It is not the nakedness that shames us so much as this, the annual gathering of lawmakers.
For nakedness can be hidden and ignored. Draped in layers of colorful cloth, we can pretend its not there, like death postponed.
But laws and the legislators who make them they are eternal reminders of our imperfect souls, the price we pay for surrendering to temptation. They are the true cost of our fall from grace.
Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:2-5)
And so innocence was lost.
That fundamentally is why were here, isnt it, why we have a system of laws and government? Because we know evil. We know the things of which we are capable mass shootings and child abuse, fraud and deceit, stealing, drunkenness, every manner of criminal and negligent behavior and seek protection in numbers. Together, we establish the guidelines for proper society to hold ourselves at bay: These rules thou shalt obey to partake of this lesser Eden.
Yet how are we to trust such a thing sinners presuming to govern the sinful?
We see senators caught for DUI, arrested in airport restrooms. We hear of padded expense accounts and resignations amid charges of sexual harassment. The combined weight of recent Statehouse scandals is such that lawmakers spent half a day at the start of the current legislative session in ethics training, hoping to end the barrage of bad press and regain the publics faith.
How, then, can we be confident in their judgment?
For that matter, what of each other? No matter how disappointing those who govern, it is the flaws of the governed that thwart most diligently our societal dictums.
At heart, a legislature is nothing more than a giant fig-leaf manufacturing plant, a collective effort to decide which actions are shameful and which permitted. For every new transgression, we pump out a new law for each unseemly action, a remedying statute that says this is wrong, it is forbidden, something to hide from the eyes of God.
And after 5,000 years of human civilization, one truth stands out: The factory is still churning. No matter how many laws we pass, we have yet to plumb the depths of mans capacity for sin.
Laws and lawmakers are constant reminders that we choose to stray. We are inventive in our transgressions. Its part of our nature. With that knowledge comes the true loss of innocence.
But as we confront the endless, bitter consequences of our one bite of the apple, there is reason to hope.
What though the field be lost? All is not lost the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield. (Milton, Book I of Paradise Lost.)
Thus spoke Satan, upon awakening in hell after losing his rebellion and being tossed out of heaven.
Despite his twisted values, we must admire Satans strength of spirit and his refusal to give in to despair. Surely Adam and Eve faced a similar challenge after their expulsion from Eden: how to find meaning in life, how to move forward after losing everything.
Lawmakers are our response to that challenge. Even as they highlight our genius for sin, they exemplify the struggle to do good to find meaning, not in chaos, but in that which is honorable. They stand as bulwarks against the serpents voice and speak of our desire for virtue.
As far as I know, this is an unprecedented event, bringing every lawmaker in Idaho together for this kind of purpose, said Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, at the beginning of the ethics session.
Its always good to start with the Constitution, he said. The Idaho Constitution, Article III (Section 24), dealing with the Legislature, says: The first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home. The Legislature should further all wise and well-directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality.
Were the ones charged with this. With that comes responsibility that we learn, that we understand and that we conduct ourselves in a very high, moral way.
Lawmakers as individuals may not always meet that standard, but as an institution they represent mans desire to once again walk with God.
Here, at the Statehouse, we reach the nadir of our fall and begin the slow journey back.
William L. Spence, politics reporter, Lewiston Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org, (208) 791-9168