Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Freedom and the Law

Here is my favorite line from the Fox News article cited in the post below:

Women weren't allowed to be police officers under former dictator Saddam Hussein but very few say they would have wanted to.

"The word 'law' didn't exist prior to the war," said Intsar Adood. "The police officers were to follow the word of Saddam, which is not the law."

This insight is so obvious to many of us that it is almost a bromide. But we forget that this view of law was once a revolutionary concept held only by an insignificant people lodged precariously between the two great empires of Egypt and Babylon. The default political philosophy throughout much of human history has been that the will of the king is the law. The biblical view that the king should be subject to a higher law would have been seen as controversial if not insane:
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them. That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

It is often not remembered in our public-schooled version of US history, but this principle was instrumental in our own struggle for freedom as well. Thomas Paine -- in addition to giving a rather thorough exegesis of the biblical view of monarchy expressed in I Samuel -- had this to say about the basis of American freedom:
But where, says some, is the King of America? I'll tell you. Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law OUGHT to be King; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony, be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is. (from Common Sense)

I still maintain that true freedom can only exist within a Christian worldview, but clearly there is a lot of benefit in even an indirect Christian influence. My hope is that as the Middle-East explores this new-found concept of freedom, that the people will turn their hearts to the only foundation for such freedom.

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