The Legislation of Morality

Blog — By on May 21, 2007 at 12:00 am

An email from my friend John to my friend Steve and I broke the news of Jerry Falwell’s death. My first response was “That’s strange…it seemed like that guy would live forever,” to which Steve replied wryly, “He will live forever. In my heart.”
The thing with Jerry Falwell is, he was probably a great guy if you knew him. Most accounts of the people who knew him back this up: he was kind and gracious to everyone he met. Unfortunately, that grace didn’t seem to extend to people whom he didn’t know. Very simply, it’s difficult to think of Jerry Falwell and not believe he did more harm than good.
On NPR the other day, Michele Norris interviewed Paul Weyrich. Weyrich was a close associate with Reverend Falwell. Weyrich mentions how the organization “Moral Majority” was formed as a way to unite denominational and political beliefs under one banner. The goal, the uniting of Christianity, seems noble, but the goal wasn’t theological. It was to build a political power base.
In some ways, Falwell accomplished what he set out to do. Republicans, on the back of their religious base, gained control of the House and Senate. Later, they elected a President, and it finally seemed that the US would become the Christian Nation Falwell dreamed of. Of course, things didn’t work out too well. Now that Democrats have regained control of Congress what really was gained for the Christian Right beyond two Supreme Court Justices?
The third season of HBO’s “The Wire” follows the story of a Baltimore police major named Bunny Colvin on the verge of retirement. One of the primary themes of “The Wire” is the death of a city. As the murder rate skyrockets and pressure to curb the violence grows, Bunny comes up with a unique plan.
Drug dealers are offered amnesty if they move their trade to three safe zones, minimizing their impact on the public as a whole.
The effect of this plan, since the show is fictional, must be taken with a grain of salt. The majority of Bunny’s West Baltimore district sees a steep decline in crime rate, and Bunny’s superiors, unaware that Bunny has effectively legalized drugs, are wary. While the corners and neighborhoods previously inhabited by drug dealers thrive, the safe zones are depicted, almost literally, as hell. After Bunny’s plan is discovered, he takes a city councilman on a tour of the zones, a scene almost directly lifted from Dante’s Inferno.
The ministers and charity workers in West Baltimore support the plan, however. By limiting drug use to certain areas, aid workers can easily provide clean needles, condoms and, in some cases, get users into treatment. An older former drug dealer named Cutty builds a boxing gym and recruits some of the younger dealers into joining, drawing their energy into a positive goal.
In the end, once the public catches wind that Baltimore has turned into Amsterdam, all hell breaks loose and the safe zones are raided, the tenuous pact between drug dealer and police destroyed, and everything returns to the way it was: a city one step closer to death.
From Prohibition to overturning Roe v Wade to banning gay marriage, Christians in this country, as a large and powerful voting bloc, have frequently confronted the question of legislating morality. The reasoning goes like this: if we make sin illegal, or if we, as a nation, support Judeo-Christian laws, the problem will be solved. Or, if not solved, at least a stand is made against sin.
The legislation of morality, the fight for which Jerry Falwell was so suited, was dealt a hefty blow in recent weeks by a study on abstinence-only education which found teaching abstinence does nothing to prevent teenagers having sex. The study found, in fact, that half of the children, by the time they were 17, already had sex and more than a third had sexual intercourse with multiple partners. On average, participants lost their virginity around the age of 15.
Sexual activity at such a young age is certainly disturbing. Beyond the dangers of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, the emotional impact of being sexually active so young is frightening enough. Teens receive mixed messages: a teacher may tell them abstaining is the only answer, but commercials of Axe and Tag Body Spray say the opposite.
There is no easy answer to the war on drugs or to keeping teens from engaging in sexual activity, but by advocating abstinence-only education, Christian Conservatives have fallen into the trap of using a cultural tool to handle the problems a culture creates. If young people are to avoid the temptations and perils of sex, drugs and violence, they need men and women who are willing to be involved in their lives at any cost. In essence, they need counter-culture: they need parents, mentors…anyone…to step outside of themselves and help.
The political realm isn’t the only arena where Christians are missing the point, trusting cultural tools to change the world. A debate between Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort and two members of the atheist Radical Response Squad aired on Nightline a few weeks ago with predictable results. Cameron and Comfort promised to prove the existence of God scientifically, as if the Enlightenment had all the sudden answered every question of faith. I’m going to spoil the ending and tell you it didn’t work out as planned. After all, if C.S. Lewis couldn’t prove God’s existence beyond a reasonable doubt, then what chance does Mike Seaver have? As the Radical Response Squad stammered their way through an equally lame response, I wondered why this was the best we had to offer.
These days, it seems that the true ways for dealing with a broken world can be found more on HBO than on TBN.
Cutty, the former dealer who opened the boxing gym in “The Wire”, is first faced with rebellion when he recruits some young dealers into his class. But he goes back time and time again, even when the kids insult him and head back to the corners to make an easy buck. He tells them, probably for the first time in their lives, that he’s not giving up on them. He does not tell them over and over they are sinning. He does not lobby Congress for stricter drug laws. He does not tell them drugs do not exist. Isn’t this how we understand God in our own lives? Patient and unwilling to let us go even when so many others are.


