I was talking to a friend about the law. He reminded me that he used to go to Cleveland Stadium for games on the shores of Lake Erie. He would cross a bridge over the railroad tracks, and he had a full view of the county courthouse. Chiseled in stone are the words “Obedience to the Law is Freedom”.
My friend was struck by the poetry of this and this phrase has stayed with him, imprinted on his mind. Only now is he arriving at a conclusion of what this means to him. As he ventures into his twilight years, he sees how obedience to the law and the discipline to abiding by the law individually, allows him to abide by a higher law of understanding.
Abiding by the call to engage in self-discipline has yielded tremendous rewards in the spirit. Only through the little deeds of discipline can we fully engage with our world with holy intent and arrive at a significant moral standard. As the Bible says, “What you do in your small affairs carries into your big affairs”. The same is true for our country.
This resonated with me. I was reading a book by Benjamin Skinner called “A Crime So Monstrous”. Skinner is an abolitionist who writes about the horrors of modern day slavery.
He documents the decay of modern cities in the Eastern Europe countries and how crime was rampant as a result of its newfound democracy. Skinner takes the reader through the story of a young woman who was desperate to make ends meet and found herself in the clutches of a pimp who sold her into slavery.
It is not uncommon for these cities to become entangled with the mafia and shady individuals to participate in nefarious crimes against humanity while city officials look the other way and accept bribes.
We use the law to suit our needs. Our unwillingness to follow the letter of the law and justify abuses of power entangles us in the shackles and chains of corruption ourselves. Our willingness to look the other way while leaders use laws for their own means, compromises democracy for all.
Generation to generation there is a slow corrosion of the golden edicts of our Constitution; a hallowed document that has carried us through wars, depression, recessions and has established what Ronald Reagan deemed “A shining city on a hill” — a phrase taken from scripture. Though our country is far from perfect, it has created a document that stands the test of time for our Republic, but is now being tested to the fullest.
Some see the abuse of power or so-called “compromises to balance of power” as a necessity to survive in our world. This is a rationalization that continues to call into question our fundamental rights as human beings and to what extent we are willing to extend “Executive privilege”.
It’s a tricky business for judges. The statue of justice is blind as she holds the scales of justice. Every person has to ask the question “Where does mercy come into the picture”? When is it exercised and when should the letter of the law call forth the fullest intent to protect the interests of all citizens.
I won’t be so bold to make any claim to knowing the answer, but the question still nags and needs to at least be addressed. We know fundamentally that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Our willingness to honestly discern right from wrong and hold our leaders accountable for these standards is key to building our country.
Our lack of a standard for moral decency compromises future generations and their ability to discern. Evangelicals, who stand behind immoral policies, perpetuate a legacy of indecency and undermine Christian values.
Our willingness to stand with the downtrodden, “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” that have set up stakes and thrown caution to the wind to establish an American Dream is our hope for greater prosperity. Their open heartedness, creativity and obedience to the law within the bounds of freedom will cultivate a lasting legacy of freedom for future generations.
The test of our willingness to abide by the Law is the greatest challenge to our system of checks and balances.