The "matter" with "manners"

by William M. Stell

The evolution in "manners" that has spanned the last half-century is illuminated by multiple historical precedents. We are beginning to hear comparisons to the fall of the Roman Empire . . . but let's go back a lot further in time.

The people told Samuel they wanted a king, like other nations. The Lord told Samuel all the bad things that would happen, but the people still wanted someone besides God to guide them; they wanted laws, instead of "The Law": ".  . love God and love your neighbor as yourself". So God sighed and said OK. (I Samuel 8).

Now jump ahead a few hundred years, and observe the legal climate administered by the Pharisees in Jesus' time. Laws multiplied, incredibly complicated, with immensely subtle variations, extensions, and interpretations. As every law had unexpected consequences, the solution was always: another set of laws. So by then, it is agreed, nobody could possibly fully obey the king.

So, what was that about our manners? Civility? Etiquette? We no longer have to look to accepted societal rules to govern our behavior, we have laws. We have traded in Emily Post for a pervasive court system.

We no longer need to open doors for women, we have a legal definition of harassment. Did I say a legal definition? Dozens. Some of which include not opening doors for women.

We no longer have to have a heart for the disabled, we have laws. Laws which tell us all the kinds of disability there are (smoking cigarettes?), and what we must and must not do for the disabled, whether they want it or not.

We no longer need an institution of marriage, as more and more children are born of single parents, who are accommodated . . . nay, preferred by the law.

We now find major religious denominations, in the name of civility, encouraging the ordination and marriage of homosexuals; not forgiving the sin, but honoring it. The Rock of Truth gives way to the Soft Place of relativism.

You ask, "Is Civility dead?" Heck, we don't need it. We've got the law!

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