Barney Fife vs. California
The US Supreme Court by a 5-3 majority has ordered California to release 30,000 prisoners into the population over the next two years. They found that prison overcrowding has resulted in a lack of medical care they consider unconstitutional. There are many causes for this situation being discussed, including high costs flowing from the power of the Prison Guards union, the three strikes law, and illegal immigration. But lost in these discussions is what I consider to be the biggest cause of all.
Contrast the modern state of California (and most of America) with the picture of Mayberry in the popular Andy Griffith series. In Mayberry, the face of law enforcement is Barney Fife, with his one bullet locked in a special drawer. A crime wave in Mayberry consists of children chewing gum in school or the town drunk failing to report in for his overnight jailing. In California it is endless rapes, murders and street gang activities. The police look like a military occupation force. The people demand harsher sentencing and prisons bulge beyond capacity. What is the reason for the difference?
In the late 1960’s and early 70’s California led the nation in creating a radical break between the law and its moral and religious basis. With the legalizing of things like abortion and sodomy, and with radical separation of church and state jurisprudence, we declared as a people that the law was one thing and religion and morality another unrelated thing. In Mayberry, by contrast, you have a civilized community where the law rested lightly on a social order based on a religiously defined morality. Such a unified system of right and wrong has a powerful hold on the conscience of the individual. This internal moral restraint needs only the occasional reinforcement of the civil law.
But when the system of law is disassociated with any system of morality, and morality is considered a matter of personal choice rather than constrained by the Law of God, then that system of law has little or no claim on conscience. Law is then seen as just a set of rules of the game, to be ignored or navigated as best you can to get what you want. The sense of community dissolves and people form gangs or move into gated “communities” where no one knows anyone else.
Bleeding hearts will scream for prisoners to be released, “conservatives” will scream for the key to be thrown away, but neither approach will work. Only a return to an integrated whole of Christian belief, morality, and law offers any hope.
The main barrier to this return is the heresy of “dualism” in the Church. We accept the proposition that human government must be independent of if not hostile to the Law of God. We hold Caesar as running a parallel world independent of the Lord Jesus Christ. We hold that Christians should not be involved in politics except as members of some ordinary interest group. In effect, we deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ with respect to civil government, and then act surprised when things go to hell. No change in the world is possible until the Church escapes from this dualistic error and once again proclaims the total Lordship of Jesus Christ.