Two things happened this week that are illustrative. This from MSN News.
“What’s supposed to be a cherished Easter tradition turned into a mess after pushy parents caused a scene at egg hunts over the weekend.
Saturday’s event at the visitor center of candy company Pez in Orange, Connecticut, drew hundreds of people, some of whom ignored the rules.
“Everyone just rushed the field and took everything,” Pez General Manager Shawn Peterson told WFSB-TV.
Event organizers placed more than 9,000 eggs on three fields with the intention of having staggered start times for each age group. But Pez officials say parents didn’t wait.”
My favorite radio station in Minnesota has several on air staff who are new parents, and they relayed information on taking their babies to their first Easter egg hunt and had the same kind of experience. Parents were so bent on getting their children Easter eggs and candy that they actually pushed other people’s children over and almost stepped on them.
Notice that the parents didn’t follow the “rules”. Why would there need to be rules at an Easter egg hunt at all?
We have been having conversations on rights and parental teachings and responsibilities. We are heading to an understanding of how moving from responsibilities to rights actually enslaves human beings but we have to lay the groundwork.
When Christianity gained control of much of the world the powers that be noted. Subtly the Christian understanding of many things was not so much challenged as undercut and derided. One of the teachings that came out of a deeply intellectual and vigorous Christian intellectual tradition was the concept of natural Law. Simplifying almost to the point of being silly here, natural Law basically means that the moral Law of God is imprinted on the human heart so that it is impossible not to know that some things are wrong. From the Lutheran perspective the Law always accuses, and the Law curbs us from doing really bad things and thus keeps human society from going completely berserk. Natural Law can be summed up quickly by reading Paul’s letter to the Romans Chapter 1.
Secular powers moved the emphasis from natural Law to natural rights. The idea was that human beings left alone have the right to anything that they want. Parents have the right to get Easter eggs for their children even if it means trampling other people’s children. A women has a right to her body even if that means killing her own children in the womb. You have the right to feed your family even if that means starving someone else’s family. But here is the kicker. Rights are morally neutral. They are not “right or wrong”, they simply are. There is no moral authority in the universe because the universe just is. It was not created, it simply is. Human beings are not special creations- they simply exist and because they exist they have rights. There is no over arching authority like God to move men to good or evil, and since they have the right to whatever they want, whenever they want it, the life of man in nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.*
Who can save us from this “body of death”? The King or Sovereign or the secular State enters the picture and saves the day. God must be removed from this picture in the secular States mind, but God is subtly reintroduced among the masses as long as He is kept in place. Where is that? In the “private place” wherever that might be. You have the right to believe in your God as long as you don’t force your morality on anyone else. Only King, Sovereign, or State has the right to force morality and regulate rights.
The “state” decides, literally, what is right and wrong. Public officials will come out at some point and say that it is “probably not a good idea” for adults to trample children for candy and they will try and shame them into stopping such behavior. They will go after the planners and the companies who sponsor such events and fine them or regulate them to stop or change what they do.
We will think about how this state of affairs affects mission and mercy and preaching the Gospel.
*Thomas Hobbes. “Leviathan”.