Saturday, August 28, 2004

LT12: On Godliness, Morality, Law and Public Policy
GEM 04:08:22

“Why not say . . . ‘Let us do evil that good may result’?” [Rom 3:8]

With this question St Paul summed up one of the central and enduring puzzles of morality: it often seems that the most effective way to achieve a good personal or policy goal is by doing something that is in itself morally wrong. As Machiavelli put it in his infamous book, The Prince: “The end justifies the means.”

But, does it? No, for that infamous Renaissance Diplomat was blind to the central problem of humanity -- sin: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . the evil that I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” [Rom 7:18b – 19.] For, evil is usually enticing (or even exciting), but it is in fact deceptive, addictive, contagious, corrupting and destructive. In the words of Solomon: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” [Prov 14:12.]

That’s fairly easy to see in our personal lives, but it also holds for public policy. For instance, when Hitler arose as a man of the people, and promised a way out of the economic ruin that had overtaken Germany after the 1st World War, few were asking questions about his rhetoric against the despised Jews. Likewise, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were simply rescuing the oppressed masses from the wicked capitalists and imperialists. Similarly, in the 1970’s in the USA, people were busy trying to rescue poor girls who made a mistake and were desperately resorting to coat hangers – and weren’t asking too many questions about the little bit of tissue that needed to be got rid of. Fidel Castro was liberating Cuba from a wicked, US-backed dictator. Over in Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe is even now simply helping the landless poor to get back their land from those who stole it from their forefathers. The Gays and Lesbians are only demanding equal treatment: if Adam and Steve wish to be married, that’s really just the same as Adam and Eve. And, many, many more.

But, over a hundred million people paid with their lives for the sins of the Nazis and the Communists. The toll of innocent lives sacrificed in the name of “choice” in the USA has now reached 44 millions and counting. Castro’s Cuba is in fact a brutal dictatorship in which you can go to jail for simply opening up your personal collection of books for others to read. Lawlessness, murder and famine now stalk Zimbabwe. And in those countries that have been unwise enough to try to legitimise sodomy, we already see where people who object on principled, biblical and moral grounds are now being jailed as hate-driven criminals.

Why is that so? Because – as Scripture, history and experience jointly warn us -- good ends cannot justify evil means; for evil is always deceptive, corrupting, addictive and destructive. So, if we in Montserrat or in the wider Caribbean resort to evil, we will set loose demonic forces that will run destructive riot across our lives and communities. For, our bad example will encourage others in evil (and one evil invites many others): that is, evil is also contagious.

Worse, as we become increasingly addicted to evil, we will soon be forced to use lies and twisted arguments: to make ourselves sound good and to get others to go along with us. Next, we may then all too easily find ourselves usurping the force of law to silence, crush or drive out those who dare to oppose our evils. Finally, such people become handy scapegoats for the disasters that always flow from evil as it spreads like a raging wildfire across our community. In short, godliness, morality and especially justice – which is a moral virtue! -- cannot safely be separated from law and policy.

[SIDEBAR: Now, we are not here speaking to any one specific policy proposal, for our theme is general: Godliness, Morality, Law and Policy. But, we would be negligent or cowardly if we did not make a few fair – though quite sad -- comments on the fact that gambling is an acknowledged, addictive evil; but it has been proposed that by introducing it here in Montserrat, we would be able to “cream off” up to $50 millions per annum from “the rest of the world,” to support poor relief and other social services. So, we must ask: (1) Why has the church been ridiculed and brushed aside for pointing out (in part through a petition signed by some 600 of our residents), that it is not wise nor right to do evil in the hope that good may come of it? (2) Our official, democratically adopted SDP policy vision statement seeks to redevelop Montserrat on a wholesome, sustainable, God-fearing basis; why, then, have so many Civil Servants and ordinary citizens alike felt that they were expected to suppress their moral and social concerns about the gambling proposal? (3) Why is it that some callers to Let’s Talk -- ignoring the wide range of issues we have discussed since June and the fact that gambling undercuts the national SDP vision -- have told us that we are obsessed with gambling and that if we are to have any credibility, we must speak on other issues instead?]

In short, evils – whether in our personal lives or at the policy level – are often enticing, but they are deceptive, addictive, corrupting, contagious and destructive. Therefore, wise communities and governments will base policy and law on sound principles of godliness, morality, and justice; and so will use the force of law to restrain rather than promote evil. That’s quite a challenge, but one we have to take up. So, now, let’s talk . . .

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