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    72 Comments

  • Chris Sexton says:

    Jordan,
    You say in your piece that conservatives have tried to legislate morality.
    In the past months Al Gore testified before congress that Global Warming is not political, but a moral issue. He is challenging the U.S. Congress to create laws that would decrease global warming. Is this legislating morality. Passing the Kyoto Protocol, would that be legislating morality?

  • Michael Erwin says:

    First of all, I really liked your article. On both sides of the American political arena, Christians try to use sociopolitical methods for a “spiritual” cause or out of a “spiritual” motivation. I think this could fall under the “carnal weapons” Paul warns us not to use in 2 Cor. 10.
    However, I think it’s ill-conceived to extend this disavowal of “cultural tools” to rational debates. I didn’t watch the Ray Comfort/Rational Response debate because I thought it would be fruitless, not because of the platform but because of the participants.
    Can you prove God’s existence scientifically? I’m not sure you can, but certainly it is possible to give a probable argument based on the complexity of the natural world. Yet this still does not constitute a proof, which does not allow for any uncertainty. The design argument for God’s existence (sometimes called the teleological argument) seems to only show the probability of their being a designer. Furthermore, science studies repeatable empirical phenomenon; thus, God could not by His very nature be the object of such study. It seems then that God’s existence cannot be scientifically proven or disproven based on the object of natural science.
    Can you prove God’s existence rationally? Recently, I have come to think this is possible. Although I had previously accepted a Kierkegaardian view (that our finite minds are unable to prove God’s existence but rather must take a leap of faith), I have come to see that such a view is based on the markedly Modern bifurcation of faith and reason, i.e. that reason cannot deal with matters of faith. I had no reason to believe this other than it seemed reasonable, but in my studies of philosophy I realized I believed this because of our postmodern culture and not for any good reason. That’s not exactly true, but it was based on an unjustified epistemological bias (viz. that we can’t know anything beyond sensible experience), the very bias that Moderns like Hume and Kant used in establishing their atheism and agnosticism respectively. Essentially, my point is that it is possible to prove God’s existence rationally (even if Ray Comfort or the incredible C.S. Lewis was unable) while conceding to the fact that there is always some reasonable doubt concerning the proof. But if the premises are demonstrated true and the conclusion follows from them, God’s existence may be rationally proven beyond doubt (given one accepts the premises), a “tool” the Bible supports the use of (2 Cor. 10:4-5; Rom. 1:19-20). This is at least where I’m at now, and I of course understand any dissenters.
    I also want to be clear that I’m not saying that one can force someone to believe in God through rational proof, only that one can give rational proof that God exists.

  • Caleb says:

    Jordan,
    I’m afraid I agree with Chris on this point. I don’t think anyone (Christians especially) should be afraid to inject their own morality into their politics–indeed, I don’t see how we can avoid it! Even Barack Obama, who no one would say is part of the Religious Right, speaks on this:
    “To say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. (Keynote address to Call to Renewal, June 2006)”
    Indeed, where would the Civil Rights movement have gone if Dr. King had decided that morality did not play a part in politics? Let’s not forget that there are other issues (i.e. poverty, environmental stewardship (thanks Chris), Darfur, etc.) that are facing us that could be considered “moral issues.” I think where the process goes sour is when we turn our personal morality into polarizing hate speech against those who don’t agree with us, which was always my problem with the Rev. Falwell.
    I believe Jesus wants us to approach politics the way he wants us to approach all of life: in grace and truth. In truth, we speak out on issues that demand our voices and work towards social justice. But in grace, we allow room for those who may disagree with us, and remember that the world will never be made completely whole until Christ’s return. I believe it is the ‘grace’ component that many Christian activists like Falwell seem to be lacking.
    And for the record, I wholeheartedly agree with you about the tactical fallacies of some Christian conservatives (i.e. supporting abstinence-only sexual education and the Cameron/Comfort vs. Atheist celebrity death match). In fact, Becky Garrison wrote a great blog entry you should check out about the latter.

