Sunday, June 13, 2004

God's Justice and Ours

When Ashcroft was testifying before the Judiciary Committee last week, I kept thinking about this Scalia speech, God's Justice and Ours, in which he argued that Christians would "naturally" be more inclined to support killing people as a form of state punishment.

In his speech, Scalia notes that these are his private views, not necessarily how he would vote as a judge.

(And an aside: He argued that any judge who does not believe in the death penalty should resign because a judge cannot decide, because he thinks something is immoral, that it is unconstitutional. As far as I know, the definition of "cruel and unusual punishment" in our constitution does not preclude assessing the death penalty as "cruel and unusual," but Scalia doesn't want to make that point... )

He does say, however:

Few doubted the morality of the death penalty in the age that believed in the divine right of kings.
And goes on to quote Paul writing to the Romans...go to the site to read the quotes...then continues:

These passages from Romans (Paul's belief that God appoints rulers) represent the consensus of Western thought until very recent times. Not just of Christian or religious thought, but of secular thought regarding the powers of the state. That consensus has been upset, I think, by the emergence of democracy. It is easy to see the hand of the Almighty behind rulers whose forebears, in the dim mists of history, were supposedly anointed by God...
Just as Bush notes that his job would be easier if he were a dictator, Scalia seems to argue that his job would be easier if we were a theocracy rather than an Enlightenment-inspired representative democracy with those pesky concerns for individual rights and a commitment to reason to examine the soundness of laws, rather than a knee-jerk appeal to tradition.

And not coincidentally, Bush's legal maneuvers in regard to torture are predicated on the idea that Bush is above the law...a modern-day finagling of the idea of "the divine right of kings."

Using Scalia's reasoning, he could (but would he?) argue that slavery is in the Bible, America supported slavery for years, slavery was the consensus in many nations around the world, therefore slavery is the moral position for a Christian to take.

However, abolition was led by Northern religious groups like the Quakers and Congregationalists, so it doesn't seem impossible to reconcile Christianity and modernity for believers, regardless of what Scalia or any of the Bush Tali-born-agains may argue.

As far as I know, torture was not part of the moral position of early, even Pauline, Christianity. The only torture I recall from the Bible is the stuff that was inflicted on the Christians and their leader by the Roman Empire. But once Christianity was incorporated into the machinations of empires, it was okay to torture.

In other words, God's justice...and ours.