The Law

I’m doing something today that I have never done before; I am giving the invocation/grace at the Berks County Law Day Lunch. I could start with any number of jokes about lawyers; that would be expected. In fact, I have known many lawyers over the years and the overwhelming number of them have been excellent people who, like most of us, want to make the world a better place. I was raised in the church with the idea that the law, according to Saint Paul, was a bad thing. This isn’t accurate. Paul had a problem with legalism being used to stifle equality, but he understood the value of order. And while Jesus also had the occasional run in with legalism, and He changed some of His religion’s laws, I think it is true that He respected the laws of His faith. He got into trouble with the law of Rome. He fought the law, and the law won, we could say. (Sorry – had to do that).

Our country is based on laws, not religion. Sure, there are religious values at the core of many laws, and some of those make sense. Others do not. Some laws are created to keep order, while others exist to control some people and not others. This is where advantages are given to some and not others. This is what we call systemic bias, and to deny its existence is to deny real history. This is why we amend, remove, and create new laws; the law exists to keep order and to promote equity and equality. The Constitution is a framework, imperfect as it is, that at its best should allow every person life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I love that phrase, because it gives each one of us the opportunity to be happy, but there are no guarantees. We have to work for it.

Lawyers get a bad rap, probably because we often see them protecting guilty people (which is what makes our system great) or hawking their wares in classless commercials. In reality, they provide services that all of us benefit from every day. They find loopholes and weaknesses that, if our elected officials are on the ball, get changed for the better. They give us advice and guide us through difficult times. The law is supposed to protect all of us equally, and when it doesn’t, it should be changed. Our founders kind of (sort of) understood this, at least for white guys who owned property. Over the years, the law has helped to create a more perfect union that would eventually come to include all of us, regardless of what some of those rich, white guys intended. We continue that struggle every day; without it, we would have crumbled into anarchy long before this.

To all of you who study and practice the law, I thank you. For those of you who embrace the dark side, I pity you. Smart, capable people should always work for the greater good. To do otherwise puts us on the side of evil, no matter what we do for a living. Without lawyers, we would not exist as a nation. Their expertise is what keeps America moving forward. And it protects us from those who would pervert it. We need that now more than ever.

Prayer – We thank You God for giving us grace and laws so we can live balanced lives. May we always keep them in balance. Amen.

Today’s art is “Lady Justice”, a watercolor print by RosaliArt.