Crown Shoe

Law, Religion, and the Plastic Box

I always do my best thinking when I'm home alone and take a nice, long shower. I always leave the light off, open the window; the cool natural light, the heat, and the presence of my favorite element put me in a good mental place to have a nice talk with myself. And that's usually what happens: I talk. Not just to myself, though. I speak to the universal, understood 'you' and relate to my ideas as both speaker and listener. Experiencing both sides helps me understand myself just a little bit more.

Today as I was thinking I recalled my first experience meeting one of those Christians who hands out tracts in the local book store, standing in the middle of the metaphysical section with their bland smiles and tired eyes. You can tell they're bored, their feet hurt, and all they want to do is stroll over to the cafe and order a nice mochaccino, but they're doing God's work and in their heads he doesn't like people who slack off.

I was visiting the bookstore intending to pick up a set of tarot cards. No sooner did I bring the boxed set I'd been looking for down off the shelf did I see a little 'Coexist' card shoved in my face. My eyes followed the hand attached to a girl no taller than myself wearing a frumpy t-shirt and gym shorts ensemble looking exactly as described above. The conversation that then took place surprised both of us.

She was shocked that I was also a Christian, we even attended the same Christian school, though I'd had the pleasure of escaping that place long before my graduation. I tried to explain to her that I felt about the cards the same way I do about horoscopes and reading the newspaper: they're useful tools, but not supernatural. The cards present new ways of viewing a situation rather than predicting your future. Needless to say, she wasn't impressed. The real problem I had with her, though, is that she was like most Christians unable to think outside her little religious box. Today in the shower, after thinking long and hard about it, I know exactly what I would say to her if I ever met her again:

The problem with religion in general isn't with the belief system itself, it's with the people who follow it. Most spiritual individuals see their religious tome as a steadfast book of laws that transcends time and culture, dictating rigid rules that can only ever be viewed in one specific way, and if anyone steps forward to challenge that ideal, they are persecuted for it. Well, what they don't realize is that the ones who wrote down these rules lived in a very different time, and viewed them in a very different way. Historically, most ages interpreted religious texts in context with their own culture; the Bible was written in a time when women had no power in the home, written solely by men, even. Their interpretation of God's words may have differed from his meaning -- we're only human, even the men who wrote the Bible made mistakes.

But it was here that the idea struck me; perhaps we should view the rules and regulations in the Bible and other religious texts as we do those in our Constitution. It has evolved as our culture and society has evolved; a bend here, an amendment there, because society is an ever changing thing.

It makes more sense if we view the law as a container and our culture as the thing it contains -- and that thing is ever growing and changing in shape. If your box is too rigid, the contained substance will break or even shatter it, but if it's too pliable, there will be no structure at all. What you need is something sturdy but malleable, capable of shifting as the world shifts, but still maintaining its shape. What you need is a plastic box.