December 10, 2006

No Laws==Better People?

In an interesting turn of events, apparently several European cities have removed traffic signs—and report “good results.”

It’s an interesting concept. And, on a personal level, I like the idea. It reminds my of switching from a public middle school to a Christian high school. The high school, though technically more strict, actually seemed to have fewer rules—probably because they were smaller and hadn’t yet needed to outlaw every single possible behavior that would lead to an infraction. I like it when laws can be constructed according to common sense and decency, rather than on worst-case scenarios. I like the idea of promoting responsibility rather than staunch legalism.

But, somehow, there is a niggling philosophical problem that bothers me with the idea. What are we really assuming when we remove traffic signs and promote responsibility? What are the philosophical presuppositions? That’s right: we’re assuming that people are basically good. And that’s in strict contradiction to the Christian idea of original sin. So what are we to do?

Let’s step back a moment.

The justice system of the United States is based on the idea that one is “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s fundamental to our system, and many other systems around the world (think Stalinist Russia, for instance) quickly show how much evil can happen when the government is allowed to assume that it’s citizens are guilty.

Conversely, Christian philosophy says that everyone is guilty, from our birth. We are all desperately in need of a Savior. To presume that we are ever innocent is simply pride and a rejection of God Himself. (This is probably the fundamental problem facing Western Christianity—noone is willing to admit their guilt.) It’s a system where the verdict is known long before the trial even starts: guilty.

So ought we start taking down traffic signs? I’d love to see how long these sign-less cities last. (Very possibly, it’ll last until the first guy who gets up on the wrong side of the bed.) But maybe, just maybe, emphasizing personal responsibility is the way to go. It seems to me that a Christian is not only supposed to believe in original sin—but is also supposed to assume the best about the next guy. Perhaps our approach ought to be this: know that the next guy is steeped in sin—but, then again, so are we, and we fervently hope that he (or she) isn’t nearly as much as we are.

And, then, maybe we can get rid of our traffic signs after all.

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New Comments Feature

I just created a new page that displays the five or so most recent comments. Thought you commenters out there might appreciate it.

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About War

No, not that war. There is far too much that I don’t know about that war to be able to speak authoritatively, though I certainly have my thoughts. But that is another discussion.

I’m thinking more in particular about war in general. Can war be right? Is war ever right? What is a proper Christian perspective? What are Christians to do with all the God-commanded wars in the Old Testament?

I happen to know that there are several points of view amongst the readers of my blog, and I’m looking for your thoughts. And, to spark this discussion some more, I’d like to refer you all to a eloquent letter to a license plate over at Contratimes.

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