Friday, December 21, 2007

Pomona cops - Christmas trick or treat

I saw a cute little Christmas story a couple of days ago about the Pomona cops. They dressed up one officer as a beardless Santa Claus and another as an elf, and these two played ped, crossing whenever the walk signal said so.

Drivers who dissed Santa and the elf got a ticket from a mortorcyle cop. Nice drivers who took care to give Santa and his little buddy space on the crosswalk got a $10 gas card - which is about as nice as you can expect from a traffic stop!

I was thinking why this is so effective. It's humorous, and it's unusual. As P. T. Barnum once said, to be noticed you have to wiggle your ears, and the Pomona cops wiggled their ears on this one for sure. Being nice, giving people a little treat, is unexpected in traffic enforcement, way more agreeable than people expect in business contacts with traffic cops.

The theological lesson here seems to be that authority is most powerful and authoritative when it's human. God gave all authority in heaven and earth to the Son of Man.

What makes this hard to understand is that our political culture confuses being human with being arbitrary. We often hear of the contrast between a government of laws and a government of men, the problem with that formulation being, however, that laws don't enforce themselves.

To be arbitrary comes from our rebellion, not at all from our humanity as such, and so the cure for arbitrary power is not to become mechanical and legalistic instead of being human. The cure for it is to become submissive to the truth in every interaction, and that always means doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. That doesn't mean never being tough on people, but it does mean never being tough on them if you don't have to be, and indeed finding every possible way to find them a way to avoid needless pain. That's what God does to us, and who could even survive otherwise?

Now all that needs wisdom, and often enough way more than I have. When I get serious about doing justice and loving mercy, it doesn't take too long to find out that I'd better humble myself in order to find my way there, and more than being humble, I have to be in God's company to find the way.

The Pomona cops found a way to do their job in their capacity as humans, and lots of people got a memorable and often completely painless lesson in driving safety. The word of truth is not so far from any of us. If we find it, or rather, if it finds us, we have no cause to be proud of ourselves.

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