Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. Verse Tool: show

Refugee issues

Discuss topics raised by callers on the radio program

Refugee issues

Postby kaufmannphillips » Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:14 am

This afternoon, I caught a portion of the radio broadcast. One discussion touched on the refugee issue. As usual, Steve's remarks were worth hearing and considering.

I would like to comment on the issue, perhaps from a different tack. (Unfortunately, I was not able to listen to the entire discussion, so I apologize if I end up restating things that were already discussed.)

:arrow: It is responsible and very natural to be concerned for one's own safety, and for the safety of one's family and fellow citizens. However, safety is not our only responsibility, and it should not be our only concern.

We also have the responsibility to love, to have mercy, to be generous, to labor toward peace, to engage people's lives. All these responsibilities involve some measure of risk.

And so we must seek an appropriate balance. We must not be irresponsible by neglecting safety, and we must not be irresponsible by neglecting to assume a fair measure of risk.


:arrow: Accepting refugees may pose a certain margin of risk to American lives. But we accept margins of risk in our daily lives. We transport ourselves and persons whom we dearly love on public roads. We consume foods and medicines that we have not prepared; we use machines that we have not designed or built; we deploy chemical products that we have not formulated or produced. We extend trust in a vast array of interactions, often with persons whom we know next-to-nothing about.

We do all this, understanding that there will be instances when the risk redounds to our detriment. But we also understand that avoiding all risk would be detrimental.

The risk posed by accepting refugees would appear to be extraordinarily small - much smaller than many risks we assume on a daily basis. (Q.v., http://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2017/feb/01/ted-lieu/odds-youll-be-killed-terror-attack-america-refugee/) Furthermore, there is risk posed by not accepting refugees. (Q.v., https://www.cato.org/blog/syrian-refugees-precationary-principle )


:arrow: Before we weigh out our responsibility to safety, we should make sure that our prevailing responsibilities are in order.

For many of us, there is an eminent responsibility to love - one which prevails over other responsibilities to greater or lesser extents. Many of us will acknowledge a responsibility to love not only neighbors, but also enemies. And we acknowledge this responsibility, even though we make ourselves more vulnerable by loving. Our efforts at love may give our enemies resources and opportunities that they can turn against us.

Similar points could be made for mercy, for generosity, for peacemaking. Each of these responsibilities may be seen as important enough as to prevail, to some extent or another, over other responsibilities.

Accordingly, before we tackle our risk analysis, it behooves us to run an internal inventory. What do our hearts hold for the refugee(s) whom we are considering? Do we have compelling love? Do we have compassionate mercy? Do we rejoice to be generous? Do we ache to be peacemakers?

When these responsibilities have been given their proper weight, then we may turn to balance matters of safety and risk.
User avatar
kaufmannphillips
 
Posts: 576
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:00 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby steve » Thu Mar 09, 2017 3:33 pm

When discussing refugee policy, I am assuming that we are discussing governmental policy—not Christian policy. We do not have a Christian State, but a pluralistic one. As such, the government has no de facto obligation (nor right) under the Constitution to adopt or enforce policies practiced distinctly by Christians in their private lives, following their Christian convictions.

Jesus, Peter and Paul knew nothing of a Christian State, and did not seek to impose Christian convictions upon governmental policy. They did, however, expect the government to do what governments are supposed to do—namely, to protect innocent citizens from criminal aggressors, whether foreign or domestic. Paul told us to pray for government officials—not that they would become Christians or institute Christian laws, but that they would leave us alone to live out our own convictions unmolested (1 Tim.2:1-3).

When people ask me to opine on immigration policy, I do not assume that they are asking me what Christians ought to do, but about what the government ought to do. Immigrants are not immigrating into the Church, but into a country.

As a Christian, I might be willing to take a stranger into my home, even at a risk to my personal safety or property. This would be a distinctly Christian decision on my part. I would have to think twice, however, about bringing strangers into my home if I had vulnerable housemates, whose home it is as much as mine, and who may be endangered by my clueless hospitality. In other words, I would need to vet applicants and set boundaries for their behavior in my home, if their coming in would put others at risk.

