Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Sabbath from the Slowdown?

Di wondered aloud the other day whether the recession might force stores and restaurants to cut back on their hours of business ... and if so, whether they might consider simply going back to that quaint old tradition of yesteryear: closing on the Lord's day.

(When Di was looking for work last year, it was bad enough that all the retail stores required their employees be available Sundays — no exceptions for sabbatarians. But she was particularly dismayed that every Christian book store required the same. Reasons given included, "It's our biggest sales day each week," and, "We consider our work here to be a ministry ... " Uh, yeah. Then maybe you should be giving your stuff away on Sundays? Just sayin' ...)

So at any rate, do you think it's possible that God might use the recession to (among other things) call us to rethink our 24/7 lifestyles and return the wisdom and validity of the Fourth Commandment?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An open letter to the Nanny State

26 November 2008

Spokane County District Court
P.O. Box 2352
Spokane, WA 99210-2352

Dear Spokane County District Court,

Enclosed please find our personal check for $124 in payment of a fine levied against my wife for driving — however briefly or unwittingly — without her seat belt.

Be advised, we are paying this fine under duress. It has been levied under color of law, and we do not recognize the state of Washington’s authority to punish people who have endangered only themselves, and thus have not committed a true crime.

But we are unable to mount a fight. The state of Washington simply holds all the cards: legislators, administrators and judges, all backed up by men with guns and badges. And all financed with a vast supply of tax dollars. As I have been unemployed since moving to Washington three months ago, we must focus on things like feeding and educating our kids, not spending hundreds of dollars to fight an unjust $124 fine.

So, okay, you win. But not without hearing our remonstrance against the Nanny State’s revenue enhancement scheme disguised as public safety policy.

On 11 November, my wife inadvertently pulled out of a parking lot with her seat belt unfastened. A few moments later, while stopped at a traffic signal, she realized her error and fastened her seat belt. And she did so out of concern for her own safety, not out of fear of being fined.

But it was too late. She’d already been marked for fleecing ... I mean “punishment” ... by an ever-vigilant WSP trooper. Regardless of the fact that she was both safer and in compliance with the law when she pulled away from the signal, the trooper still stopped and cited her. That she realized and corrected the unsafe situation was irrelevant. All that mattered was a violator needed to be punished — and revenue needed to be generated.

We are not some kind of anti-government anarchists. We are Christians who believe what the Bible teaches about civil rulers — namely, that they are ordained by God to bear the sword against evildoers (Romans 13:4). We praise God when criminals — those who actually prey upon and endanger others — are apprehended, tried and punished, because justice has been served. And we truly appreciate those in government — legislators and administrators, judges and hired men with guns and badges — who do their part in serving justice.

But people who jeopardize their own safety by not wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets are not criminals. They don’t harm or endanger others. The reckless driver is a greater threat to public safety than one who doesn’t buckle up. But curiously, the Nanny State considers it just to punish the latter, who puts nobody but himself at risk, as well as the former.

When a cop is on the lookout for criminals and reckless drivers, he is acting as a genuine “peace officer.” He is keeping the peace of his community by citing or apprehending people who threaten or harm others. But when states enact “Click It Or Ticket” campaigns (for fear of losing federal highway funds), cops become little more than armed thugs, shaking down innocent citizens who have harmed or threatened no one.

The psalmist rhetorically asks God, “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood” (Psalm 94:20, 21). Fining people who haven’t harmed or threatened others amounts to little more than exacting tribute — devising evil by law. And God Almighty has ordained government — that is, you — to punish evil, not perpetrate it.

It has been said, “For the law to be respected, it must first be respectable.” For the order and peace of our community, it is vital that citizens hold their government in proper esteem. But it becomes increasingly difficult for decent, law-abiding taxpayers to esteem rulers who make criminals of drivers who don’t buckle up.

We long for the day in America when government bears the sword against real criminals, earning once again the respect of those whom it exists to serve and protect.

Frank [lastname]

cc: Washington State Patrol, Olympia
Washington 4th District legislators: Sen. Bob McCaslin; Rep. Larry Crouse; Rep. Lynn Schindler