MORALITY AND LAWS: HOW DIFFERENT ARE THEY?

#morality #legal #morals #laws
What is morally right, and what is legally right?
By definition, laws are secular. They are created by governments and, in the United States, by the will of the people, at least in theory.
Morality is something we believe in wholeheartedly. It’s a personal endeavor. We use it as part of self-definition, whether we get it from teachings, scripture etc.
Bishop Joseph Walker III, pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, took on these questions in a May 24, 2015, column in the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville.
Walker says both law and morality are matters of interpretation. As a Christian pastor, he sees morality as founded in the Bible. There are other faiths which use other religious texts as their moral compasses, he says.
His task as a pastor is to lead people so that they discover what is moral and immoral, based on scripture and spiritual revelation, he writes.
For some with deep convictions, morality is concrete, inflexible and void of compromise. For others, morality is fluid, with the ability to change as new interpretations emerge, the pastor writes.
Because we cannot pass laws based on one set of religious or moral standards, one’s morality and what is legal may conflict.
Because, at least in the United States, there are people of varying religions, beliefs and moralities, laws have to determine right from wrong based on that context. As we see watching governments in action, it’s no easy task. Yet, it is necessary.
By definition, laws have to contain some compromise, yet define right from wrong as clearly as they can. That makes it possible, even likely, that people can be wronged by laws, while those same laws make things right to others.
When laws seek to define morality, it becomes a slippery slope, Walker writes. He then asks, “should our rights be protected by the law, whether they are deemed moral or not? Should the law protect any religious rites? The jury is still out.”
Laws do their best to seek justice for all, regardless of one’s beliefs or definition of morality. The Constitution of the United States allows one to worship as he pleases, as long as he hurts no others. So one’s rites and rights can be protected simultaneously. One’s morality could be offended by certain laws, but that should not stop one from believing personally in a certain morality.
Often, we are confronted with laws that allow certain behaviors we consider immoral. In reality, often these behaviors have little, or no, effect on us personally. So, we can privately condemn the law, and still live a life we consider moral.
As laws attempt to seek justice for all, we have to be careful not to judge. As we carry ourselves in our own morality, we do our best to portray that morality vividly, while not condemning others who do not believe as we do.
We must obey the laws, even as we may consider them immoral. We do so with clear conscience by acting within our own moral code, regardless of others’ actions.
As one ponders these questions, he should strive to be the best he can be, within his own belief system. He must also strive to help others, regardless of those others’ belief systems. For a great way to do that, visit www.bign.com/pbilodeau. You could be sharing a great bounty while still following your own moral code.
Peter

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