  • bryan a says:

    jordan, i enjoyed the article. as someone who has been involved in youth ministry at our local church for over 5 years, i tend to agree with your conclusion that relentless love and an unwillingness to let go are the best way to help teenagers understand who God is. Our programs, sermons, and rallies will eventually fall short of the similar things that they can find out there in the rest of the world. There’s always a better party, a smarter speaker, or a cooler place to be.
    But that divine love that we’ve been loved with? I don’t think that can be replicated quite so easily. It’s a good reminder for me to pour my time into the kids themselves, and not into a better set design or a cooler logo.

  • Andrew says:

    I think it comes down to something as simple as this: we cannot come to know Jesus except through faith. There is beauty in the unknown aspects of our spirituality … “behold, I show you a mystery …”
    Can we reason critically come to educated conclusions about the nature of God? Of course. And I would submit that we bear a responsibility to do so.
    But to attempt to frame the Gospel in terms of what I can prove scientifically about Jesus … well, it just doesn’t work, does it? And isn’t it somehow beautiful that it doesn’t work that way?
    Read Philip Yancey’s treatment of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew.” The true temptation that Christ faced wasn’t eating bread … or purposely hurting himself … or even worshiping Satan. The temptation was to prove His existence and deity beyond the shadow of a doubt with fantastic displays of power.
    Yes, the world would have unequivocally believed had they seen His power. But their acts of belief would have been born out of fear and trembling, not out of love and faith.

  • Michael Erwin says:

    I agree with you, Andrew. We can’t come to know Jesus or God for that matter except by faith, but we can know things about Him through reason and argumentation (in the philosophical sense). It’s not about downplaying the personal aspect of salvation or the gospel message (which is certainly more about supernatural regeneration than some doctrinal formulae that we have to intellectually accept) but providing the necessary ideological framework for Christianity to be a consistent and coherent philosophical system though it’s certainly not just a philosophical system. But I feel just as those who emphasize the theological aspect of the faith minimize the experiential, those who emphasize the experiential minimize the theological. And it’s not about a a balance of the two but the realization that the experiential has to have some foundation that is more than feeling, experience, and circular argumentation. And I appreciate your comment that we have a responsibility to reason about the nature of God given our revelation of Him in creation and the Bible.

  • Jordan Green says:

    Thanks for all the comments, folks!
    Chris, no, I don’t think the Kyoto Protocol could be listed under “legislating morality” because it doesn’t seem like an issue of morals. i could be wrong.
    I’m not completely opposed to the legislation of morality, it is always needed to some extent, but in recent years the Christian Church has come to rely on laws completely, and laws don’t impact people the way people do.

  • Sara Johansson says:

    Jordan, I really appreciate this article.
    I had a similar experience when I heard of Jerry Falwell’s passing, especially because the radio station re-capped the various things he had publicly stood for in a short segment on his life.
    A lot of times I am struck with a certain feeling when I’m talking to someone who advocates legislation such as making alcohol or abortion illegal, that is almost fantasy-esque. I feel as though they’re trying to believe that if they place a rule in a book, they will have victory over the vagaries of life. Everything will return to black and white. I remind them that people will often make major decisions for their lives outside of the law, and will get what they have decided they need however they have to. I believe that all that legislation of such things does is make the world less safe for people who are in trouble, and drive them underground so that they are harder to find and relentlessly love. In such a world, not only are they hurt or in need, but they’re also breaking the law and therefore have to shut up about it (how healthy.)