The government is in the same position as I am—except that they do not operate under rules of Christian charity. They do have the duty of protecting those who legitimately call this country their home. It behoves them, therefore, to be cautious about bringing strangers within the borders of the land that they are sworn, and duty-bound, to protect.

If we would say, the government should behave like Christians—not resisting the evil man, giving to everyone who asks, turning the other cheek to aggressors—then there could be no criminal justice system, not incarceration, no consequences for antisocial behavior. The government would, in such a case, be placing everyone, Christian and non-Christian, at risk and leaving them at the mercy of the most violent and sociopathic members of society.

Therefore, I do not expect or require the secular State to behave like the worshiping community of disciples. The State has a different function and calling. In the Old Testament, Israel was a State, as well as a worshiping community. They had police and high priests—which bore legal authority over all the citizens. America is not a worshiping community. It is strictly a secular State, and, like all States, must act as the protector of its citizens.
User avatar
steve
 
Posts: 3206
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:45 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby steve7150 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 9:22 pm

Accepting refugees may pose a certain margin of risk to American lives. But we accept margins of risk in our daily lives. We transport ourselves and persons whom we dearly love on public roads. We consume foods and medicines that we have not prepared; we use machines that we have not designed or built; we deploy chemical products that we have not formulated or produced. We extend trust in a vast array of interactions, often with persons whom we know next-to-nothing about.






Nice to hear from you KP! I think the government leaders in Europe have had a similar attitude to you but the results have not been what you are describing. The multicultural belief of liberalism is like their religion to them IMHO and their reluctance to acknowledge that there have been many problems is in itself an additional issue. In Sweden many women are afraid to walk alone or go to certain areas, some even dye their hair black. There have been similar problems in Germany & France and other countries. There are actually no-go neighborhoods where police are afraid to go. The refugee issue is complicated because they have a different value system and a religion which explicitly teaches violence in certain situations so the problems of assimilation and co-existence are probably ingrained and long term. Is it fair to the citizens of the host country? No i think it is unfair and unjust and the politicians who make these decisions are not the ones who have to live with the consequences.
steve7150
 
Posts: 2493
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2008 7:44 am

Re: Refugee issues

Postby kaufmannphillips » Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:39 am

Hello, steve,

I do not think of love, mercy, generosity, peacemaking, etc. as exclusively Christian responsibilities, or as exclusively private responsibilities.

Our national community has responsibilities to love, to be merciful, to be generous, etc. These responsibilities should be priorities for us, and for the government as an agent of the national community.

Like private individuals, the national community must not be irresponsible about accepting risk, or about avoiding risk. We must face hard dilemmas, with sobriety and courage. America has been at its greatest when it has accepted risk and cost for the sake of others, and for the sake of the best things we believe in.
User avatar
kaufmannphillips
 
Posts: 576
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:00 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby kaufmannphillips » Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:42 am

Hello, steve7150 - nice to see you, too

There are more and less prudent ways to go about receiving refugees. Of course, we should pay attention to experiences in other nations, and we should attempt to learn from them. But America is not Europe.

We have a much larger population and much more territory than any of the European nations. We can diffuse incoming refugees so that they do not wind up in ghettos, alienated from the host culture and isolated from opportunity.

We also have a long history of receiving waves of exotic populations, and integrating over time. In the forefront of each wave, there have been difficulties - but we have managed, and we have the cultural wherewithal to manage.

Every individual and every community has a natural desire for tranquility and ease, and it is natural to wish to be free from the difficulty of dealing with challenging people. Yet every individual and every community has a responsibility to sacrifice some tranquility and ease, and to accept the challenge.

It is a challenge that must be accepted by more than just a few people in positions of power. If common people in average communities are not responsible to engage incoming populations - to build relationships with love and respect and generosity - then there is a greater likelihood of dysfunction.
User avatar
kaufmannphillips
 
Posts: 576
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:00 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby steve » Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:34 pm

I do not think of love, mercy, generosity, peacemaking, etc. as exclusively Christian responsibilities, or as exclusively private responsibilities.

