities are plagued by crime, too, and where people are reluctant to cooperate with the police, as illegals and those harboring them are, crime flourishes. The members of the same community are the most affected.

I want the immigration laws humanely enforced -- and I believe they are as humanely enforced as current law and means at hand can allow for -- but I want the laws enforced. Those shouting the loudest right now don't want the laws enforced. It's just that simple. Were the laws to be changed by Congress, I would be pleased; in which case, I would want those laws enforced. And obeyed. Because a free society depends upon voluntary law abiding. To promote disobedience to the law leads to less freedom for everybody -- either through the increased freedom of the criminal, or the consequent and necessary increase of heavy-handed enforcement, or both.

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