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"Nations are bound by the same law as individuals... No human legislature can nullify the moral law. No human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command of God. All human enactments requiring or sanctioning the violation of any command of God, are not only null and void, but they are a blasphemous usurpation and invasion of the prerogative of God. The same principles apply to slavery. No human constitituion or enactment can, by any possibility, be law, that recognized the right of one human being to enslave another, ina  sense that implies selfishness on the part of the slaveholder. Selfishness is wrong per se. It is, therefore, always and unalterably wrong... That slaveholding, as it exists in this country, implies selfishness, at least in almost all instances, is too plain to need proof... Deprive a human being of liberty, who has been guilty of no crime; rob him of himself - his body, his soul, his time - and his earnings, to promote the interests of his master, and attempt to justify this one the principles of moral law! It is the greatest absurdity, and the most revolting wickedness." - Charles Grandison Finney

The great prophet of the Second Great Awakening, Charles Grandison Finney, wrote this concerning slavery in the late 1830s. Now, perhaps you don't believe in God. Many do, many don't. That is a futile point to argue and is only a distraction from the concept of moral law and the insidiousness of unchecked selfishness.

Perhaps you do not agree with Finney's extremism in deeming selfishness as wrong, per se. But, perhaps, you've seen what happens when selfishness unchecked is allowed to run rampant. Perhaps you've seen the destruction of the environment, as rivers are set on fire, water turned toxic, as animals die and farmland wrecked while energy corporations seek to church out ever greater profits. Perhaps you've seen the collapse of the middle class, the robbery of the poor of the meager security nets they cling to, the attempts to destroy programs that aid the neediest while the wealthiest skate by on less and less contributions.

What I believe unites the many, varied threads of liberalism is the realization that we must tend to one another. This was the argument of the preachers of old, is still the thrust behind why many of us contribute our time to relief efforts and our money to social services, why I spent time handing out food, clothing and helping build homes. Perhaps your moral code conflicts with some of the behaviors around you. That happens. No people, taken as a whole, can be expected to be perfectly of one mind and spirit and all times. I disagree on certain moral issues with my peers. Yet what I also realize is that, in most instances, the simplest answer to all things is to live and let live. It is not my right to impose my beliefs on another. I may discuss them, I may argue for my perspective, but I have no right to legislate my beliefs on another. But more than a simple theory of letting everyone live according to their own, my basic premise for existence demands that I care for them. I may not always be perfect, but I don't question the money I give to a man asking for it on a corner. He may buy drugs, but he may buy a sandwhich. When someone is in need of something, I don't wonder what their race, religion or creed is before contributing my help. What a silly notion. Likewise, I have no issue in contributing a bit more of my tax dollars to helping those in need. It seems like a logical extension of my creed.

For me, there is a law that exists above the simple legislative demands upon me. There is a need, a moral compulsion, to help those less fortunate. To secure their safety, and their profit, as I can.

Which makes the news from Bloomberg about Wal-Mart so damning:
This is not a case of something slipping under the radar. Wal-Mart was complicit in the deaths already, however, it may have at least been argued that they were unaware of the full extent of maintenance and upgrades needed. Not even that excuse is left to them. What is so damning, what is so infuriating, is their full knowledge of the conditions of these factories, and their refusal to contribute toward securing even the most minimal safety precautions for their workers.

What inspired this diary was a comment, on the Bloomberg site, from one individual who said it was not the responsibility to pay above the market demand in order to secure the safety of these workers. Legally, economically, he may have been right. But by God, or by whatever moral compass it is that guides you, there is no way to argue that such a statement can stand the test of moral law. Unchecked selfishness is death, pure and simply, with no other way of detailing its insidious effects.