Our national community has responsibilities to love, to be merciful, to be generous, etc. These responsibilities should be priorities for us, and for the government as an agent of the national community.

Like private individuals, the national community must not be irresponsible about accepting risk, or about avoiding risk. We must face hard dilemmas, with sobriety and courage. America has been at its greatest when it has accepted risk and cost for the sake of others, and for the sake of the best things we believe in.


While love is every man's responsibility, the Christian belief is that loving to the point of laying down one's life for others is not common, or even possible, for many in their present spiritual state. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us produces this love, and love, by definition, is a personal responsibility. A national community cannot love in this way unless every member is willing voluntarily to lay down his or her life for others. Where this universal love is absent, those who have it can not force it on those who do not—especially if the latter are in the majority.

What may be desirable for a "national community" to do is not necessarily the same thing as what a State is supposed to do. A "community" is another name for people. The "State" is another word for laws and institutions. You—and socialists generally—believe that the State can be compassionate. Christianity teaches that only people can have compassion. Compassionate individuals, banding together in community (like the Church), can perform even greater acts of compassion.

While we might agree that to live by Christian standards is the inherent duty of all people made in God's image, Christians cannot force non-Christians to behave like Christians. The language of love is not the language of force. The language of government is that of force. People are forced to refrain from criminal behavior. Unlike human beings, the soulless State is not there for the showing of compassion, but for upholding justice—which, in the case of governmental duties, means protecting the rights of its citizens. The interests of compassion may go beyond the interests of justice, but the State's interests do not.

Compassion can be shown to one person only at the expense of someone else's rights. If you help a poor person, you are voluntarily sacrificing your right to keep what you have earned. If you share your home with someone, you are voluntarily surrendering your right to your property and your privacy. If you die in order to rescue someone, you are sacrificing your right to your life—a very noble thing, and most loving. You can sacrifice your rights without becoming guilty of an injustice, because your rights are yours to surrender, if you wish. The State cannot surrender your rights out of compassion to others, without committing an injustice against you. The State can thus only become an agency of compassion by compromising its mission of upholding justice. The protection of one man's rights does not violate the rights of another man. The State should do its job, and people can then do theirs.

Other nations' governments also possess the duty to protect the rights of their citizens. However, if Syria, or other nations, refuse to protect the rights of their own citizens, that duty does not automatically transfer to the governments of other States. If a woman has to flee from her own home for safety from an abusive husband, I may be compassionate enough to let her stay in my home. However, her husband's abusive behavior does not translate into her inherent right to live in my home, whether I invite her or not. A country (e.g., America) is a home. It is the home of people who have rights. It is not the home of the State. The State is there to protect the interests of the people who call its land "home."

I expect you to disagree, but this is what I believe the Bible teaches about governments.


There are more and less prudent ways to go about receiving refugees.


Yes, and I have never heard anyone suggest that no refugees should be brought to America or to Europe. The most strict (and sensible) suggestions have been that those refugees coming from countries hosting institutionalized terrorism should be thoroughly vetted before being admitted. This would seem to agree with your statement.

We have a much larger population and much more territory than any of the European nations. We can diffuse incoming refugees so that they do not wind up in ghettos, alienated from the host culture and isolated from opportunity
.

They can be diffused, if they wish to be diffused. They can even assimilate, if they wish to do so. Some will and some will not. But there is a fine line between diffusion and infiltration.

We also have a long history of receiving waves of exotic populations, and integrating over time. In the forefront of each wave, there have been difficulties - but we have managed, and we have the cultural wherewithal to manage.


Exotic populations who come here because they believe in the values and institutions of this country have always been a boon to our growth and progress. However, populations that do not believe in the Bill of Rights, in the Constitution, or in the fundamentals of American culture, but who wish to overthrow it and replace it with Sharia law, are not in the same category. There has never been (and should never be) any requirement that immigrants adopt "Western" religion. However, if they are determined to overthrow "Western" religious and cultural norms, then, arguably, they belong elsewhere than in the West.
User avatar
steve
 
Posts: 3206
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:45 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby Singalphile » Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:58 pm

.

