Legal Ethics and Reform


Legalistic, Multicultural Societies v. Religious, Traditional Societies



As modern societies have moved away from being traditional and religiously based toward being multi-cultural, multi-ethic, and multi-racial, the rules for right behavior that were biblically based are now determined by elected legislatures and unelected courts. Without going into great detail, the list of examples abounds: no fault divorce, legalized abortion, the recognition of homosexual marriage, non-recognition of the confidential nature of communications between priest and penitent, the ban on the display of religious writings such as the Ten Commandments in public buildings, etc.

Decisions that used to be made by simple reference to biblical principles are now referred to legislatures and courts. All religions practices and all cultural practices are given "equal" standing. If one group wants the right to kill its unborn babies, other groups are told they must tolerate the practice. Of course, the process has not gone as far as one could image. Polygamy is not yet allowed, child pornography is still banned, genital mutilation of young women is still off limits; but one can even see these things being permitted in the not to distant future. Legal minds are very creative; they can find "compelling" arguments to justify nearly any behavior. In the past, if pastors and priests considered these arguments ludicrous, then society's civil leaders would reject these legal arguments out of hand. Today courts actually listen to this "lawyerly logic" and on occasion legalize aberrations, while religious leaders stand by helpless to intervene.

The Kosovo conflict is very instructive. Seventeen modern western societies (NATO) stand in opposition to a traditional society that has a strong attachment to its religious roots. Serbia has a history of toleration; 300,000 Hungarians live within Serbia in peace even though Hungry is a NATO enemy, 100,000 Croatians live in Serbia even though Serbia just finished a short war with Croatia, until recently over a million Albanians lived there in relative peace despite the existence of a liberation force of ethic Albanians, the Serbs have shown all these groups toleration based upon the understanding that the Serbian Orthodox Church will determine the moral framework that the nation as a whole will follow. Other religions are tolerated but they hold a secondary place. The Serbs memorialize their tragic defeat at the hands of the Ottomans in 1389. They also celebrate their later victory over the Ottomans in the 1830s. Both of these events took place in Kosovo. In like fashion, the Serbs hold the city of Pec, also located in Kosovo, in special reverence because their religion the Serbia Orthodox Church was founded there. The Serbs have shown great toleration to groups living in Kosovo so long as they understand that they are living in Serbia and that territorial independence is not an option. The Serbs have always made it clear that Serbia is a very traditional, very religious place

As the bombing began, Gen. Wes Clark, the American general running the NATO operation, was asked to sum up the causes of the war. He said "The Serbs are living in the past and we want to get on with the 21st century". NATO began the bombing fully expecting the Serbs would exhibit the same dedication to principle which modern man generally exhibits. In other words, they expected the Serbs to give up in a few days. Instead the Serbs did not cave in, but they did expel many of the Albanians who had been directly, or indirectly, supporting the liberation cause.

 A few weeks later, as bombs continued to fall, the New York Times decided to run two war stories on the same page. One was about a Serbian Bishop blessing thousands of believers in a square outside of a Church in Belgrade following Mass on Easter Sunday. This article had a picture showing the bishop in all his regalia. The other article had a picture of Sec'y of State Albright looking up in the air with a puzzled look on her face and with her hand rubbing her chin. The layout man at the newspaper had arranged things so that Ms Albright was looking directly at the Orthodox Bishop. The message hit like a ton of bricks; Ms Albright somehow vaguely sensed that the Bishop was an important factor in this war, but she couldn't quite grasp why or how the Bishop had become so important.

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are lawyers who are steeped in the adversary system of law. They don't understand what makes Serbia tick; they don't care; they give no credence to the Serbs' eloquent arguments from history, from tradition, and from religion for their position; they demonize the leader of the Serbs as a modern day Hitler; and most of all, they believe (as most lawyers in the adversary system believe) that the side with the deepest pockets and greatest staying power can usually bully the other side into submission regardless of the merits of the case.

American history is an interesting teacher. In the late 1850's Congress had voted that Kansas would enter the union as a slave state and Nebraska would enter as a free state, abolitionists in Massachusetts wanted both states to be free states so they paid New Englanders to move to Kansas and agitate against southern settlers who were moving into Kansas from Missouri. This led to sporadic fighting between "border ruffians" (supported by southern sympathizers) and "jayhawkers" (supported by northern sympathizers). When the war between the North and the South started, Abraham Lincoln realized that the "border ruffians", with their large base of civilian sympathizers, could be a major problem for Union forces if the Confederacy sent experienced officers to train and lead them. So Lincoln allowed Union generals to burn out the homesteads of all southern sympathizers, to execute any man even suspected of helping the "border ruffians", and to forcibly relocate the southern sympathizers to the southern areas under nominal Confederate control. (Notice how the final two sentences could be rewritten. When the war between NATO and Serbia started, Milosevic realized that the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), with their base of civilian sympathizers, could be a major problem for Serbian forces if NATO sent experienced officers to train and lead them. So Milosevic allowed Serbian Generals to burn out the homes of KLA sympathizers, to execute any men even suspected of helping the KLA, and to forcible relocate the KLA sympathizers to the areas under the control of Albania or near Albania.)

War is never pretty; but Lincoln is heralded by many as America's greatest President, while Milosevic is condemned as an indicted war criminal. What has changed? Probably the greatest change is the change in America. In Lincoln's day Americans were steeped in the Protestant ethos and the stories of the Revolutionary period. They loved their religions, their regions, their traditions, their states, and their nation. Americans were ready to fight and die for their "loves". They might not agree with the other party's views, but they respected the other party's commitment. They could in the long run honor each other. Now both Abe Lincoln and Robert E. Lee are considered heroes.

Today shallow men, like Bill Clinton, who have little commitment to anything save their own pleasure and privilege are not capable of respecting other peoples' heartfelt commitment to principle. When shallow leaders disagree with committed people, these leaders label these committed people with epithets designed to gain uncritial acceptance from a population whose attention span is measured in thirty second sound bits. Since Milosevic's arguments are to difficult to seriously engage, so he must be dismissed as nothing more than a "war criminal".

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