Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What We Mean When We Mean To Say Something

Judge Roy Moore as he will be portrayed in the movie....

Do I quote myself? Very well, then, I quote myself (I am small, I can barely contain a glass marble in my hand):
But I don't think that insight gives me a privileged position from which to judge other religions; or other philosophies, for that matter. I can adjudge their weaknesses for me; I cannot stand in judgment over them and declare them too infirm until they rise to the level of my preference. Yes, extremist opinions, like those of Christian white supremacists, can be rejected as inimical to human society. But from what position do I judge Islam, and it doesn't call into judgment my own Christianity?
This is kind of what I was getting at: 

The Constitution, [the Constitutional Party] claim[s], is a divine document designed only to protect the rights conferred by God, not to create “new” rights by way of jurisprudence. For all you law school graduates shaking your head as you read this, Peroutka, Moore, and their followers claim that the law schools are teaching it all wrong—that’s why they’ve created their own law schools.
Which "rights" God has conferred, and on whom, is a bit unclear to me; but that's a quibble.  This entire idea is simply nuts, especially because it is based on the argument that "everybody else is wrong!"

The latter is supposed to be the compelling argument of Christian evangelism.  It isn't: compelling, or the heart of Christian evangelism.  Indeed, I'd go so far as to argue it isn't even Christian.  That would take a bit of explanation on my part, but the argument is perfectly sound both theologically and historically.  And it isn't an argument that forces me to sit in judgment on the adherents to the ideas of the Constitutional Party.

Of course, I also don't think there's any such thing as a "divine document."  It comes from studying the scriptures too carefully, I guess.  What I read there is a document of humanity's encounter with the divine; but that doesn't make the account itself divine; only human.  All too human.

But that is as it should be, it seems to me.  Were it otherwise I would despair even more of ever hoping to understand it correctly, and learn from it wisely.

Now, I don't care for what Roy Moore has done.  If I don't judge him, I also don't approve of him.  His ideas are wrong, and his actions are wrong.  But there is no simple either/or:  he is wrong, so I am right (how many times do have I to run into that simplistic logic lately?).  But just as you aren't entitled to your own facts (well, at least until you get into a court of law, where the trier of fact decides, on behalf of the judicial system, what the facts of a case are), you also aren't entitled to your own law; or to a hare-brained interpretation of the law.

Even Roy Moore understands that:

“Effective immediately, no probate judge of the State of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent” with the Alabama Constitution or state law, the chief justice wrote in his order.
But then he said it wasn't an order, just advice:

“I think I’ve done what I can do: advise the state court probate judges that they’re not bound by any ruling of the Federal District Court,” he said.
See how quickly that "shall" turned into "just my opinion"?  It's something I've noticed about people who say they can defy the law.  Yes, there are pockets of people who declare the state has no authority over them, even as the bailiffs take them away to jail.  But the oldest defense to murder is the claim that the alleged had no sense of right and wrong at the time of the crime, and in fact thought he acted lawfully (and in self-defense).  If you know you aren't acting lawfully, however, you make excuses like Judge Moore did in that interview.  He's just rendering his legal opinion; he's not actually responsible for it!

Which, yes, sounds kind of like the Bush Administration saying they relied on legal opinions so they can't be guilty of torture, and the lawyers were only giving legal advice, so they can't be guilty of condoning torture.  And the passive voice wonders what work there is left for it anymore.....

So I don't have to judge Roy Moore to point out his legal opinions and his actions based on them are inimical to a democratic republic.  It is the weakness of his thought, the paucity of his reasoning, I examine.

Or maybe I'm just justifying my opinion, when there are far more important things in life to focus on. That's another possibility....

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