I suppose that refugee laws primarily just allow certain people to lawfully live and work in a country if they cannot safely return to or live in their home country. Sounds fine. I'm sure it sounds fine to most people. The devil's in the details.

What does it even mean for a law to be loving and merciful and generous? That makes little sense to me. (Just how loving is a law is supposed to be?) It makes sense to say that a law is just. Laws should be just. If the laws allow certain people to stay here, then it would be my Christian desire and responsibility, I think, to legally help provide them food and shelter and opportunity, out of my own pocket.

Nice to hear from you again, kaufmannphillips.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
Singalphile
 
Posts: 802
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:46 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby kaufmannphillips » Sun Mar 12, 2017 4:57 pm

Steve - Thank you for taking the time to respond in detail. Your remarks are interesting, because we have profoundly different ways of thinking.

While love is every man's responsibility, the Christian belief is that loving to the point of laying down one's life for others is not common, or even possible, for many in their present spiritual state. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us produces this love, and love, by definition, is a personal responsibility. A national community cannot love in this way unless every member is willing voluntarily to lay down his or her life for others. Where this universal love is absent, those who have it can not force it on those who do not—especially if the latter are in the majority.


:arrow: I do not agree that "love, by definition, is a personal responsibility." How do you arrive at this definition?

:arrow: I think groups of people very often - and very naturally - become communal organisms. Such an organism thinks together, emotes together, acts together.

This does not mean that all the constituents of the organism are in total agreement. But utter cohesion is not necessary for the collective identity to be real, or for it to function. Within my individual self, there are varying impulses and mentalities that coexist in tension with each other. If I were to lay down my life for somebody else, I would not be surprised if some of my impulses and mentalities were to push against that choice, inveterately. So my personal identity is complex - and yet I exist and bear responsibilities and take action, all as an individual person.

Likewise, communal organisms exist, bear responsibility, and take action - even though some of their constituents may be out of harmony or out of step.

:arrow: When some constituents are out of harmony or out of step, their counterparts in the communal organism may not be able to force them to change their minds. But it also is true that their counterparts may force them to change their behavior. And changing behavior can eventually lead to changed hearts and minds.

I've worked with children for many years, much of it in roles that require me to be a disciplinarian. I cannot force any of the children to be kind, respectful, positive, diligent in their deepest souls. But I can force nearly all of them to behave in ways that are consistent with kindness, respectfulness, positivity, diligence. Eventually, many persons grow into the identity demanded of them.

Other persons will not - but having been forced to behave in better ways than they would, at least the people around them have not had to deal with the full dysfunction of their pathologies.

What may be desirable for a "national community" to do is not necessarily the same thing as what a State is supposed to do. A "community" is another name for people. The "State" is another word for laws and institutions. You—and socialists generally—believe that the State can be compassionate. Christianity teaches that only people can have compassion. Compassionate individuals, banding together in community (like the Church), can perform even greater acts of compassion.

While we might agree that to live by Christian standards is the inherent duty of all people made in God's image, Christians cannot force non-Christians to behave like Christians. The language of love is not the language of force. The language of government is that of force. People are forced to refrain from criminal behavior. Unlike human beings, the soulless State is not there for the showing of compassion, but for upholding justice—which, in the case of governmental duties, means protecting the rights of its citizens. The interests of compassion may go beyond the interests of justice, but the State's interests do not.


:arrow: In a democratic society, the State is a tool, an empowered agent of the national community. There is no universal manual for States - they can take different forms and operate in different fashions. Some States are more people-driven, and some are more structurally-driven. To illustrate: in some States, judges have great personal latitude to render decisions and impose judgments; in other States, judges are tightly circumscribed by statutes. I favor a "people" model, where the essence of the State is not primarily "soulless" structure, but "soulful" public servants.

When the fundamental element of a State is compassionate public servants, then of course the State can be compassionate.

But I also will argue that the "soulless" structure is not so soulless as it might seem. The structure is created by souls, and it is very natural for created things to reflect and be an extension of their creator(s).

:arrow: There are times when the language of love is the language of force. As discussed above, there is the matter of discipline.

