Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Changing Hearts

There is a lot of discussion going on about this recently released video of Hillary Clinton talking to members of the Black Lives Matter movement - and rightly so. These are things we need to say to each other and discuss openly.

I have to say that the minute I saw this, I thought about what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said on this topic.
Now the other myth is one that we hear a good deal and that is that legislation cannot solve the problem that we face in the area of civil rights and in the area of racial injustice, that you've got to change the heart. I'm sure that you've heard this. You can't legislate morality. You've got to change the heart, and often politicians use this to keep from passing fair housing bills and other legislation that's necessary to grapple with the problem. Now certainly I believe in changing the heart. As I said a few minutes ago, I'm a Baptist preacher, and that means that I'm in the heart- changing business. I preach Sunday after Sunday about conversion, the need for regeneration, the new birth. I believe in what some call original sin, if not as a historical event then as a mythological category to explain the universality of the "gone-wrongness" of human nature. I believe in that, and I think that the heart needs to be changed. I don't want to criticize this totally. I simply want to point out that there is another side. I know that if we are to come to the glad day of true integration, true brotherhood, that men will have to rise to the majestic heights of being obedient to the unenforceable, not doing it because the law says it but because it is natural and right. I recognize that.

But after saying that, it is necessary to go on to say that there is another side. It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law can't change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can't make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important also. So while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men if it is vigorously enforced. When you begin to change the habits of people, attitudinal changes begin to take place, and they begin to adjust in an amazing way to things that they never thought they could adjust to, and I've seen this over and over again. There is still a need for vigorous legislation, and legislation that's strongly enforced to deal with many of our social problems.
Offered for your consideration...


  1. Good to see he got it basically right. Neither can do the job of the other. The south now is an object lesson in what happens when laws change but the people don't, e.g..

    Heh "if vigorously enforced". Who gets to do the enforcing? The very people whose bad behavior led to the new laws in the first place...

  2. who gets to the do the enforcing??

    This is why it matters who wins at the ballot box....who gets to make law and policy......WE The People are the ones who can determine who does the enforcing...

  3. "So while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men if it is vigorously enforced."

    This becomes a "who watches the watchmen" problem; if there is a solution; I think it will be found in transparency, so that WE ALL watch the watchmen.

  4. I really don't see why this has to be an either/or thing. Hearts are changing. And we need to change the policies and the laws.