"No generation before us ever had the light on the evils and wrongs of slavery that we have: hence our guilt exceed that of any former generation of slave holders; and, moreover, knowing all the cruel wrongs and miseries of the system from the hsitory of the past, every persisting slave-holder endorses all the crimes and assumes all the guilt in the system and evolved out of it since the world began." - The Oberlin Evangelist, February 4, 1846

As ever greater light was being shed on the cruelties of the slavery system, men of many convictions began to argue that it was no longer a system that in the slightest could be tolerated. Social organizations, independent resistors, newspapers and churches all began to speak out, because the burden of the system was so onerous, so undeniable, that it weighed down on the spirit of free people of good conscience everywhere. Will we now, say, that we have enacted anything less than a second system of slavery? Will we now argue that the sacrifice of a hundred lives is worth the selfish profit of a few economic investors? Can we really stand by and justify this system by excusing it as less cruel than outright slavery? Is being less cruel, truly any less a cruelty?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    by DAISHI on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 02:54:00 PM PST

  •  I think it is a tough argument to make... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Prof Haley, marsanges, trumpeter

    to say that the question of whether or not a god exists is a futile point and is a distraction, when you began this diary with a quote that says,

    No human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command of God.
    I think the existence of God is central to that statement.
    •  It's a quote (0+ / 0-)

      And attenuating more to it, than the principle that that there is such a thing as laws above the legislative law, is a distraction. But if we dogmatically and literally read the words of the past without finding ways to apply them modernly then we'll always be trapped by walls of our creation and unable to reach out to one another. That Finney felt God was the source of moral law does not mean that the modern audience has to agree, what is important is that we agree that legislative law is not necessarily 'right'.

      by DAISHI on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 03:41:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Either way... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trumpeter, mskitty

        it sounds as if you are talking about an objective morality, which is generally a theistic proposition.  It just so happens that I was pondering this on the way home from work, this afternoon.  I cannot accept that an objective morality exists.  If you're concept of a "moral law" is different from this, I would be interested in you explaining how.

        •  The point isn't to postulate an objective morality (0+ / 0-)

          But whether or not the legislative justification of something makes it right. If you're of the notion that something being legal makes it right, then power to you. I disagree. I believe that human beings should be treated as more than slaves. I'm not proposing a universal law for everyone that is objectively observed by all individuals. I'm postulating, as Finney did, that legislative right does not mean morally right. In the context of accomodating that notion to a diverse liberal movement, it's acceptable whether one conceives of right as being God given or self derived, but how one arrives at that conclusion intersects in mutual interests when both groups identify legislative right as not always being moral.

          by DAISHI on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:01:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK. (0+ / 0-)

            I'd go along with that.  There are certainly laws that I don't think are right.  But this post is entitled "The Moral Law", which implies some extra-legal code that exists and that all can either follow or violate.  I do not believe such exists.  Some would argue that a moral code handed down by God must, by definition, be morally superior to any conflicting moral or legal code.  But if you moral code is personally derived, that claim cannot be made.  As I type this I am listening to an Atheist Experience video which talks about honor killing.  Certainly most rational people would consider the law morally superior to those whose personal code considers honor killing to be moral.

    •  Liberty U Law School teaches this very point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billybush, trumpeter

      impressing upon future lawyers and judges that when "Divine Law" or Natural Law conflicts with the Constitution, Natural Law wins out. (though they have no idea of what the original concept of Natural Law is)
      Imagine SCOTUS with that sort of philosophy

      •  Sadly... (0+ / 0-)

        it is not that difficult a thing to imagine.  I remember a number of years ago, around here, a judge refused to prosecute anti-abortion protesters who had trespassed on private property because their crime represented the "lesser of two evils".

      •  The Constitution (0+ / 0-)

        Cannot be, by its nature, perfect. Which is why it requires amending. As a people when we arrive at new conceptions of morally right, we correct the Constitution to reflect this. The Constitution does lose out in so much as it existed in its original conception in favor of amended views of what the Constitution means going forward into the future.

        by DAISHI on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 04:03:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  the social history of the Awakenings, as there (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    have been 4 (though the last is debated), is a very mixed one, most often displaying a sort of cognitive dissonance in its goals.  For example, women suffrage was a result of such a movement but Prohibition and Temperance were also results of the same movement.

    In my jaundiced view, the ascription of too much moral good and social advancement to the Awakenings is a mistake. For example the Wiki article here:
    gives a great deal of credit for the American Revolution to the First Great Awakening while from my research it seems more credit belongs to the Enlightenment in general.  It also seems the farther South one moved during this period, the weaker the influence of the movement upon political thought  

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