Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can You Legislate Morality?

By Sonja Dalton

A challenge to your thinking, friends:

Point #1

America has enacted federal/state/local legislation prohibiting and defining punishment for theft, fraud, bribery, assault, rape, murder, etc. So in fact we do legislate morality.

God Himself intends for governments to enforce morality — to punish evil-doers, avenge evil, evoke praise from the righteous, execute justice (I Pet 2:15; Rom 13:1-6; Prov 21:15 & 29:4) — does He not?

So the question is not “Should we legislate morality?” or “How can we legislate/enforce morality?” but rather: “Whose morality will be honored?” If not the Christian value system, then what system of values do you propose instead? Shall we substitute...

Secular humanism? (Counterfeit freedom — the morality that is being legislated in America today; examine its fruit...)
Islamic sharia law? (The Archbishop of Canterbury has actually suggested that Britain allow Muslims to govern themselves within the UK!)

In reality, there is no such thing as “moral neutrality” — not in politics, not in law, not in public school curricula, etc. Teaching evolution or what passes for “sex ed” is not morally neutral — it advances the argument of the Enemy. Allowing abortion and permitting “homosexual marriage” (or even “civil unions”) are not morally neutral positions — for what is the message conveyed? What is legal is also permissible...okay to do...ethical...moral.

Laws begin by imposing norms of conduct, but conclude by teaching morality and values.
As these values are inculcated, the coercive power of law recedes as its moral force rises to govern the conduct of the people.
-- David Lewellyn of the Simon Greenleaf School of Law

Point #2

Rest assured: “Christian activists” do not imagine that America (or Americans) will be redeemed in creating or even in keeping sound laws. The purpose of earthly legislation is not to save man’s soul, but simply to preserve justice in society. (Even God’s law doesn’t save — because we cannot adequately observe it! Thus the need for grace and mercy.) Immoral law — law that fails to reflect the character and nature and design of God — cannot preserve justice! Satan’s activists seek to influence the law in order to sanctify their particular sins in the eyes of their community; Christian activists seek to influence legislation as an act of love toward our neighbors...

Righteousness exalts a nation,but sin is a reproach to any people. -- Prov 14:34

Just laws protect the innocent against those who would violate them (or at the very least, punish the guilty) — for example, those who would divorce an innocent wife, fail to support children, brutally murder the unborn, rob our children of their innocence, molest a teenage boy, scam an elderly person, etc.

But what happens when law does not comport with that which is truly righteous? Evil reigns unrestrained. Lies are propagated. Victims suffer and multiply.

(Do some research: How man children grew up fatherless or in poverty prior to “birth control” and “no-fault divorce” and “sexual freedom” vs now? I know the answer — do you? What percentage of US population practiced homosexuality, bi-sexuality, or lived as transgender in 1950 vs now? And what do you project that figure will be in 2025, as a generation grows up with no law prohibiting sodomy and in some states with a “right” to “marry”?)

Point #3

In contrast, earthly laws built upon the truth of God’s law have the power to teach men virtue, to change man’s heart by convicting him of sin and bringing him to repentance. To quote an excellent article (“No Hint of Politics”) by Greg Koukl:

Because Christians have been silent, "debased public standards which are destructive of life, faith, family, personal morality, and social responsibility are now protected by new, coercive laws and constitutional principles."...

When someone tells me that laws can never change a fallen person's heart, I ask them if they apply that philosophy to their children. Does the moral training of our children consist merely of preaching the Gospel to them? Wouldn't we consider it unconscionable to neglect a child's moral instruction with the excuse that laws can never change a child's rebellious heart? Don't we give them rules to obey, then threaten them with punishment for disobedience?

Proverbs instructs us to "train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (22:6). We give children rules to obey, then praise or punish them according to their conduct. We expect that a faithful and judicious application of moral guidelines—with appropriate rewards and punishments for behavior—will develop habits of moral virtue.

If this works to build children, why can't it work to build citizens? If it works to raise a family, why can't it work to raise a collection of families known as a community? Why do we believe in the transforming power of moral instruction at home, but consider it powerless to inform the moral conscience of a country made up of families just like ours? Same people. Same laws. Same rules. Same process.

Our Constitution ensures liberty to worship false gods or no god at all, and even opportunity to influence our leaders and laws for evil — but its authors never intended to fully accommodate the modern demands of secular humanists, radical Muslims, queer activists, etc.

Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.
It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
-- John Adams

We Christians have believed one of Satan’s most effective lies: that we ought not impose “our” morality on others. We have hid our light under a bushel. The Truth is that there is only one Source of genuine morality, and we ought not be ashamed to extol Him in the public square.