Legalism isn’t a word often used in everyday conversation. A dictionary definition: “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.” Several examples:
One recent late evening I placed my order at the counter of a fast food sandwich joint. As she punched the buttons, the order-taker asked me my name. This is done so that the name of the patron can be called out amidst numerous (sometimes lots) cliental when the order is ready for pickup. On this particular occasion I was the ONLY customer in the restaurant. It was just her, me, and the cook. Period. Not a single other vehicle in the parking lot. Not even any cars going by on the street. I good-naturedly pointed this out . . . said I’d be standing right there. She smiled.
Many years ago we were traveling east on I-94 just east of Bismarck, ND on our way to visit family in Minnesota. Vehicles had been funneled into two-lane traffic on the north side of the interstate due to new pavement being laid on the south side. After pouring concrete it must be kept wet during the initial curing period lest it dry too quickly and crack. I glanced southward to see a man with a huge hose emanating from a large tanker truck spraying the roadway. It was also pouring rain.
Severance, CO. A nine-year-old boy addressed the town council which subsequently unanimously revoked a ninety-eight-year old ban on snowball fights. The ban was part of an ordinance that prohibited the throwing of stones and other “missiles” (snowballs apparently being consider dangerous missiles) in the town. Cool heads prevailed.
Rule of law. There are good reasons for such, and far be it for me to embrace antinomianism. But there is also common sense. And there are times when prudence would vote to override rules and regulations. Speed limits are for a reason and should generally be obeyed. But if a loved one is in my car and having a heart attack, you can bet your last dime that getting that person to a hospital would outweigh my concern for speed limits.
To be sure, one must be careful when making judgments about acting contrary to some set of good rules. The restaurant and interstate examples are small potatoes, but legalistically adhering to some code or mandate can, and has, ruined the day . . . or even someone’s life.
When the gal at Arby’s brought my order to the counter, I said, “But you didn’t call out Randy.” She laughed.