For those of you uninitiated to the tabletop Role-Playing community (Commonly known as D&D, or Dungeons and Dragons), you might be unfamiliar with the concept of “Alignment.” Trust me, this is going somewhere non game-related. Alignment, for the purposes of the game, basically describes how a character is liable to react to a given moral situation.
Alignments range on two axes, that of Good and Evil, and that of Chaotic and Lawful. A good person does what is good, an evil person does what is evil. A Lawful person respects and follows the law, and a chaotic person generally decides to break the law wherever possible. These two axes combine to form alignments such as Chaotic Good (Think Robin Hood: Break the law whenever possible because it’s fun, but do good things like giving to the poor) and Lawful Evil (Like Lex Luthor: A villain, but with principles). There are also Neutral alignments that go in between Good and Evil, and Chaotic and Lawful.
For instance, a Neutral Good person will pursue what is good and right without regard to what the law says. He might respect the law, think it is admirable, but ultimately if he is forced to make a choice between what is right and what is lawful, he will break the law to do what is right and lose no sleep over the decision.
I like to think I’m Neutral Good (As the title suggests), and what I’m about to say next will illustrate that.
When I say “Law,” I’m using an ambiguous term. What’s the Law? Whose Law is it? Are we talking about the Laws of Physics, which one cannot break, ever, or the Laws of Man, which are broken all the time? Are we talking about some kind of vague moral Law, or about the ones our illustrious (sarcasm) Congress passes all the time?
There are three kinds of law. There’s Physical Law, which as stated above, cannot be defied. We won’t be addressing that. There’s Natural Law, which is scribed on our hearts. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie. Almost everyone knows these things instinctively. Natural Law includes such concepts as possession, territory, and sanctity of life. The Founding Fathers addressed and surmised Natural Law as the “Certain unalienable Rights” that were “Endowed by their Creator”: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. An aside here: Please duly note that nowhere in there does it say “The Attainment of Happiness.” We are guaranteed the right to pursue it. No one ever said that we have a right to get it. Natural Law is what God has given us, and it generally the foundation for the third kind of Law.
The third kind of law is Written Law. Those laws that are formed by God, society, or more often a government, that are drafted onto paper and enforced by law enforcement and/or military personnel.
Recently I’ve begun to take issue with a lot of human-drafted laws that have been put out lately. Earlier I mentioned the Neutral Good alignment. Neutral Good people will follow the law, even if it inconveniences them, unless the Law stands in direct opposition to their ability to do what is right. Here’s my question:
When is the law ever justified in standing in the way of what is right?
The Natural Law has no words. We instinctively know what’s right and wrong. People might try to argue this, but if someone really, truly looks deep inside themselves, they’ll see Jehovah’s handwriting on their heart, and it always says the same thing: Love God, Love People. Any specifics that follow are only extensions of these basic principles.
The Written Law (That is, God’s Written Law as given to us in the Bible) was created for three purposes, all of which are addressed in the Bible. First is the restraint of the wicked. God does not wish us to murder people. Thus He has stated it outright. The second reason is that of reflection: We must be able to look in the mirror of the Law and see how far we fall short of God’s grace before we can truly repent. The third is a model: The Law was given by God, and we are to strive to live up to His example.
Human Written Law is based on this example, and upon Natural Law, that wordless Law that we all know by instinct. But many times, and increasingly more today, we see Human Written Law at odds with Natural Law, and many times at odds with God’s Written Law. We know instinctively that we have a right to nothing that we have not earned with the sweat of our brow or have been given freely by others, and we know that we have a right to keep those things, that to be robbed of them is wrong. And yet the laws that our governments are making are stealing the fruits of our labors and giving them to those who have not worked for it. This is a blatant example of Written Law going against Natural Law.
Please note here that I’m not speaking against charity. Sometimes people need help, and we have an obligation to help them, written on our heart that we must stop any human suffering that we are capable of stopping.
However, to take the fruits of people’s labor against their will is clearly wrong, no matter what you do with it after the fact. Charity should be a choice, not a legally enforced institution. It’s no longer a good deed to give to the poor if the men in the black suits and white shirts show up at your door with a tax audit and tell you that if you don’t, they’ll take your house.
So what do we do when one law goes against the other? How do we decide which to follow?
We must decide which law is more important.
Do we follow the law passed down from the oligarchs in Congress, from the men who, very likely, don’t know any better than us, and by all indications, know less than we do about what is right and wrong?
Or do we follow the wordless law that was written on our hearts in the language of Angels since the beginning of the world?
Shouldn’t we change the written law handed to us by men no better than ourselves to more accurately reflect what our Holy Creator has taught us? Obviously, if a law gets in the way of our doing right, then there is something inherently flawed within the law. We should change it, if at all possible.
Why should we respect a written law just because it is a written law? Because someone with a little more influence, a lot more money and a boatload more ego told us to? What is their word beside the Creator?
In my book, when God tells me to do one thing and the law tells me to do something else, there is no contest.
Now, unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that I can do about changing the law. By writing this now, I am exerting my influence to the utmost. Will I disobey the law until it is changed? Unlikely. I am not Thoreau. The consequences very likely would be more severe than any benefit I could gain from breaking the law. There are very, very few situations that I can think of right now in which the law would truly stand in direct opposition to my doing the right thing. In most cases it would simply essentially tie one hand behind my back. Most of those situations have to do with where I am and am not allowed to carry a firearm.
There are very few laws which would call for direct and blatant disobedience until they are repealed. In most cases it is best to go along with them and suffer, though not silently, under their injustice until they can be repealed. Objections to welfare or the healthcare plan are not reasons to start an uprising, for instance, or massive tax boycotts, if only because the repercussions would be so, so much worse.
However, simply establishing Natural Law, God’s Law, in your mind above that of Man’s authority will go a long way to allowing you to see and speak against unjust laws that Man has created. Any law that Man creates must have a purpose, must serve some portion of the Natural Law. Otherwise, that law is reprobate. Useless.
So next time you are ordered to comply, be it by a sign, an official, or a notice, while it is more than likely wise to do so, do not do so blindly, unthinkingly. Blind obedience is what leads people into destruction. Obey the laws, but do so knowing why you obey them. Do not ever, ever follow instructions without having your own, personal reasons for doing so. Don’t ever do something just because some guy with a degree in Law told you to.
Again, follow the laws, but know why you follow them, so that when a law is made that goes against your principles, you’ll know to stand up to it.
I guess what I’m really trying to get down to is this: Have principles. Know your principles. And stick to your principles. Don’t let anyone tell you different without good reason, because they’re just as human as you are. You don’t need a degree in Law to know what’s right or wrong.