Whose law?

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Ge­orge Reed Jr. An his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions re­cently de­fended the sep­a­ra­tion of il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents at the bor­der by in­vok­ing a state­ment from the 13th Chap­ter of the Apos­tle Paul’s Epis­tle to the Ro­mans. Here Paul de­clares all gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity is ap­pointed by God and should be obeyed ac­cord­ingly.

But would “all au­thor­ity” in­clude Hitler, Stalin, Cas­tro, Pinochet and a host of other cruel au­to­crats and mass mur­der­ers? Ap­pointed by God?

That par­tic­u­lar pas­sage, in­ci­den­tally, has a his­tory of con­flict­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions and abuse. And the ba­sis for Ses­sions’ en­tire ar­gu­ment sup­ported by scrip­ture also in­fringes on our con­sti­tu­tional tra­di­tions of sep­a­ra­tion of church and state. Hu­man law and God’s law are not one.

Con­trary to what many in to­day’s evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­nity like to be­lieve, the United States was not founded as a Chris­tian na­tion. Although most all the del­e­gates to our Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion were be­liev­ing, prac­tic­ing Chris­tians, a pro­posal to de­clare us an of­fi­cially Chris­tian Na­tion was in­tro­duced but de­feated. These wise and ex­pe­ri­enced men had wit­nessed what overzeal­ous con­gre­ga­tions in­spired by ego-driven pas­tors could do in a fit of mis­guided spir­i­tual pas­sion and took steps to guard against it. If any­one wants to live in a coun­try where God’s law and man’s law are one, Delta has flights leav­ing ev­ery day for Iran where Sharia Law alone pre­vails.

It is in sit­u­a­tions like this that the con­tro­versy over a lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Bi­ble reemerges. Bib­li­cal lit­er­al­ists as­sert that the Holy Scriptures are God’s ex­act words as He com­mu­ni­cated them to His ap­pointed scribes. My first ques­tion is, to which Bi­ble are they re­fer­ring? No one seems able to agree on how many edi­tions or ver­sions ex­ist, which books should be in­cluded and which ver­sions are truly au­then­tic.

I have counted over one hun­dred English trans­la­tions alone. Most of my fam­ily, which in­cludes sev­eral preach­ers (Bap­tist and Methodist) and my own church (Epis­co­pal) ap­pear to fa­vor the King James Ver­sion. But few would ar­gue it is the orig­i­nal and only au­then­tic text. In fact, it isn’t even the orig­i­nal English trans­la­tion.

Re­sis­tance to crit­i­cal study of the Bi­ble stems from the be­lief that if any part of the Holy Scriptures is called into ques­tion, the en­tire ba­sis for our laws and moral codes would be in dan­ger of im­me­di­ate col­lapse. This is ridicu­lous.

The Ja­panese have laws and cul­tural ad­mo­ni­tions against mur­der, steal­ing, cheat­ing, ly­ing and most of the other of­fenses the Judeo-Chris­tian world op­poses. Yet one would be pressed to round up a hand­ful of Chris­tians in the en­tire coun­try (sta­tis­ti­cally Ja­panese Chris­tians num­ber less than 3 per­cent, mostly re­cent con­verts). And this pat­tern ex­ists through­out much of the world. Cer­tain uni­ver­sal norms, val­ues and pro­hi­bi­tions seem to tran­scend eth­nic and cul­tural bound­aries.

Now back to the im­mi­grant ques­tion. Je­sus pro­vides no spe­cific in­struc­tions on how to treat the chil­dren of il­le­gal im­mi­grants. But He minces few words on how to treat the poor, dis­pos­sessed and im­pris­oned in 73 dif­fer­ent pas­sages.

Noted Bri­tish es­say­ist G. K. Ch­ester­ton ob­served that the Chris­tian ideal has not been tried and found want­ing, it has been found too dif­fi­cult and not been tried at all.

Ge­orge B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bell­south.net.

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