Christianity has a proud tradition of civil disobedience. From the three Hebrew boys who defiantly declared “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” through the Jews to Jesus, who taught his father’s law despite the opposition of those in power. Even to the Christian martyrs through the centuries from Stephen to the Chinese Christians today, teaching Christianity in the face of death.

Christianity has always asserted that, as every sane person knows, there are laws above those that the government makes and has always been about fighting to follow those laws.

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Tracy

I’m Tracy

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  1. Christianity has always asserted that, as every sane person knows, there are laws above those that the government makes and has always been about fighting to follow those laws.

    By defining law as either from ‘government’ or from ‘god’, you open the unwittingly become a tool for creating tyranny. This is why religious belief that frames law this way is anti-democratic, an enemy of the enlightenment, and is a step in all ways towards tyranny by theocracy.

      1. If, by “the higher law”, you mean secular enlightenment values then we are in agreement; indeed, these values are “higher” than what has preceded them in human history (and has improved human well-being immeasurably when implemented by law) and the codification of these values into law is represented by what we call secularism, namely, human law designed on the foundation of reason for the establishment of equality, rights, freedoms, and individual autonomy to justify the claim for legitimate governance.

        But I suspect you mean (although you are unwilling to state) morality sanctioned by some supposed divine authority when you talk about a “higher” law… confusing your feelings of reciprocity and fairness inherent in your biology to be some kind of sign or evidence for this “higher” authority that is in direct competition with some (but not all) laws passed by various “governments.”

        Am I getting close?

      2. Somewhat.
        When we speak of laws, we can say at least three things about them.
        A. What they say
        B. How they are discovered
        C. Their source

        Assuming we both agree that there is a law against murder which supersedes any country’s laws on the same subject, we have stated A.
        B is not all that important. You can discover the laws in a dream or by reading tea leaves or by hearing arguments for its existence.
        C is (IMO), the most important part of a law. If my parents rule that I cannot wear shoes in the kitchen, I’ll obey them. If my younger brother makes that rule on the other hand, I’ll ask him who he thinks he is and then do it just to irritate him because I’m under no obligation to obey him.

        Obviously, the source of the higher law is what you imagine that you and I disagree about. You seem to have claimed that these laws are made by a bunch of people who codified secular enlightenment values into law and obligated everyone to obey them. (Do correct me if I’m wrong). That sounds bizzare to me because I’ve never heard of such a group nor can I imagine why I would be obligated to do what they tell me to.

        I that’s not what you’re saying, who made the moral laws you referred to? Afterall, I’ve never heard of a rule that nobody made.

      3. Clarification: I do not wish us to conflate the source of a law with its foundation. The foundation of these laws, as you claim, is secular enlightenment values. The foundation of my parents’ rule that I not wear shoes in the kitchen could be that my mom hates it.The source of that rule, on the other hand, is my parents.

      4. Assuming we both agree that there is a law against murder which supersedes any country’s laws on the same subject, we have stated A.

        Umm, actually we haven’t. Murder means unlawful death, which is a tautology. Sometimes killing is right and sometimes it’s wrong. Determining which is which is the challenge.

        A: Yes, we can say what a law says… if we have the law codified.
        B: Laws come into codification for many reasons. It’s a bit weird to think of, say, laws against parking a car in certain places to have been ‘discovered’, don’t you think?
        C: Laws become codified to have a stabilizing effect; rather than appear to be subject to the vagaries of an authoritarian figure, a codified law appears to be much more permanent… a foundation upon which others laws can then be codified (such a a criminal code based on a civil code). But where do these notions come from?

        Well, if not from people, then I have no clue how some human can convince anyone but the most credulous that he or she has magically gained special access to a supernatural exterior source. It makes much more sense to me that we evolve a set of social rules that offer more benefit than detriment. Of course, enshrining privilege in law has always and shall continue to be the antithesis of a just law.

