|Photo by UCLA Williams Institute|
In my article I discuss how law at its very core is flawed with respect to humanity because laws do not change the human heart, they only punish. A law can forbid perjury or fraud, but it can never make a liar honest. Another law can prohibit littering, but it cannot make a messy person neat. The human heart -whether it inclines towards evil or good - is the true driving force. A society without morals can have laws forbidding everything but without citizens who have the soul (and by this I mean heart, mind and spirit) to live right, will be marked by chaos, violence and mayhem.
As Solzhenitsyn warned in his Harvard address three decades ago:
"People in the West have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating law, even though laws tend to be too complicated for an average person to understand without the help of an expert. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required, nobody may mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk: it would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames ... I have spent all of my life under a communist regime and I will tell you a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches and higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses."
Christendom explored this important concept thousands of years ago through the writings of the Apostle Paul, a former member of the ultralegalistic sect of the Pharisees. Despite growing up in absolute discipline and external compliance to even the most stringent of laws Paul as a born-again Christian remarked "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified" (Romans 3:20) and "Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound."
Paul recognized that the only thing law accomplishes is condemnation, not justification. Because the law says "do not covet!" a human's natural tendency to covet things makes them a lawbreaking sinner, but as Paul wrote "sin is not imputed where there is no law" (Romans 5:13). The issue is not the act of breaking a law but rather the human heart condition which leads one to engage in immoral behaviors. Paul's ultimate conclusion of this human crisis was to determine that justification can only come by 1. recognition that one falls short of God's law, 2. sincere desire not to attempt righteousness by the sum of compliance to every jot and tittle of the law but rather by faith in the unmerited forgiveness and grace of God, and 3. accepting Jesus as a propitiation for sin (a complete and total substitution of one's life with Christ's life in the eyes of God). This is why Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
You cannot legislate righteousness. It didn't work for God (nor was it His intent to justify by the law) and it certainly won't work for humans either. This is where so-called "social conservatives" miss the mark: they think that by banning behaviors they will somehow "instruct" souls in the way of righteousness or "preserve" the character of the nation. Jesus - speaking of a man's internal heart condition - said that a good tree does not bear bad fruit, neither does a bad tree bear good fruit. Bad deeds do not spontaneously generate, they are the fruit of a bad heart. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit" (Matthew 12:33).
Human "conservative" law may say "Don't do drugs!" but that still doesn't address addiction, it only puts fear of punishment in place. As we have seen by the failed drug war, drug laws did not suppress human weakness, it only jailed those who succumbed to temptation. The idea that drugs will ruin one's life so the government therefore must ruin it for everyone who does drugs in the form of incarceration, blacklisting and a permanent criminal record solves nothing fundamentally. The law is powerless to make someone good, it can only punish them for engaging in banned behaviors. Man looks at the outside external acts but God looks at the heart and knows our ways.
No amount of law can ever make a people just. The law only condemns. In order to have a righteous nation, one must have a righteous people. When a nation is full of immorality at its heart, its citizens will never meet the standard of law because law does not reform. There is no regeneration in condemnation. When Americans hate and distrust each other, no law forbidding or deterring murder will ever prevent murder to the point of making the act obsolete. By contrast, a people who love unconditionally and are patient and longsuffering do not need the "law" to tell them "do not murder!"
The end result of the law is only more law and lawlessness. Change hearts and you will change nations. God has bound all men to disobedience that He may have mercy on them all.
Anyways, this being said, read my article and please be sure to share!