Saturday, August 30, 2014

State meets Church

Yesterday the trial ended except for jury instruction and deliberation. In the closing arguments many legal terms were discussed. I could not help but be caught by one term in particular. I have heard it thousands of times, but had not made the connection that I made yesterday. The term is "good faith."

As the lawyer described what it meant to act in good faith and the legal implications, I realized that American law still recognizes precisely what I wrote about conscience in yesterday's blog post.

I did have to laugh when looking around online and found legal definitions that tried to pretend that this was some 19th century American legal principle instead an age-old moral principle that informs the law. It's why we refer to it as good FAITH, not simply good intention.

Our law still acknowledges what our moral theology has always known. Human beings are all fallible. We make mistakes. We make erroneous judgments. As long as we act according to our conscience neither God nor our legal system finds us guilty.

There was a second example of good faith that I have to acknowledge. And here I mean good faith in another sense. Throughout the trial there have been many decisions of judge Spencer with which I have disagreed. But one thing I can say about him is that he is a man of good faith. Here I mean good in the sense that he lives it. He is not afraid to show his faith in public. I cannot count the number of times he has either told the jury he would pray for them as he dismissed them or told them that he had prayed for them as he reconvened them after a weekend. When one juror had to be dismissed for some family situation, he not only said he would pray but encouraged others to pray. And coming from his mouth it was not simply the passing afterthought "God bless America" that politicians tack on to the end of a speech. You could tell that his expressions of faith come from his heart, it is good faith.

In a culture where many want to relegate religion to the merely private sphere, I am always grateful for those who remind us to let our light shine before others.