Discipline is not just about negative behavior - getting people to not do bad things. It also is about positive behavior - getting people to do good things. And of course, it is not merely about behavior, but about inculcating deeper modes of being and identity. It is very common for internal character to be shaped by external forces.

:arrow: On a similar tack - justice is not merely about questions of negative behavior; it also involves questions of positive behavior. Compassion is not extrinsic to justice, but rather intrinsic. Justice demands compassion; and where compassion is not given its due, such is a violation of justice.

From past discussion, I expect we may have profoundly different ways of thinking in this arena. I view all virtue -- all that is right -- as a unity = coinherent and consistent. When properly understood, no virtue will be found to be in tension with, or exclusive from, any other. No aspect of virtue exists in isolation from any other aspect of virtue. All are fully, mutually present - and if it seems that some aspect of virtue is separated from its counterpart(s), in reality one has run into a flawed approximation of virtue.

I expect that you see things differently = a diversity of virtues, some pressing against each other, some sallying apart from each other. Please correct me if I am mistaken.

But in my way of thinking, justice that ranges beyond compassion is not justice, and compassion that ranges beyond justice is not compassion.

:arrow: Accordingly, to differentiate between justice and compassion as a duty or non-duty of the State is folly - a flawed pattern of thought that leads to betraying both justice and compassion.

Compassion can be shown to one person only at the expense of someone else's rights. If you help a poor person, you are voluntarily sacrificing your right to keep what you have earned. If you share your home with someone, you are voluntarily surrendering your right to your property and your privacy. If you die in order to rescue someone, you are sacrificing your right to your life—a very noble thing, and most loving. You can sacrifice your rights without becoming guilty of an injustice, because your rights are yours to surrender, if you wish. The State cannot surrender your rights out of compassion to others, without committing an injustice against you. The State can thus only become an agency of compassion by compromising its mission of upholding justice. The protection of one man's rights does not violate the rights of another man. The State should do its job, and people can then do theirs.


:arrow: I do not agree that "Compassion can be shown to one person only at the expense of someone else's rights." How do you arrive at this conclusion?

:arrow: To my mind, your remarks here reveal a flawed understanding of rights. In my way of thinking, "rights" adhere to what is right. If I am in a situation where the right thing is to give my coat to a shivering man, then I do not have a right to the coat. I have no property right, in that scenario, to be sacrificed. Again, if I am in a situation where the right thing is to invite a displaced person into my home, then I do not have a right to refuse them. I have no property or privacy right to be surrendered.

Nobody has a right to do what is wrong. Else how could anybody be held accountable for neglecting the leper at their gate? They could simply plead their property or their privacy "right" and be dismissed from the dock.

Nobody has a right to deny the requirements of compassion; and in fulfilling those requirements, nobody sacrifices or surrenders any true rights.

:arrow: Accordingly, it is possible for the State to force persons to surrender a coat - or privacy, or even a life - without compromising justice.

Allowing persons to withhold from those who rightly should receive -- that would be compromising justice, for the sake of "rights" that are not right.

Other nations' governments also possess the duty to protect the rights of their citizens. However, if Syria, or other nations, refuse to protect the rights of their own citizens, that duty does not automatically transfer to the governments of other States. If a woman has to flee from her own home for safety from an abusive husband, I may be compassionate enough to let her stay in my home. However, her husband's abusive behavior does not translate into her inherent right to live in my home, whether I invite her or not.
A country (e.g., America) is a home. It is the home of people who have rights. It is not the home of the State. The State is there to protect the interests of the people who call its land "home."


In my way of thinking, a national community is not only responsible for its self-interest. It is also responsible for the interests of its neighbors.

The national community, and its constituents, do not have the right to deny that responsibility.

The State should be available to facilitate the fulfillment of that responsibility. It should not be complicit in the betrayal of that responsibility.

But there is a fine line between diffusion and infiltration.


There are plenty of ways to infiltrate the United States, whether or not we accept refugees. The question is whether accepting refugees poses a compelling threat to the United States.

