Seminarians for (using) bike helmets

The apartment where we live (for a few more weeks) is located on a corner. We see a lot of people go by on their way to the pool or to the childcare center. Some of them are kids on bikes. And with the exception of one (1) family, it seems as if none of the kids wear helmets. There’s nothing more common than to see a family unit walk by in the morning or afternoon on their way to or from day-care, with the kids on some kind of bike, the parents walking alongside, and the kid not wearing a helmet.

This strikes me as falling into the same category as making a pit for the neighbor’s ox to fall into, or watching an enemy’s donkey wander away.

So I wish that these people would make their kids wear helmets, or not ride bikes. And so does the state of New Jersey. As the saying goes, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

I’m not sure whether it should be a law. As a citizen of the republic, I tend libertarian (lowercase ‘l’) in my politics, so I would probably favor elimination of the law. I’d prefer the legislature to make more general laws — “no endangering your minor children” — and then executive-branch agencies and the courts could figure out in specific cases whether not wearing a bike helmet was child endangerment, juvenile delinquincy, or what. That way the legislature wouldn’t have to write and keep continually up-to-date a raft of laws defining all the different ways kids could be endangered. (The bike helmet law would have to follow the trends as people’s interest moved between mopeds, Segways, razor scooters, skateboards, roller blades, unicycles, and so forth.)

But the point is that it is a law, here, and these people are scofflaws.

They are not protesting it as an unjust law. They aren’t sending overtures to General Assembly feebly trying to pressure state legislatures into overturning a bad law. No. They’re simply ignoring the law, because it’s inconvenient to them.

Now put aside for a moment that bike helmets make sense. Put aside the responsibilities that a parent has not only as a citizen but also as a Christian, for the nurture of their children. Put aside even the Christian ethical matter of obedience to the civil magistracy. (We’re not talking about bad laws here. A parent letting their kid crack their head open isn’t Dietrich Bonhoeffer.)

What galls me is that from my interactions with neighbors, from a quick survey of the number of cars that (still!) have “Kerry-Edwards” or “God is not a Republican” bumper stickers, and from the prevalence of hyphenated last names, it’s clear that the seminary’s married student housing trends more blue than red. So it’s likely they will continue to vote for more dumb laws and the politicians who propose them. Even the evidence from their own lives, they will not or cannot learn that some good ideas don’t make good laws.

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