Thursday, November 06, 2008

Vox Populi, Vox Dei?

(Warning, this is a long rambling blog post. For a while I found myself censoring what I was willing to blog about for fear of what others might say. I had to remind myself that I blog for myself, to help me process. The fact that I let other people in to my processing is a privilege I extend to others. So, please remember that if you read something you disagree with, it was written for me - not you.)

The Voice of the People is the Voice of God ~ well not always.

I've heard 'Vox Populi, vox Dei' quite a few times, it's a quote often wrongly attributed to William of Malmsbury. The basic premise is that you can know the will of the Divine by asking the people.

I'm sure Republicans would disagree with that right now, whereas the supporters of the Gay Marriage Ban in California would claim "Vox Populi, vox Dei" for themselves in a heartbeat.

The original quote is:

"Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit"

Which translates as:

"...And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness."

I'm sure Democrats would disagree with that opinion right now whereas the people challenging the Gay Marriage Ban in California would claim it for their own.

(To learn the full origins of the quote click here)

So, what is 'Vox Dei' over such divisive issues as Politics and Gay Marriage?

Well in Politics God is strangely silent. In the Old Testament though he does instruct the Israelites how they should govern themselves.

For example, every Seven years the Israelites were commanded to:

Let the land grow fallow instead of harvesting it - Exodus 23:20
Let grown crops be taken by anyone who is hungry, even slaves and foreigners - Leviticus 25:1-7
Cancel any financial debt you are owed - Deuteronomy 15:1-6
Release any Hebrews you had as slaves - Jeremiah 34:13

On the 50th year all the commands had to be followed with some additional commands as well. One of the most interesting is:

All land had to be returned to its original owner - Leviticus 25

Imagine what an economy based on these principles would look like. It strikes me that it would be very different from a form the form of 'Democracy' that some Christians claim is the Divine Will of God. Imagine returning property and cancelling debts, it would change the way businesses would operate. What would it accomplish:

It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community at large.
It would render it impossible for any one to be born to absolute poverty, since every one had his hereditary land.
It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another.
It would utterly do away with slavery.
It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again their career of industry, in the patrimony which they had temporarily forfeited.
It would periodically rectify the disorders which creep into the state in the course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and plebeians, and preserve the theocracy inviolate. (taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia)

Leviticus 25 is an interesting chapter, whilst reading it this time verse 35 struck me:

'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.'

Sounds like some form of 'Welfare' to me.

So what about this whole 'Gay Marriage' thing?

There are 6 passages used by Conservatives to prove that all homosexual practice is condemned in scripture. The same passages are interpreted differently by liberals.
Denominations and Churches disagree.
Bible scholars disagree.

What should I believe in the midst of this?

Well one thing the bible is very articulate on is the treatment of 'strangers' - people who you differ from theologically, socially, ancestrally etc.

Exodus 22:21
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9
Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:33-34
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But ... shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 10:19
Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Jeremiah 22:3
Do no violence to the stranger.

Zechariah 7:10
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor.

Matthew 25:35
For I was an hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.

On Wednesday morning 18,000 couples woke up in the U.S. to discover that their marriages may no longer be legal. I find that astounding.

The First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."

There are many churches that wish to be able to marry gay couples - the Metropolitan Community Church for example. Many people within the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and many other denominations wish to be able to marry gay couples.
This ban in California prohibits them from doing this.

America is a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. Our laws should reflect this. When one particular culture or faith is elevated over others and becomes the basis of legislation over every group, then government is no longer '...of the people, by the people, for the people', as some of the people are no longer represented.

Whatever your views on Homosexuality as a lifestyle are, we now have a group of 'strangers' that are being legally discriminated against in the U.S. It's no longer about homosexuality as a practice, it's an issue of Social Justice.

The minority always needs a constitution to protect them.


Network Geek said...

No, everyone needs a Constitution to protect them. Only when we move beyond concepts like "minority" and "majority" can we progress as a society. When we truly have "justice for all" and not just some, then we'll have seen some real change.

My take on this issue has been the same for quite some time now. The same section of the purity laws that are quoted as being the prohibition against homosexuality include a prohibition against eating pork. The people who throw that one Levitican law around so easily, often seem to enjoy their ham sandwich quite a lot.
I prefer the New Testament law;"Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind" and "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Everything else pales in comparison to that, I think. And, all right action flows from it.

Pete the Brit said...

I agree with you that everyone needs a Constitution to protect them. The weak need a Constitution to protect them from being oppressed by the Strong, and the Strong need a Constitution to limit them from abusing their power.
I would love to see a world where catagories of 'Majority' and 'Minority' no longer exist, but my fear is that it cannot happen. Human nature forms itself into groups of Insiders and Outsiders, those who think/look/believe/act the same as me, and those 'other' people. You even see it on the playground at Kindergarten - or maybe I'm just feeling cynical this morning.

With regard to the Homosexuality and Scripture issue, unfortunately it's a bit more complex than just throwing out the Levitical Law along with the rules about not eating Pork and Shellfish. There are new testament passages that mention homosexuality too, but unfortunately scholars cannot agree exactly how to interpret them. The problems go all the back to the original Greek Text even. Paul uses a word (and possibly even is the inventor of it) that occurs aproximately 3 times in Ancient Literature, and people are not certain what he meant.

That's why I framed the Gay Marriage issue in terms of social justice. What happened in CA seems to me a clear violation of the 'Loving thy Neighbor as thyself'.