This past week I was at my denominations national assembly where we deal with issues that impact our entire denomination. Midway through the assembly, there was a point of contention regarding a series of charges brought against a pastor for teaching improper doctrine. I will try not to bore you with all of the details, but the real point of contention involved a Minority Report that had been filed in response to a decision made by one of the denominational committees regarding the case. The only problem is that the main motion was ruled Out of Order, and according to Robert’s Rules of Order, Minority Reports cannot be issued on motions Out of Order.
As I sat in my seat watching this unfold, I chuckled to myself. Presbyterians love everything to be done “decently and in order.” And yet, what they really mean is “decently and in order and I still get what I want.” I believe very few of us in the assembly disagreed with the point the Minority Report was making concerning the charges brought against that pastor, but the rules stated that minority reports could not be filed. We love the rules of assembly and being “in order” unless that order prevents what we want.
I was reflecting upon this phenomena as I stood in line with my family at the county waterpark. When our waterpark is at capacity for visitors, guests have to wait in line to enter until someone leaves. I told my wife how annoying I thought it was that if you left the waterpark for any reason, even to run to your car, you had to wait in line again to enter. My wife responded that she hated that rule as well, unless she was in line waiting to enter, then she loved the rule!
Again, when we think of morals and creating moral laws and rules for our governance, we often think of rules and laws which hold other people in check. Very rarely does a politician stand up and argue for a rule which would prohibit their own behavior. There are very few proponents of guns arguing for gun control. We most often want laws to keep our neighbor in line. We want waterpark rules to get us into the waterpark faster, Rules of Order to allow us to pass the motions we want in assembly yet prohibit other motions we oppose, and moral consensus to restrict what other people do.
But for moral consensus to truly function, each person must be willing to compromise for the greater good. Those on one side of the issue must be willing to give up as much as those on the side. This means that a liberal (using dictionary definition, not political ideology) must be willing to let themselves be restricted and a conservative must be willing to allow others to be released. Consensus cannot mean that eventually comes to a conservative position. This also means that conservatives need to know what issues they are willing to relax on for the greater moral consensus and what hills to die on. Liberals need to know what issues they will not accept restrictions and where they will give up liberty.
It is only when opposing viewpoints and ideologies allow the law to affect themselves as much as others that true consensus can take place. If moral law is simply a means to get my neighbor to do what I want, then I am not truly interested in moral consensus. Then I’m simply trying to get into the waterpark faster.