THE RELIGIOUS (CHRISTIAN) ASPECT OF THIS ISSUE
This morning, the graveyard in my store unknowingly did me a big favor. He provided me with the means of getting into this document.
This man is a strange bird, to say the least. He is extremely competent and I can rest assured that when I relieve him the store will be in excellent shape. He, as a cashier, feels that if the law is broken, someone should be punished, even if the law is broken on the basis of entrapment. Consequently he totally supports sting operations as a law enforcement tool, perfectly aware that he may be trapped in one of these stings. He is a self proclaimed and devout atheist, yet knows the Bible better than most Christians and continues to study it. He also insists that I get him out of the store early enough Sunday mornings for him to walk to the Cathedral and attend the early worship service. And, now he is even debating as to whether or not he wants to receive the Bishop's blessing during the Eucharist, even though he is not a member of that denomination and refuses to join because of his atheism. Yet, in spite of his strangeness, he has challenged me in my thinking and caused me to be able to better defend my own ideas. He does this as a service to me, without regard for any cost to himself. I find my appreciation of him growing because of this. When he leaves the company, and he soon will, I will miss him, greatly.
What this man did this morning was ask me, "Do you believe there is meaning in your life?" I, of course, answered that there is, and then he asked me to explain. The meaning that I have found most recently comes from the projects I have taken on for my web site. I honestly believe that God had directed me in this project. SHE gave me a burden for the homosexual, and would not leave me alone until I completed the project entitled CHURCH AND HOMOSEXUALITY. I could have dismissed this, saying that I am not gay and that these issues did not affect me, but SHE would not let me. As a result of HER insistence, I believe that I have put together an excellent work, one which will eventually provide the foundation for pro-gay reasoning in all churches in the near future.
In the same manner, God has place the issue of the injustice of Compliance Checks as an enforcement tool on my heart. The results are not totally decided yet, but because of HER insistence, I have researched for and written COMPLIANCE CHECKS AND THE ISSUE OF ENTRAPMENT. This document has given a friend, identified on this web site as WA-001, the belief that he can buck the Washington State Liquor Control Board and fight his citation for non-compliance. An added bonus of that work is what the Supreme Court had to say on the letter vs. the purpose of the law which will serve me in two ways; 1) it will provide me a basis for objecting to the Liquor Control Board's former practice of lying in wait outside a retail outlet until a minor walks out with alcohol and then issuing a citation on that basis, and 2) it confirms what Paul had to say about the letter vs. the spirit (II Corinthians 3:6), an important concept in my own faith. The benefits I have gleaned from following God's direction in this issue have started to come in, and I am sure that there will be more as I continue to follow HER guidance.
The above should be enough to explain why this is a religious issue to me. While I am sure that there are other issues, some of them more important than this one, this is the issue that SHE has assigned to me. However, this isn't sufficient to make it a religious issue for you.
In my attempt to help you understand this as a religious issue, let me start by quoting scripture, the passage in Luke where Jesus announced his mission:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.(Luke 4:16-21 KJV)Jesus read Isaiah 61:1 & 2. He announced that his mission was to preach the gospel to the poor. What did this gospel consist of? Notably absent is the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, the gospel that has become synonymous with Christianity since before Billy Graham began his crusades. This is not to say that Billy Graham's message is not a part of the gospel, and an important one at that. It is to say that the gospel includes a good news (for this is the meaning of the word "gospel") which is aimed at the poor, the slave, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, those who have lost hope. This good news says that these, those we reject because we believe them to be inferior for some reason, are just as important to God as the King (or President) and the High Priest (or denominational head) is.
This gospel has become foreign to us because we have come to believe that religion and politics, or at least religion and law, do not mix. In fact, we believe, that the purpose of religion must be limited by law, not that religion should direct law. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When the founding fathers sought justification for the revolution, they found it in religion. They wrote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence)While I do not subscribe to the fallacy that all of these men were fundamentalist type Christians, I do maintain that these men were deeply religious and that their religion motivated their actions.
Religion is at the basis of law. As an example, our laws against murder or manslaughter are legal statements of the principal that all human lives, or more specifically, that any one individual human life, is sacred. Nothing can be more religious than this concept. In Spokane WA, right now, the news is dominated by the story of law-enforcement's attempt to establish the guilt of a serial murderer. This investigation affirms the sacredness of human life. The serial murderer's victims were prostitutes, women who made a living in an illegal profession, trapped in that profession because their weakness allowed them to become drug addicts. Even so, their lives were sacred. Those former lives are affirmed to have been sacred by the continued interest of every citizen in Spokane, and by their desire that the murderer be brought to the courts to account and answer for his crimes.
When our nation wrestled with and finally accepted the idea that slavery, even though protected by the law, was immoral, it was a religious group, primarily the Quakers, who spearheaded that fight, and they did so because they saw it as a religious issue.
Later, when our nation wrestled with the immorality of segregation, it was because a group of churches, the Southern Christian Conference, made it into a religious issue. And...these, primarily Afro-American Churches, were joined by the youth of Northern main-line Christian Denominations, mainly white, who also made it a religious issue.
When ever the law is wrong, when ever it oppresses, when ever it condemns unfairly, when ever the law scapegoats the innocent so that the guilty do not have to face their guilt, we have a religious issue.
If you strip the ancient Hebrew Law of all its taboos based on a fertility cult understanding of reality, and then once again go through and purge it of the rules for worship in the Hebrew religion, what remains is a system quite like our own. In fact, our own legal system, to a great degree, is based on this ancient legal system. This ancient legal system is a system that teaches people how to live in a community, to have the maximum freedom possible without treading on the rights of his or her neighbors. It is an amazingly sophisticated system, especially considering its primitive origins. While much of this system may be out dated, because it was written for an agrarian society and not a post-industrial society, we can learn much from it even today.
Out of this law comes two very Jewish institutions. These are justice, and prophecy.
Justice is not limited to proper punishment for crimes committed. Instead, that is a limited aspect of justice. Justice is bound up in the rights that the framers of the Declaration of Independence felt were divinely guaranteed to all of humanity. Justice is equality, equality of opportunities and equality of treatment. Justice is what Nathan was talking about when he accused David of killing Uriah so that he could have Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. Nathan's concept of justice said that the King was not above the law and did not deserve special treatment by the law because he was King. We can go on, citing numerous examples of how justice, as defined above, became the primary concern of the religious men in the history of the Hebrew and then Jewish nation.
Those religious men were the prophets. To these men, prophecy was not foretelling the future. It was speaking for God. And...it was as a prophet of God that Nathan spoke to David in the above example.
Both of these concepts, the concept of Christian or Religious Justice, and the concept of prophecy as it speaks for God, make this issue, the issue of Sting Operations as the main method law enforcement uses to keep tobacco and alcohol out of the hands of minors, a very religious issue. This practice scapegoats the unwary and innocent participant in a crime, ignoring the fact that the real criminal is the minor who makes the purchase. This practice allows law-enforcement to reap the rewards of an active campaign against the violation of a law when, in fact, that campaign does nothing to decrease the problem the law was written to resolve. Finally, this practice allows a society, who bears the greater responsibility for the problem with its attitude that teens will be teens and can be expected to try to drink and/or smoke, to absolve its guilt by punishing the innocent victims of unreasonable laws.
Is this a religious issue? Again, while it may not be the most important religious issue, it is the religious issue that God, in HER wisdom, has assigned to me. It is my hope that you will not only see it as a religious issue, but an important enough religious issue to make your voice heard as well.