Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Spirit of Prohibitionism

Just the other day the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a California law that prohibited the sale of ‘violent’ video games to minors.  (Of course, the video games I know are not ‘violent.’  Rather, they portray violence on a game screen.  We should not confuse the two with deceptive semantics.)  Several states have recently passed, or are considering, laws banning some kinds of bath salts.  Why?  Some people use them to try to obtain some kind of ‘high’.

Just recently I stopped at a Wal-mart in Indiana to purchase a can of lubricating oil.  It being the only thing I was purchasing, I proceeded to the self-checkout.  When I scanned the item, the system summoned the attendant to confirm that I was over 18 years old.

Apparently a fleeting glance was enough to confirm that fact (sigh), but I asked, “Why does my age matter?”  I should not have needed to ask.  It was because it was an aerosol can.  Some kids will ‘sniff’ anything from an aerosol can.

I am here to declare that the spirit of prohibitionism has given rise to a nanny state that has gone way off the deep end.  The ‘war on drugs’ (always beware when the state declares a ‘war’ or any inanimate object) has become a war on everything.

But the problem is not just that the prohibitionist principle has been taken to extremes.  The problem is deep within the prohibitionist principle itself.  And it is very unfortunate indeed that many Christians hold the prohibitionist principle almost as an article of faith.

I assume the motives are good.  Item X can be misused by people to harm themselves.  We love people.  Therefore we will convince the government to ban X.  What could be more reasonable?

But it is not reasonable at all, and it is not particularly Christian, either.  It gives the state power that God never authorized.  The only way for the state even to attempt to prevent you from harming yourself is for the state to attempt to control everything you do.  That is the essence and definition of totalitarianism.

Many things we use everyday could be used to harm ourselves.  God made us decision-making creatures who are also required to suffer the consequences of our decisions.  Prohibitionism attempts to deny this.

Even when prohibitionism is directed only at minors, it interferes with God’s order of things.  Minors are in the charge of their parents.  It is the job of parents to see that minors do not engage in self-harmful behavior.  “But,” the prohibitionist will say, “some parents don’t do their jobs very well.  So the state needs to do it for them.”

But this amounts to a kind of state vigilantism of the family.  When the state fails to punish someone who has done great harm to someone else (and it happens frequently) would you then say that it is appropriate for the families in the neighborhood to simply take the offender to the nearest oak tree and hang him high?  We would all call that vigilantism.  So why then do some think it is appropriate for the state to step in and take over when a family fails to do its job well?

We all need to ‘gut up’ a bit in this regard.  If some teenagers are going to sniff aerosol lubricating oil in an attempt to get high, their parents should stop them.  If the parents fail, some teenagers will probably die.  That is a horrible situation, but it is not business of the state.  Christians can preach, teach, council, and comfort in regard to this problem.  But we align ourselves against God’s order of things when when we turn to prohibitionism.

1 comment:

David H. Willis said...

Good stuff brother. I'm glad I found your blog. I'll be back.