Currently (and always) in the United States people are concerned about justice. Regardless of where you stand in any particular topic, the appeal to authority everyone points to is the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is beneficial because there is at least an objective document to that we agree to have some form of authority over us. Does the objective document determine a Just regime?
The founding of a group is the most important act for them; whether it’s a religion, country, gang, or pop band. That is because the ideals establish at the founding defines what is important to that group. If something comes later down the line that threatens to stray from the founding ideals, it is received with a level of suspicion regardless if that change is good or bad. In modernity we have forgotten, or never knew, the importance of founding.
For example, gun control; advocates who want extreme reform in the United States many times point to other countries and their laws to show how others have handled the issue. This can only go so far because it does not consider the founding of other countries. To say that an Asian or European regime does xyz with guns is irrelevant unless that county also was founded on similar principles and ideologies. If they were not, then there is not direct relation to the issue; the 2nd amendment is woven in the fabric of this current regime whether one likes it or not.
I recently went to Japan with my wife and was greatly impressed with the people and culture there. It was extremely clean, the infrastructure was beyond efficient, and the people were kind and respectful. That immediately brought up the question of ‘what can we do that they are doing to make us the same way’ for certain things (especially their public transportation!) that I felt they did better. However, the problem with this is that we can’t just take what we see today in another regimes’ laws and turn around and implement the same anywhere else. That country got to where it is today through its own shaping through history and its own founding. There is a complete difference in culture for generations upon generations, not simple recent implementation of laws. Japan got to where it is today from thousands of years of Shinto beliefs, Buddhist influences, and a cultural identity that is foreign to us but unique to them. They have different values and ideas of the individual and the community and how they correspond to each other. They have their own governmental system and history that pre dates the United States. To simply visit Japan today and turn around and say our problems will be fixed if we had their laws is a gross over simplification of reality. That is not to say that laws shouldn’t be implemented or repealed simply because culture builds over generations; it’s simply saying that it is never that simple.
So then the particular issue of gun control (or any other issue) needs to be seen in the light of the ‘whole’ of regimes and how they are founded, and why they are the way they are.
So then what does it mean to understand the founding of a civilization in light of all civilization, and how to we get to the Just Regime where all is right? To get to there I want to go I want to first take a step back to look at the ‘whole’ of God and man, since if we want to know about founding and beginnings, where better to begin than the Beginning.
First, let’s look at the founding of the first city, and the account that surrounds it. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. After the fall of man and garden banishment Cain kills Abel for selfish reasons. Cain then goes on to found the first city, dedicating it to his son, Enoch (meaning ‘dedication’). So then, the act of building the first city, a place where people come together to live with one another in community, was founded by someone who murdered his brother. The ideals set forth in a place where people would come together in the hope of a just and fair society, was birthed through the miscarriage of justice. Man in the original pre-fall creation was called to build communities; post-fall that mandate is accomplished by irony.
Even the greatest city of all, Rome, has its own founding legend of fratricide being its origin. Brother killing brother to go on to build a mighty community. The regimes of man will always be founded ironically with injustice. This goes for the United States as well. A new country based on ideals and principles of freedom, ideals to be praised in themselves, and yet they were also realized in wickedness. And so, all regimes of man will be from there on out. It is man’s continuous fall forever from grace, the curse that enters the city.
I will add that in the United States I do not believe the answer is to throw out the ideals from the founding, but rather to truly live up to them with integrity. Acknowledge what was and is wicked and cut that out.
Is the search for a just city a new search? Why have we yet to attain it? In about the 6th century another person identified man’s tendency for a seemingly futile search for justice in the cities of man. Augustine of Hippo saw what man accomplishes in life, summing up all of man’s venture as building the ‘city of man’. In his work titled ‘The City of God,’ Augustine traces the lineage of both the cities of man and what he calls the City of God; essentially recounting the history of man and the history of God working through man. In book 14, chapter 28 of this work he takes a step back from the tracing of both lineages and summarizes the whole endeavor as he discusses the nature of the two cities- the earthly and the heavenly.
In the search for justice in the city, Augustine recognizes the founding as important for establishing its nature. The heavenly city is one that he sees as being founded by Jesus. Though, the citizenship of this city is not found on earth. Its citizens have two passports essentially; one being their earthly citizenship wherever they find themselves on the globe, the other being not of this world. Citizens of the heavenly city are universally united regardless of where their earthly city may be, they are the true cosmopolitan.
On founding’s, here are some of Augustine’s reflections on both the earthly city and heavenly city:
“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self…The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord…The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, ‘Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”
Those are the universal characteristics of both cities. Augustine’s thinking shows he also understands that the founding of the city is the most important act. In all earthly cities, regimes are founded when one brother kills the other for the benefit of self, setting that as the standard; in the Heavenly city the True Brother lays down His life for the benefit of all, giving a completely other standard.
Regardless of which side of a wall you are on, you can begin to have a second citizenship to a better City. A City that you can meet some of it’s citizens now around the world living in every city of man. One in which the Founder has laid down His life only to take it up again.
In the heavenly city is where true justice was found. It’s Founder was the Just, and the Justifier. We can come to the gates of the city we were not worthy to enter because the founder is Our Brother.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the City which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God… All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them…For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come”
All our longings for the city filled with justice are our longings for our heavenly city. We should strive to bring justice to cities of man, while recognizing our longings are for a more true city. Which city are you a citizen of? The city that lives for self, even to the contempt of God, or the city that lives for God and for neighbor, even to the contempt of self?