        Enter the Scottish enlightenment thinkers, who developed a highly rational plan to justify government based on just such a set of rules. This revolutionary shift in authority away from those who enjoyed legal privilege to each person subject to the government caused a wee bit of a stir as first the United States and then France incorporated these values into the formation of constitutional law, making the government and those who served within it to be subject to the approval of those over whom they exercised authority.

        This was – and remains – no small achievement to make law subject to reasoned principle rather than subject to some other authority.

        This is a really important understanding one must have to appreciate why populations who seek democracy without first establishing legal autonomy for each citizen are doomed to either mob rule (and a never-ending stream of either strongmen leadership or ineffective figureheads) OR tyranny. It is the legal autonomy of the individual that finds representation in government that justifies laws made in our name. Without those secular pillars firmly erected, government laws are not justified except by the use of force.

        Whenever a person who enjoys living under a secular government subject to constitutional law makes a nod of approval or preference towards some other legal authority (law) then him- or herself, we need to criticize this nod and/or preference as a step towards tyranny… whether that be a totalitarian political movement or a pious theology. And whenever someone threatens to reduce your legal autonomy (that justifies your government’s constitutional duty to make and enforce laws), then you and I need to stand together to explain to those among us (who are so misguided to think some other authority than our individual existence is preferable for legitimacy) why their misguided support endangers us all.

      5. Length, pal, length. I don’t feel well enough to responds to essays these days.

        “It’s a bit weird to think of, say, laws against parking a car in certain places to have been ‘discovered’, don’t you think?”

        Not really. I didn’t know about my school’s laws on parking till I discovered it in the handbook. Laws aren’t discovered by the makers of the law (that’s silly). They’re discovered by those subject to it.

        Apparently, you’re saying these laws do come from people (which is the most coherent response I’ve gotten so far). But I’m still confused. Arbitrarily pick an instance of murder – unjustified killing, by your definition and do tell me two things:
        1. Who made the law that it is wrong Don’t just say enlightenment people because I’m pretty sure it was wrong before they came along. And don’t just say ‘people’ unless you mean that there was a convention of human beings who made the law. In other words, be specific. I would also appreciate brevity.
        2. Why the heck am I obligated to do what they tell me to?

        Clarification: Laws can evolve. My mom today rules that I can’t cook root tubers. Then she realizes that that’s not the best tactic and says, I can cook some root tubers, but not yams. The law evolved, but that says nothing about who made the law. My mom made the law. I’m saying this because you talked about evolution of laws and I want us to stay on track.

        By the way, murder can’t be unlawful death. Getting hit by a car isn’t murder. I can only imagine that you meant ‘unlawful killing’, which isn’t a tautology otherwise killing would be inherently unlawful and accidentally killing someone would land you in jail.

    1. I didn’t frame laws as from ‘govt and ‘god’. I framed them as either from ‘govt’ or other sources. Unless you think that it if the government demands that runaway slaves be returned to their masters, then that is right, we’re on the same side.

      1. Well then, by all means please describe what you define as “laws above those that the government makes” regarding christians.

      2. Simply put, that burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands is immoral regardless of what the government says.

      3. Simply put, that burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands is immoral regardless of what the government says.

      4. Sorry, Tracy, let me rephrase the question so we’re on the same page: what ‘law’ is above those of government, and can you define what this ‘law’ says?

        I don’t doubt you can list hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of actions that you find immoral but this doesn’t help me understand what ‘law’ you are referring to nor clarifies what this higher law presumably states. I have already made the mistake of assuming that you meant god‘s laws as described (in whole or in part) from biblical sources but you have corrected me on this by redirecting me to find it “from other sources.” And what might those other sources be?

      5. Well, the government’s law in China says that forcing women who have too many children to have abortions is right.
        The higher law says that it wrong. Everybody knows of the higher law. It is what abolitionists, feminists and everyone else who fights to reform their culture appeal to. Well, most of the time.

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