The Secret Socialist (Part 1)

Saturday, June 26th, 2010 at 9:18 am

Last night, my siblings were discussing the apparently dead-in-production film version of The Hobbit and Peter Jackson’s lawsuit against New Line.

Several siblings remarked that Peter Jackson didn’t really NEED more money.

Their remarks struck me wrong for whatever reason and I added my comment: “The question isn’t whether Peter Jackson needs more money, but whether he deserves more money.”

It’s not an issue of who needs what or of “fairness”. It’s a matter of justice.

(Please realize that I know VERY little about this particular court case–I cannot even begin to answer the question I posed. That’s not the point.)

The point is that even in some of the most conservative of us (my family is pretty conservative as a whole), there lurks a secret socialist.

Now, it may well be that I am completely blowing this out of proportion. My siblings weren’t necessarily saying that Peter Jackson shouldn’t win this lawsuit because he didn’t need the money. Rather, I am almost certain that they were asking why he was pursuing the lawsuit, as though he needed more money.

But the conversation (along with my reading of Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation) got me to thinking about the purpose of government.

The governments of this earth have a God-ordained role to administer justice:

” Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
Romans 13:1-7

The God-instated role of government is to reward the one who does good and punish the one who does evil. In other words, governments are intended to administer justice.

The problem is that justice…well, justice isn’t always very NICE. Justice is often pretty “unfair”. Justice means that the poor man who steals from a rich man–even if he’s stealing just so that he and his family can eat–is punished and required to repay what he has stolen–even though the rich man has no need for the stolen money.

“People do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.
Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold;
He may have to give up all the substance of his house. ”
Proverbs 6:30-31

The mercy of the onlooker means he does not despise a thief who steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. The justice of the law demands that he restore sevenfold, regardless of the personal cost to himself.

Sometimes, even we conservatives look at the law and desire for it to be merciful–but that is not the purpose of government. The purpose of government is not the administration of mercy but the administration of justice.

Please don’t write me off as a hard-hearted conservative yet! I’ll be exploring this issue further in the upcoming week. Stay tuned to hear my thoughts on social justice and the role of the church in society (which is quite different from the role of the government in society.)

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