When weighing this out, I think it is worthwhile to compare the potential threat posed by refugees with the parallel threats posed by persons who are natural-born citizens. Natural-born citizens plant bombs, conduct biological attacks, shoot up public arenas, rape, thieve, etc.

As far as I am aware, refugees who have gone through our extended process of legal admission do not end up posing a more compelling threat than our natural-born citizenry, which has its own share of fanatics and criminals.

Exotic populations who come here because they believe in the values and institutions of this country have always been a boon to our growth and progress. However, populations that do not believe in the Bill of Rights, in the Constitution, or in the fundamentals of American culture, but who wish to overthrow it and replace it with Sharia law, are not in the same category. There has never been (and should never be) any requirement that immigrants adopt "Western" religion. However, if they are determined to overthrow "Western" religious and cultural norms, then, arguably, they belong elsewhere than in the West.


Even if we accepted several million refugees, distaste for Western norms would not pose a serious threat to American culture. For one thing, the influx would still only amount to a very small fraction of the population. And for another, refugees generally are people who prioritize safety, family, and the opportunity to prosper. They generally are not looking to revisit ideological fanaticism - they have seen its fruits in the land they have fled from.

Of course, some among the first generation may never be deeply sold on certain aspects of American culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing - American culture is a behemoth that could benefit from some minority reports. But in any event, we may expect that the second and third generations will be largely on board with the evolving American tradition.
User avatar
kaufmannphillips
 
Posts: 576
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:00 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby kaufmannphillips » Sun Mar 12, 2017 5:08 pm

Hello, Singalphile,

What does it even mean for a law to be loving and merciful and generous? That makes little sense to me. (Just how loving is a law is supposed to be?) It makes sense to say that a law is just. Laws should be just.


I may be better poised to discuss this if I have a better understanding of how you conceive of love.

(Also, I'm just generally curious about how different people conceive of love :mrgreen: )

That being said, a law is loving in the same way a law is stingy or cruel, etc.

When the law is crafted in a spirit of love/stinginess/cruelty/etc.;
and functions in a way that is consistent with the character of love/stinginess/cruelty/etc.;
and pursues the natural goals of love/stinginess/cruelty/etc.
-- then we may speak of the law as loving/stingy/cruel/etc.
User avatar
kaufmannphillips
 
Posts: 576
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 8:00 pm

Re: Refugee issues

Postby steve » Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:49 am

kaufmannphillips,

We both have acknowledged in our posts to each other that we will not agree, and this is because we have differing starting points.

You ask how I arrived at the view that love is a personal duty. My answer was given in my post: love requires voluntary sacrifice, which, by definition, cannot be forced on others. On this point, you wrote:

I think groups of people very often - and very naturally - become communal organisms. Such an organism thinks together, emotes together, acts together. This does not mean that all the constituents of the organism are in total agreement.


True. And insofar as the ones in disagreement are forced to make the sacrifices that the majority impose on the group, none of the individuals are actually acting out of love. The reluctant is acting under compulsion, not out of love. Nor are the seemingly generous majority acting in love in compelling the reluctant to do the "generous" thing.

Let them do the loving thing themselves, and they will be acting in love. If they force another man to be more generous than he is willing to be, then they are being selectively, and hypocritically, "loving." They are feigning a generosity that really involves their giving away someone else's extorted money, not merely their own, and they are being unloving to the man whose money they are taking by force against his will.

You asked where I got the idea that compassion cannot be exhibited without the sacrifice of someone's rights. I also answered that in my post. If a needy man is to have the money you have earned, then you must be deprived of it. You can deprive yourself of it, and that is compassionate of you. However, if it is taken from you at the point of a gun, that is injustice. Only you can voluntarily surrender your rights without injustice.

But then, I accept some presuppositions that you reject—namely that there is such a thing as private property rights, a right to life, and a right to act according to one's own convictions.

I know you don't believe in private property rights, because you advocate socialism, which grants some individuals the right to confiscate the honest earnings of others, for redistribution contrary to the will of the owners. I believe in private property because both Judaism and Christianity, which teach that it is a sin to steal from another, assume that a given piece of property is owned by the one stolen from, and not by the one doing the stealing.

