Irregularity Not Injustice

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I don’t know where people get off thinking that religious folk have to oppose extrajudicial killing as a mortal sin. Is it morally licit? Maybe not. But it’s not as cut and dried as many make it out to be, and many of those who think it is also make a lot of excuses for ‘nuance’ about other things that are much more clearly wrong.

Even those who generally are morally principled, I think, are often unduly influenced by the opinion of their peers, and forgetful of history they’d rather not remember today. Ruled by fear, they are unnerved by having to think about taking up arms against a power ruling with arbitrary injustice; except, fearing to think even of such things, they can only declare evil the power they fear. But a fearsome power is not in itself evil, nor is a tame power good. Power, political power, is always a proper object of fear, though we seek to keep it from pursuing injustice rather than justice, the common good rather than private gain. Indeed, justice matters, but justice is not always neatly in the system of procedural rules any more than the gospel is always neatly in the organs of the Church hierarchy: it is not always wrong for Cicero to have Catilinarian conspirators strangled without trial, nor is it always wrong for the people led by a lesser magistrate to resist by force the imposition of an unjust order. Protestants of all men ought especially to know and acknowledge what they themselves – or at least their fathers – have lived by. Irregularity does not in itself prove injustice.

So let us not, looking at the rulers of the world’s nations today, be so naïve as to make a fetish out of procedure. For Protestants, even our own religious principles militate against the liberal insistence that justice comes forth from regular procedure and only from regular procedure. The love of safety is only that: love of safety. In the communication of right, in the sharing of justice, there are deeper things in the constitutions of man and human society.

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