The Artist Currently Known as The Boss

By Cyberquill 04/25/201615 Comments

Earlier this moth, Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in North Carolina in protest over its government’s religious freedom legislation, which allows Christian businesses to refuse service if providing it conflicts with their faith, and bans individuals from using public bathrooms that match their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.

Yet last night, opening his show in NYC with a cover version of Purple Rain, Mr Springsteen chose to pay a manifestly heartfelt tribute to a—by all accounts—very devout and active member of a church (Jehovah’s Witnesses) that expressly opposes same-sex marriage, regards homosexuality as a sin, and teaches in the least mistakable of terms that “God created humans to engage in sex only within the arrangement of marriage between a male and a female.” (I’m quoting straight, pardon the pun, from their website.)

Methinks if one feels that an artist like Prince shouldn’t be reduced to his religion and hence doesn’t deserve to be excoriated and shunned for some of its arguably bigoted tenets, one might as well be of the mind that an entire state and its people shouldn’t be reduced to and shunned for some of its arguably bigoted laws.

I’m not quite sure I follow the boss’s logic (assuming he has one) when it comes to genuflecting versus boycotting.

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  • cheri

    Such is the hypocrisy of man (and musicians) but not you.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      One can, though, as Richard does below, reasonably posit a difference between a government enacting legislation and a private individual electing to become a member of an organization that openly promotes (although has no power to codify) positions regarded by many as homophobic and discriminatory.

      The question is whether (and if so, to what degree) protesting the former necessarily conflicts with looking the other way on the latter and celebrating such an individual anyway.

      I guess one could argue that Prince, via attaching himself to an organization that promotes certain views, merely subscribed to those views but didn’t actively attempt to impose them on others, and therein lies the distinction that Springsteen, presumably, is drawing.

  • Richard

    This relation between morality and the law is subtle.

    There are some initial presumptions. Let us call the axioms.
    1. We have a natural freedom to conduct ourselves as we choose, within our mental and physical limitations, and we bear the consequences.
    2. Morality is a set of restrictions an individual applies to his own conduct.
    3. Law is a set of agreed rules a community applies to its members to prevent harm to one member by another.

    It follows that if a form of conduct by one member of a community to another does no harm, it has no place in the law.

    The difficulty arises in the case where a member of a community consents to another member’s conduct towards him which may or may not cause him harm.

    The relevant issues are.
    1. Degree of proof of harm or potential harm: this covers the effect of religious belief or authority.
    2. The nature of consent.
    3. Whether it is possible to consent to harm: consider consent to medical treatment.

    These questions are to be answered by the community and so the answers can only be found within the system of government and the decisions of those who govern.

    Were I a legislator, which fortunately I am not, I legislate according to my duty to the community.
    1. I would need a very high standard of proof of harm and
    2. a high level of justification for interfering with consent.
    3. I would not allow my religious beliefs to interfere unless otherwise justifiable.

    Thus, for example, free consent to deprivation of property (a gift) is permissible but not theft nor culpable injury to a child. Assisted suicide is so fraught with indeterminable questions of consent that it needs to be proscribed.

    If, therefore, I were a Jehovah’s witness and a legislator I would not impose my religious beliefs through the law, though I would wish to be free to express my views as to the law in whatever manner I chose -- personally, I would not choose boycott.

    Given the axioms, therefore, there is no such inconsistency as you suppose. Objecting to laws is one thing, personal morality another. It just happens in a democracy that many laws do correspond to a limited consensus about personal morality.

    This relation between morality and the law is subtle.

    There are some initial presumptions. Let us call the axioms.
    1. We have a natural freedom to conduct ourselves as we choose, within our mental and physical limitations, and we bear the consequences.
    2. Morality is a set of restrictions an individual applies to his own conduct.
    3. Law is a set of agreed rules a community applies to its members to prevent harm to one member by another.

    It follows that if a form of conduct by one member of a community to another does no harm, it has no place in the law.

    The difficulty arises in the case where a member of a community consents to another member’s conduct towards him which may or may not cause him harm.

    The relevant issues are.
    1. Degree of proof of harm or potential harm: this covers the effect of religious belief or authority.
    2. The nature of consent.
    3. Whether it is possible to consent to harm: consider consent to medical treatment or volunteer soldiers.

