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Rethinking Power We Give Government: Part 1 of 2

Wednesday, February 03, 2010 2:00 PM Comments (0)

I think many of us need to rethink the power we give to government. It’s not as simple as just supporting moral laws and opposing immoral ones.

The British have been trying to pass a law that would force, for example, Catholic schools to hire non-Catholic teachers - all in the name of “equality.” Fortunately, Pope Benedict was able to throw his weight around this week (i.e. make a fuss about it…i.e. point out the truth about how such a law would infringe on religious freedom) and it appears the British legislature is backing down…for now.

But this is just the latest example of the dangerous tightrope we walk when we give government the power to decide such matters. This time the bad press the Pope gave them was enough to convince an otherwise determined British legislature that this was not a good strategic time to pursue such drastic “equality” in Britain. Next time we may not be so fortunate.

Our freedom should not rest upon the popularity of a Pope. And it shouldn’t rest upon the sway of a democratic mob either. Yet that is where we find many of our freedoms - even here in America.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. It is we who continue to give away such power.

When we give the government the power to define marriage in order to promote traditional marriage, we applaud them. But we shouldn’t have been surprised when they turned around later and used that same power to redefine marriage to allow for divorce. And don’t be surprised when they use that same power to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

When we give the government the power to tell organizations who they can and can’t hire, we support them in the name of equality and justice. But don’t be surprised when they turn around and use that same power to force Catholic schools to hire non-Catholics or practicing homosexuals (all in the name of equality and justice).

When we give the government the power to run our health care system so they can help those that need it (a noble cause to be sure), we are surely tempted by this low-hanging fruit. But don’t be surprised when the government uses that same power later to pay for more abortions, promote more contraception, ban Catholics from emergency rooms and force Catholic hospitals to perform immoral services. By that time it may be a lot harder to stop them.

We can’t have it both ways. A benevolent dictatorship is great when the dictator is the Son of God. But if it’s a Son of Adam, we need to rethink it.

I’m not advocating for no government. And I’m not calling Obama an aspiring dictator. I’m just cautioning that governance is not as simple as supporting the laws that are moral and speaking out against the ones that are immoral. Unfortunately, this has become the approach for many Catholics.

If laws or politicians support Catholic moral teaching, then we support them. If they go against Catholic moral teaching, then we oppose them. But it’s not that simple. We should also consider securing freedom (religious and otherwise) and maintaining the moral integrity of the governmental system in the long term.

Alexander Hamilton said “It may perhaps be said that the power of preventing bad laws includes that of preventing good ones; and may be used to the one purpose as well as to the other… The injury which may possibly be done by defeating a few good laws, will be amply compensated by the advantage of preventing a number of bad ones.” (Federalist No. 73)

That’s food for thought from one man who learned that lesson the hard way.

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Filed under freedom, freedom of religion, government

About Matthew Warner

Matthew Warner
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Matthew Warner is a lover of God, his wife, his kids, his life, cookies, hot-buttered bread, snoozin' & awkward (as well as not awkward) silence. He is the founder and CEO of Flocknote, the creator of Tweet Catholic, a contributing author to The Church and New Media book, and writer/founder at The Radical Life. Matt has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M and an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship. He and his family hang their hats in Texas.