Many people in my town worry about living under Sharia, Muslim law. Personally, I don’t want to live under Sharia or any other religious system be it Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. When I make this point, most people claim there is no such thing as Christian law. Not so.
The on–going battle over embryonic stem cell research, for example, is a religious battle over the imposition of Christian law. Those who oppose embryonic stem cell research do so on the grounds that embryos are human beings, but this is religious doctrine not scientific fact. From the Christian perspective human life begins at conception, but from the Jewish perspective it doesn’t start until 40 days after conception. The embryo has no moral claim. On the contrary, the moral claim falls to those humans who may benefit from the research. Hence prohibition on embryonic stem cell research is the imposition of Christian law over Jewish law.
A similar argument can be made regarding abortion to save the life of a mother. Those most vocal in their willingness to let mothers die are those who have a religious stake in the unborn baby. The mother had a chance to accept Jesus as the Christ; the baby has not. Without that baptism the baby is damned. This is the unstated theology behind much of the abortion debate both when it comes to the saving the life of the mother, and when it comes to outlawing abortions for women who have been the victims of rape and incest. If your religion doesn’t posit ensoulment at the moment of conception, however, there is no moral imperative to the government forcing a woman to bear a child.
The Jewish position is that the mother’s life trumps that of the unborn. The baby cannot take care of itself, whereas the mother may have other children to care for, as well as a spouse, partner, siblings, or parents who will all suffer without her continued life and support. The mother’s moral claim to life is greater than that of the unborn, and if we must choose between them the mother’s life takes precedence.
I would not argue that Muslims cannot live under Sharia, just as I do not argue that Jews cannot live under Halachah (Jewish law). And just as there are Jewish courts to which Jews can turn if they choose not to engage the secular legal system on certain matters, so I would support Sharia courts operating under the same limitations. And of course I would urge those Christians who wish to do likewise to do so. One should be free to live according to one’s religious code assuming that code does no harm to those who do not choose it. But one is not free to impose that code on others.
I like freedom and wish that everyone did. But more and more what I see in the United States are people who love freedom only for themselves, and have no problem imposing their mores on others via courts and legislatures. Freedom is something America stands for, but fewer and fewer Americans are willing to defend.