The Clash of Legal and Moral

I was listening to a podcast where a book on love was recommended, though the author was criticised for unnecessarily pushing his religious views.

Think about that for a sec: What did the author do to impose his religious views on the reader?

In a democratic society, the very exercise of reading a book is voluntary (even in school where the book is part of the curriculum, though that choice may have a cost). There is no insistence that anyone read anything — in the broadest strokes, nothing is being “pushed”.

Rather, the assumption comes from the reader in this case: the relationship is presupposed as a pushy one. It is an unfair, bad-faith assumption that a book which is being read voluntarily is pushing its views.

Part of the interplay of plurality is allowing there to be messages and meanings in the world that we disagree with. They should not presumed to be insistent, or even instructive.

It’s enough for them to be descriptive.

If they’re viewed as descriptive, we can learn from them. We can understand divergent worldviews. And the better we understand, the more rich and hospitable a conversation we can have. If they’re viewed as a play for power however, then we feel the need to react in some way or another — either adoption or rejection.

I wish more people paid attention to their desires and feelings — what motivates these reactions? — instead of simply reacting.

I’m not unfamiliar with the unpopularity of religion in the west. And yet, even within that framework, there is a problem the church needs to internalise and grapple with.

The church is pushing its religion. It’s supposed to. But all too often, it’s pushing the wrong aspect of that religion — a subjective, superficial, non-essential, moralistic one.

Bottom line, if what the church is preaching requires a pre-existing belief in God to make it true, it’s preaching to its own choir.

That’s without the wild assortment of adjuncts that have been added which Christians can’t agree on.

One of the great ironies that the church blames the population for its inability to change the population’s laws, when its arguments don’t even find resonance within all of the church — a minority of the population.

If the church can’t operate from a position of unity, it should stop trying to impose more uniformity on the broader world.

Offering people more freedom doesn’t mean by default that individual or group morality is in jeopardy.

The broader world largely accepts diversity. Effectively, more freedom merely means that we have more freedom to not do what the law permits.

When it is perceived that morality is being imposed, there is a backlash.

This is hypocritical, because some kind of moral is constantly believed to be larger than oneself — this is evident even in the reaction.

What I’m saying is that at some level, everyone believes that some kind of morality should be imposed.

The very act of loudly resisting someone else’s moral standards is imposing one’s own.

That’s not wrong. We should not be feeling the pressure to compromise, so resistance is necessary. And yet, we should recognise that our loud resistance can be quite easily a call for others to compromise.

This is why people have a hard time talking about politics civilly.

Sometimes grace means inviting people to think about an issue more deeply.

Sometimes grace means making a case for people raising the bar on their moral standards.

But sometimes grace means letting people be wrong, and loving them anyway.

Because in all that rabble-rousing about ethics and morality, it’s easy to miss that love is the highest virtue we’re called to.