We are in a time of cultural division. A day of drawing sides, establishing positions and rallying sympathizers. Some preach civility and tolerance, others enjoin backbone and principles. At the crux of this societal seesaw is the struggle over the hilt of the sword of the state. Some desire to use the sword to impose civility and tolerance of a certain kind, perpetually, on every citizen. Others prefer the sword’s use to be safe, legal and rare.

Sitting on the Judiciary Committee this past session, I saw that one thing unified everyone: a yearning for justice. But justice according to whose definition?

Justice is the punishment of wrong, and rewarding of right. This is enforced by the sword of the state, based on the state’s definition of right and wrong. Aiming the sword of the state is that which drew each person before the committee. Any legislation passed out of the session declares, “Montana says this is right and the opposite wrong.” Vital then, in wielding the sword, is a proper knowledge of right from wrong.

Ethics is the defining of right and wrong. Religious moral systems define ethics. All societies, and their laws, are religious, and all will use the sword to punish those who are “evil-doers” and reward those who are “righteous.” The carrying out of justice steers the course of a society, so, consequences being what they are, it is important to define justice correctly. This is why it is crucial who is the god of the society, because that will determine the swinging of the sword, and the trajectory for our children’s and grandchildren’s Montana.

Ethics determine justice, and the god determines the ethics. If a society serves the wrong god, you will get injustice every time. To find the god of a society, simply follow the trail of authority. The buck stops somewhere, and wherever ultimate authority lies, there is the god.

Sadly, for us today, the buck stops at the state. People who recognize no god above them are called tyrants, and that is how they’ll behave. Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. No God above us means we set our own rules.

Once a society recognizes a system of justice, the task of ensuring said justice will belong to the civil magistrate and involves some instrument of coercion. The “sword” is the God given authority to physically punish a law breaker and so protect all people’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Historically in our country, justice was defined by God’s Word, and the sword was wielded according to Christian ethics. Going further back into our English roots, we called it common law. This common law was common because it was a reflection of a common Christian belief system. Even until the late 1800s, judges were seen ruling from the Bible.

As we’ve turned from God’s Word, we’ve replaced common law with statutory law. This is where the people are able to rewrite the rule book as they see fit. A prime example fresh in our minds of this is the federal law outlawing tobacco to those under twenty one. When we start making up our own statutes, we begin to look like idiots. Now it’s legal to serve on a jury, vote for a President, abort your child, and smoke marijuana in Colorado, but heaven forbid you smoke a cigarette. Redefining marriage, redefining male and female, redefining killing babies -- justice is lost, and injustice dances a jig.

With true, biblical justice, the people are able to live in peace and security. The actual “general welfare” will be preserved. Formerly, that meant putting murderers to death, and exacting restitution from the thief. With ungodly injustice, it means fining bakers and flower arrangers for not bending the knee. It means evicting folks from their bought and paid for homes when their property taxes become too burdensome. It means remanding money from the rich to hand over to the poor. Injustice means granting extra-equal rights to one person over another simply due to sex, skin color, race or persecution in past generations. I’m reminded of the Proverb: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

If there is a finer code of ethics out there than Christianity, I would love to see it. If there is a more free and tolerant society than a Christian society, show me. If there is a belief system that better fosters liberty for mankind, that cradles life and encourages the pursuit of happiness above that of Christianity, let’s switch. Except, from all over the world, from out of the clutches of all opposing religions and world views and governments, people scratch and claw to come to an America still sputtering along on the fumes of it’s Christian founding.

God, please continue to bless America and please bless Montana!

Rep. Greg DeVries (R-Jefferson City) represents House District 75. He can be reached at greg.devries@mtleg.gov.

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