Thursday, 5 March 2009

When you don’t like the laws

A couple of Sundays ago, a few of us were chatting after a service. Not about the hymns, or the sermon, or anything like that - but about driving - and in particular, about long car journeys. And people started talking about speed cameras, and the need to know where they were and to watch for them. One was the proud owner of a new satnav which told you where the devices were.

I was somewhat surprised to hear Christians speaking so openly about their willingness to break the law, and their attempts to make sure that they were not caught. Christians are, after all, supposed to respect the law. As the apostle Paul writes (Romans 13:1) “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

Paul, of course, was very well aware that governments often did things that were unjust and evil. The Scriptures of the Old Testament told him that. And he would have seen and experienced a lot of injustice from the imperial Roman government. Yet he wrote that Christians should respect the rule of law.

This is not an absolute principle of course - where the state demands that one does something wrong, it is the duty of the Christian to disobey the state. (Acts 5:29 - “We must obey God rather than men”). But in other cases, even when the law is petty or silly, the Christian is obliged to obey it.

Or at least, that is the theory. The Christians that I was chatting with, however, seemed to be either oblivious to this point, or unwilling to heed it when it came to speed limits.

No, I will admit that I have exceeded speed limits on many occasions and that I continue to do so. But I don’t actually plan to do so. It sort of just happens. No excuse, of course - but there is a difference. The chaps I was talking to all seemed to be planning to break the speed limits before they set out, and had no shame about it. Not much respect for the law there.

So - what does one do when there is a law that one feels is petty? What does one do about laws that should not, in your opinion, be enforced? What does one do about laws that you think are bad laws? You seek to get them changed. My friends gave the impression of never having thought of that. But of course it is easier to break laws that you don’t like and hope that you are not caught, than to work to get them changed.

Anyway, I am working to get them changed. Not very hard, I admit - but I have, at least joined a party which seeks to do something about speed limits. (The Libertarian Party’s approach is that speed limits would be removed on all trunk roads. In places such as villages and town centres the local community would decide what limit they would like to see in their environ, one which suits their needs, which would then be enforced by their local police, administered by their locally elected police chief. This would remove speed limits from central government control.)

Oh, and I didn’t join because of the party’s policy on speed limits, but because it is opposed to all petty and unnecessary legislation. I don’t want to live in a society where the law is widely perceived to be an ass, and hence ignored. I want to live in a society which respects the rule of law.

1 comment:

North Northwester said...

Christians - actual churchgoers - considering breaking the law. The laws of a democratically-elected government. It is shocking, but still..

But most of them aren't 'laws' at all:
they're either European Union diktats which are unamendable by anyone even faintly resembling a British subject, or government fiat that have never reach Parliament for its scrutiny, or 'guidelines' for public services that public officials 'enforce' as if they were fatwas right out of Sharia law.

As a conservative I fear the general disrespect for the laws that this exposes, and the horrible consequences if it becomes general, and as an Englishman I fear for my country if this is what the followers of its principle source of morality believe now.
How to render unto Caesar what is his in this case - for a non-believer like me - is a puzzle indeed.