South Carolinas Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is becoming a bit intrusive. In our neighborhood we have a pool and swim team. To prevent injury, coaches remove the ladders from the pool during practice and meets. They are making wise decisions for themselves and their swimmers based on experience. DHEC however, has consistently insisted the ladders be bolted into the concrete to prevent them from coming out while someone is climbing out of the water.
Heres the rub: it doesnt matter that its impossible for the ladder to come out while someone is on it; the government thinks it knows better than we do. The truth is that many children have banged themselves on the ladders in swim practice or have jammed their arms between the ladder and the wall while doing backstroke. On the other hand, unless someone intentionally removed it, the ladder has never come out with or without someone on it in the thirty-six year history of the pool.
DHEC actually closed another pool I was attending. I thought it was because the chlorine level was so high that kids were coughing their lungs out. The coaches had already taken action and opened a door to provide fresh air. Yet, the pool wasnt closed for the chlorine but for the open door! DHECs concern was that a baby could wander in or out. Of course there were no wandering babies in the area and the outside of the pool was enclosed by a fence. Despite the coachs concern and wise decision, the government had a better idea based upon its rule book, not what was actually going on.
We might be tempted to say we simply have to submit to the government and thats that. But shouldnt we also analyze the situation from a biblical perspective by asking a simple question: does the operation of a local swimming pool (or whatever) fall under the role of government, the church, or the market at large?
Government should exist to protect us from one another but it shouldnt interfere with our pursuits. Why? A limited government stems from gospel principles, the sinfulness of man, and what it means to be a civil society. The gospel is persuasive, not coercive; we dont force people to follow Christ; we persuade them. Nor do we force Christian living on people. But, sinful men do bad things like murder and steal. Therefore, government is there to protect us from one another so society can be civil. With regard to the church, it promotes the ways of God in society. Individuals in the market place pursue life, liberty, and happiness in ways that dont harm others. They do so based upon their own gifts, talents, and calling.
Now, pool operation does not fall under the role of the church. Does it fall under the government then? Some would say so as there are safety issues which might fall under the governments role of protection. But lets think carefully here. There is a big difference between a person from the pool hurting someone vs. someone having an accident at the pool and getting hurt. The government would step in if a lifeguard intentionally hurt someone with the ladder, or pushed a baby into the parking lot. But the government shouldnt set forth or enforce pool rules on the mere possibility of someone getting hurt. If such were the case, the government would have to outlaw diving boards, slides, and other items at the pool. Come to think of it, they would have to outlaw pools altogether! The point is that our pursuits involve personal risk. If someone is injured due to negligence, then the government steps in. But, we really dont want the government regulating our lives particularly when it boils down to written statues that contradict common sense in so many real life situations.
Pool safety falls under the role of the market with trained professionals supervising real life situations and making good decisions as a result. Further, think about market principles in general. An unsafe pool will lose revenue and is subject to penalties in cases of negligence or willful harm to others. The pool owners are highly motivated to provide a safe environment in order to turn a profit.
But lets get to the real point for Christians. Is our beef really about more government intrusion into our lives; revenue loss when the government shuts down a pool; or the inconvenience of patrons who were turned away as a result? Those things are important but theres more to it. We have increasing government intrusion into our lives because the Christian worldview no longer underpins American thought. When gospel influence wanes, the minds of people become increasingly darkened. Practically, the upshot is senseless and harmful polices inflicted on the citizens at large. Unless the church fulfills its role with increasing boldness and clarity, the roles of government and the market will continue to be confused. Government will simply get bigger and liberty will erode more.
Our message is about salvation. Yet, one of the great benefits of the gospel going forward is an advance of the biblical worldview with it. It is that worldview alone that will keep a society free. In other words, the only thing that will prevent further government intrusion into your life is the advance of the gospel.
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