I know you do not feel bound to follow the teachings of Jesus, but I do, and His words also confirm my belief in private property. Jesus put a statement in the mouth of an employer, which is presented as if it is irrefutably axiomatic: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?" (Matt.20:15).

Even the apostles, who encouraged a communal spirit in the early church, affirmed that property is privately owned, until it is voluntarily given: "While [your land] remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?" (Acts 5:4).

As for the right of a man to follow his own convictions (Romans 14:5), this right extends only so far as his living by his convictions does not allow him to trample the rights of another man. You identify "rights," simplistically, as what is "right." Such a definition would permit any State, charged with upholding "rights" to impose any arbitrary standard of right and wrong, and enforce that standard by force of law.

Not all will agree about what is "right" in certain cases. Is it right for gay people to redefine the historic definition of marriage? Is it right to kill inconvenient human babies in the womb? Is it right to stifle the free expression of opinions in the public square which other persons may find offensive? Is it right to economically punish the rich for having used their talents and opportunities more successfully than others have done with theirs? Can the State simply make a call on such ambiguous issues, over the protests of more than half of the citizens, who feel that human rights are thereby being trampled?

I am convinced that it is "right" for all men to follow Jesus. My Muslim friend thinks it is right for all men to follow Mohammed. If any government, in pursuit of establishing the "right" thing, should mandate that all men follow Jesus, or that all men follow Mohammed, this would be tyranny. It violates the right of every man to follow his own convictions, so long as his doing so infringes on the rights of no one else.

"Justice" is the upholding of genuine "rights" (because "injustice" is the violations of a man's legitimate rights); and every government is commissioned by God to enforce justice. A man's "right" is that which is rightfully "owed" to him. Because a man has a right to his property, I owe it to my neighbor to respect his claim to that which he has earned or honestly obtained. Because a man has a right to his life, I owe it to my neighbor not to kill him. Because a man has the right to the reputation he has earned by his choices and conduct, I owe it to him not to slander him. These are the human rights that inform the commandments, "Do not steal," "Do not murder," "Do not bear false witness against your brother." This is where I get my idea of rights—from the Bible that your religion's predecessors produced.

When rights are properly understood, it follows that no man has a right to violate another man's right:

My right to my life will never overstep another man's right to his (I am assuming, of course, as the Torah teaches, that there are certain criminal actions that a man may commit by which he forfeits his right to his own life).

My right to my property will never interfere with the rights of another man to his.

My right to my wife will not infringe on the rights of another man to his wife.

My right to my good reputation does not interfere in any way with another man's right to his reputation.

As I said, my right to follow my convictions is limited only to the point at which my convictions interfere with another man's just convictions.

A government that upholds the rights of all citizens needn't (and mustn't) violate the rights of anyone in doing so. King Ahab learned this in the affair with Naboth's vineyard: The State has no more right to confiscate private property, which is not owed to it, than has anyone else.

By contrast, a government that interprets one man's rights in such a way as to violate another man's rights (like socialism and communism do) has created a definition of "rights" (and, therefore, of "justice") that is arbitrary and divorced from divine revelation.

You have intermixed the concepts of "justice" and "mercy" in such a manner as to remove any essential difference between the two concepts. Both the Old and the New Testaments list them as separate virtues (Micah 6:8; Matt.23:23).

As I understand the two, compassion may go beyond justice, but it cannot stop short of it. By compassion, I may justly deprive myself of right for the benefits of another. However, compassion is not compassion when it falls short of justice, in its depriving another of his rights. A person can possibly be just, without going all the way to compassion (that is, he may uphold all the rights of other men, while sacrificing none of his own); but he cannot be compassionate if he has not yet gone so far as to be just. It is compassionate for me to give up my own rights, but not for me to surrender (whether by the use of a gun or of a ballot) another man's rights against his will.

That you think otherwise presents an insurmountable barrier between your reasoning and mine.
User avatar
steve
 
Posts: 3206
Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 9:45 pm

Next

Return to Radio Program Topics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron