The US Coast Guard reported this morning that Canadian aircraft had detected underwater noises in the hunt for a missing submersible. However, when remote-operating vehicles were relocated to explore the origin of the noises, they did not find anything. The search continues in the race to find the crew before their air supply runs out.
In other news, President Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been charged with failing to pay federal income tax and illegally possessing a weapon. According to a letter filed in US District Court in Delaware, he has reached an agreement with the Justice Department in which he will plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax offenses. He is also expected to reach an agreement with prosecutors on the felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm.
The gun charge states that he possessed a handgun, a Colt Cobra 38 special, in October 2018 despite being a drug user. The count carries a maximum sentence of up to ten years in prison. However, the Justice Department says he has reached a pretrial agreement on the charge. Any proposed plea deal would have to be approved by a federal judge, but prosecutors are reportedly recommending two years of probation rather than jail time.
The announcements come as congressional Republicans are pursuing their own investigations into nearly every facet of Hunter Biden’s business affairs, including foreign payments and other aspects of his finances. However, the Associated Press reports that “the deal ends a long-running Justice Department investigation into the taxes and foreign business dealings of President Biden’s second son, who has acknowledged struggling with addiction following the 2015 death of his brother Beau Biden. It also averts a trial that would have generated days or weeks of distracting headlines” for the White House.
“In America the law is king”
I am grateful to live in a nation built on laws that are intended to govern every citizen, including the president of the United States and his family. Having spent time over the years in China, Russia, Cuba, Egypt, and several other autocracies, I can testify that this is not uniformly the case across history or around the world.
In his 1776 booklet Common Sense, revolutionary author Thomas Paine reminded colonists that “in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”
However, as Richard John Neuhaus observed, “Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion.”
In a nation of laws written by lawmakers who are elected by their constituents, we should expect our laws to reflect our culture. Consequently, when our culture loses the morality fostered by its religious commitments, our laws will reflect this state of affairs. Though our courts were intended to “apply the law, not to make up the law, not to reform the law, not to ensure that the law accords with public opinion,” they can nonetheless be swayed by public opinion as well.
For example, Washington Post columnist Michael Scherer writes that the Supreme Court in recent years has “generally hewed closely to shifting public views on key social issues like same-sex marriage, private sexual conduct, workplace protections for transgender people, and popular support for laws and executive orders on immigration and health care.” Its reversal of Roe v. Wade despite popular support for abortion is a significant counterexample, but those who protest that the Court should reflect the will of the people on this issue are making my point.
“More use than walks on the beach”
I had lunch yesterday with dear friends with whom I reflected on the state of our culture. One of them noted that when our nation jettisoned the external rules and values provided by the Christian faith, we were left to replace them with our subjective opinions.
However, none of us is as wise as all of us. My personal opinions cannot begin to rival the accumulated wisdom of those who have gone before me. Rules developed over generations of use will be intrinsically superior to those I create in the moment.
C. S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity that a map of the Atlantic Ocean “is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it the masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.
“In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.”
“The power of God for salvation”
Even though the map of Scripture is “absolutely necessary” for knowing God in a transforming way, it is conventional wisdom in our postmodern culture that declaring and defending biblical morality unjustly “imposes” our personal values on others. (Of course, Pride Month imposes LGBTQ values on society without facing the same opprobrium.)
Let’s respond with an analogy: If you knew the location of the missing Titanic submersible and how its crew could be rescued, would you be “imposing” your opinion on others or offering information that could save lives?
How is the gospel, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16), any different?