    Sometimes harm cannot be avoided and then it is a question of least harm.

    These questions are to be answered by the community and so the answers can only be found within the system of government and the decisions of those who govern.

    Were I a lawmaker, which fortunately I am not, I decide according to my duty to the community.
    1. I would need a very high standard of proof of harm and
    2. a high level of justification for interfering with consent.
    3. I would not allow my religious beliefs to interfere unless otherwise justifiable.

    The resulting laws I leave the judges to interpret and allow them to fill the gaps.

    Thus, for example, free consent to deprivation of property (a gift) is permissible but not theft nor culpable injury to a child. Assisted suicide is so fraught with indeterminable questions of consent that it needs to be proscribed.

    If, therefore, I were a Jehovah’s witness and a legislator I would not impose my religious beliefs through the law, though I would wish to be free to express my views as to that law in whatever manner I chose -- personally, I would not choose boycott.

    Given the axioms, therefore, there is no such inconsistency as you suppose. Objecting to laws is one thing, personal morality another. It just happens in a democracy that many laws do correspond to a limited consensus about personal morality.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      The word “harm” jumps out at me. I suppose I struggle with regarding a given law as harmful but not regarding as equally harmful the moral code of individuals, which the law in question, after all, is a reflection of. It would be very difficult, I think, to pass a law that imposes a kind of morality alien to most individuals in the community. Sure, a given individual might object to his or her personal morality being codified as a law for all, but it is nonetheless the existence and prevalence of that kind of morality, even if practiced by many in the privacy of their own minds only, that ultimately paves the way for a like-minded law to come into being.

      • Richard

        Thank you for removing the inadvertent repetition in my comment: a consequence of “copy-and-paste”!

        Religious obsession causes so many problems in the morality it espouses: the belief by an individual that he knows his god’s thoughts. That can only be if the individual is the god. Thus does the religious obsessive do harm by promulgating such morality and as a lawmaker by imposing it through law. You (as you might say) make a point. Most of our basic laws derive from religious laws. So it is all a question of wisdom and judgment and hard to define.

        The starting point is a clear distinction between morality and the law.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        So I guess one could say that to enact laws based on morality is immoral.

        • Richard

          The problems, I suggest, come from religious obsession.
          Religion per se does not exclude wisdom and judgement.

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          So then who gets to decide whether it is wise or obsessive to regard, say, homosexuality as immoral?

          • Richard

            You put your finger right on why the distinction between morality and the law is so vital a starting-point. Morality is for the individual, law for the community. What is just and wise can only be considered in retrospect -- with the benefit of hindsight and in a historical perspective (for good measure).

            While each of the “ten” commandments represents law for a particular community, half have a theological basis the other half a social basis. As to what is moral varies for the individual. You may have no moral qualm about working on the sabbath, for example, or denying property rights.

            Which of the commandments do you consider wise and just?

            • Richard

              As a postscript, i should mention that I regard obedience to the law a moral duty. Sometimes moral values conflict and then the individual has to work out which has priority.

              Such a dilemma does not occur in, say, the Laws of England -- in theory, at least. Common Law precedents are either distinguished or overruled by a higher court. Cases in the lower courts do not serve as precedents at all, although they have to follow them, perhaps because their history is earlier than the priority of the Common Law when there was rivalry with the Justinian Codes and Canon Law. It is also practical because it would be impossible to keep track of the multiplicity of decisions, which are often plain wrong. The Supremacy of The Queen in Parliament ensures that there is no conflict between statute and precedent and so the democratic principle is preserved. Until, that is the EU comes along, holding, with Rousseau, that the elite know better what laws are good for the people.

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              I take it you’re pro-Brexit then.

            • Richard

              There is to be a secret ballot.

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              Still, it seems to me that the laws for—and, via its elected representatives, ultimately by—the community are primarily an expression of the prevailing morality of the majority of its individual members. If most members consider it OK for transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice, it is hard to imagine that the community would prohibit that choice by law. Morals may be for individuals and laws for the community, but, in the aggregate, it is individual morality that shapes the laws of a community. .

              My favorite wise and just commandment is “Thou shalt not eat meat,” which is what I interpret the sixth to mean.

            • Richard

              Fair dos!

  • Richard

    Sorry about the inadvertent repetition. The second version contains additions, so skip the first.

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