The Sin/Crime Distinction

So I do a bit of writing on politics, law, and religion.  I was even fortunate enough to have one article published by an academic journal last year.  This isn’t my primary vocation, but it’s a solid second calling.  It’s more than a mere hobby.  And the further I’ve gotten into this field, the more convinced I am that Christians really don’t know how to think about law and politics.  There are very large segments of the Christian population who have severed themselves completely from Christian jurisprudence, namely the far-Left progressives and the Libertarians.  These folks can certainly be true Christians.  They are just very mistaken about how that relates to politics.  The majority of “Evangelicals” find themselves in the middle of the GOP spectrum, some reluctantly and some happily.  And a few other well-intentioned Christians stick with the “moderate” and “independent” labels.  Hardly any of them, however, are terribly confident as to whether this is actually a consistent Biblical outlook, and those that are “very confident” are also often very mistaken.

Now let me quickly add that I don’t think I’ve got it all quite figured out either.  There are a number of contemporary political issues of which I am not totally sure what the best approach is.  But one thing I have managed to do over the last few years it to get a  comfortable grasp of the guiding principles of traditional Christian legal thought.  Notice that I said principles.  Principles are different than positive commands and prohibitions.  They go back to basic concepts and founding themes and ideas.  Principles can often take different expressions depending on the rest of the context.  Still, basic morality never changes.

One of the perennial questions is always regarding what role religion should even play in politics. Continue reading

Pro-Life Principles- The Ethical Questions

As we noted in the previous post, the abortion discussion can be divided into two parts: the ethical and the political.  These are not unrelated questions, but they are distinct.  So first, the ethical-

Is abortion moral? 

This question is the elephant in the room.  Almost no one in the pro-choice camp is willing to answer in the affirmative.  They will always say that abortion is to be regretted, yet there are other influential factors that may make certain abortions morally justifiable.

We can already anticipate more questions, but we must not run off just yet.  Let’s stick to this one question.  Is abortion moral?  Or rather, is it moral to end the life of (kill) a human entity (person?  being?  life?) prior to its birth? Continue reading

Pro-Life Principles- A Prolegomena

The fallout from Proposition 26 has been very revealing.  The measure was defeated by a sizable majority, and there are various theories as to just what was its downfall.  “Overreaching” seems to be the consensus explanation, but I think the problem is more basic.  It was seen as overreaching because it implicated a variety of issues and practices that the average “pro-life” Christian was not prepared to question.  Almost everyone in the great state of Mississippi is “pro-life.”  It’s really quite polite to be so.  But it is a much smaller percentage who are willing to condemn abortifacient birth control, and still fewer of that group are ready to say that certain advances in “reproductive technology” violate the natural law.  Perhaps, and a bit more understandably, legal “personhood” is also too difficult of a concept to apply to entities that do not yet exist within the immediate jurisdiction of the state.

While I supported Prop. 26 and am still convinced that it was a morally justified position, I am willing to have the conversation about each of these issues.  From my own perspective, I am convinced that the ethical questions will always have a singular answer, however, the prudential political questions may vary depending upon our context and ability.  Still, what I saw more than anything else was a failure on the part of the citizenry to articulate clear principles and to explain why they would support one practice yet condemn another.  We did not have our first principles in order, nor did we quite know how the law ought to work in support of those principles.

Because of this, I would like to have an extended conversation about these matters.  I want to examine those principles, as well as ask certain key questions as to why people think and decide as they do.  Continue reading

An Examination of Mississippi’s Proposition 26

This Tuesday, the voters of Mississippi will have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 26 which states: “As used in this Article III of the state constitution, the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This is making national headlines as it is rightly seen as a strategic moment in legal history. The implications of Proposition 26 could affect a variety of issues involving the use of fertilized eggs. I do not wish to give a technical legal examination of Prop. 26. Such an examination has already been done quite well here. According to Professor Green, Prop. 26 will not do very much on its face. It certainly will not overturn Roe v. Wade as some have erroneously asserted. However, I do think that Prop. 26 is an important opportunity to examine our own thoughts and reactions about life and the proper role of government.

I have seen a number of very bad arguments against Prop. 26. I will handle them quickly.

  • Prop. 26 pushes private values into the public square. – This is a variant of the old line, “You can’t legislate morality.” In point of fact, you can’t legislate much else besides morality. Take a look at our laws. Nearly all of them are grounded on morality. To the issue of “private values,” however, we can say that Prop. 26 is pretty decidedly public. It is seeking to define “person” in the state constitution. Continue reading