  • Jordan Green says:

    I think the most clear point of legislating morality that Democrats rely on is welfare, and I think the debate cuts that way as well (my article was getting convoluted already, and I honestly didn’t think of adding it).
    After all, Jesus spends much more time talking about helping the poor than homosexuality, and I think the welfare system does, to some extent, allow us to step back and say, “the government is dealing with this so I don’t have to.”
    I’ve been working at a charitable center the last few weeks, and I called one gentleman who’d given previously asking for a donation to the Portland Rescue Mission, a Christian-based homeless shelter downtown.
    Immediately, he said, “I pay taxes to support that.” And i replied, “Sir, this organization isn’t supported by public funds, just donors like yourself.” He didn’t believe me, probably because he doesn’t want to believe me.

  • Patrick Sexton says:

    Jordan,
    I guess from the direction your article takes, then we should begin to change the laws that say that murder is wrong, rape is wrong, stealing is wrong, etc. because by your definition, that is legislating morality.
    I don’t disagree with you that the church has missed the mark in loving the sinner while hating the sin. Too often in the last few years, it’s been more focused on the hating the sin part, but I’m not sure how you can take the view that we shouldn’t “legislate morality” when it comes to abortion, homosexuality, and some of the the more hot button issues, without carrying it out to the next extension of murder, euthanasia, rape, etc.

  • Jordan Green says:

    Patrick,
    I don’t agree with where you’re going with that, because every crime you named is directly harmful to someone and these are morals held by the vast majority of humanity regardless of belief. There may be exceptions, of course (sociopaths, for instance). I thought this point through, believe me.
    My point, though, was not to completely abolish all laws, but to be aware that laws do not ultimately change hearts. I believe, when we put our energy into the legal or political system, it is often a poor use of funds and time. That seems to me to be a very conservative way of seeing things (more libertarian, actually, but those are the real conservatives in my mind).
    And, Patrick, to be honest, I resent the hyperbolic implication that this was my point and I hope that isn’t where the discussion goes.
    Also, I never mentioned homosexuality or abortion in the article. Maybe you read into that because you’ve labeled me a “liberal” and all liberals are the same in your mind. If you did, you’re mistaken.

  • Ryan says:

    Jordan,
    I have to disagree. You are confused if you think it’s possible not to legislate morality. I firmly believe that God works from the internal to the external with all people, but that’s just the point. There is an external. Christians or non-Christians they all legislate their ideas/morals. That’s what laws are. Our goal is good laws. Biblical laws. God still holds us to the ten commandments even though he wants to do this via our hearts. The laws tell us which direction we need to go.
    You go way to far in being insecure if you say that the “Christian Church relies on laws completely”. This is not true at all. What do you think happens in most evangelical churches. You are abnormally afraid of the Pat Robertsons and you should relax. Stop labelling the Christians Church as something it is not.
    Furthermore, you seem to suffer from Emprical thinking yourself. You are so caught up in not being able to prove God scientifically, that you say God can’t be proven rationally. Science and ration are not bedfellows. Rationalism is a problem but not ration. Most of the world believes in God. He is clearly reasonable and the Bible says so. It is only those steeped in a postmodern worldview that have rejected what is reasonable for the “leap of faith”. God is consistently reasonable to me and having been a missionary and visiting 35 countries, I see how God’s laws work time and time again to transform society for the better. God works! How’s that for a good reason to believe/know he is real.
    Ryan

  • Ryan says:

    Jordan,
    I believe that politics is downstream from culture. Meaning that laws usually reflect the views of the people. Morals, principles, values, whatever. But the Bible certainly contains a list of directions for us to move toward. You seem to think that we all innately know what love is. We are sinful people. We don’t understand love all the time. God guides us. My mom told me not to play in the street. Guess what, as a kid I didn’t know that was a problem. This law she made up for me (and enforced) taught me something because she backed it up with explanation. Good laws teach us. We also need the inner strength to obey the laws. But please don’t assume that we all know the laws and people or government should not define what is good and bad. I should hope for all the nation to know that abortion or embezelment is wrong. If we don’t, then we need to. If we do, our laws should reflect this. And isn’t that what we as Christians do have a part in. Telling our government what laws are good. That is part of our job. We are to know the laws of God, uphold them ourselves, but then also influence our society with those laws.

  • Eric Pagan says:

    I’ve wrestled with this question about legislating morality. It’s true that laws regarding murder, rape, theft and most others have moral dimensions. However comparing the issue of Homosexuality to the aforementioned crimes seems to most people to be comparing apples to oranges. So what differentiates the latter issue from the former? Consent.
    People don’t consent to murder, rape, or theft. Rather they are victimized by others. Laws against these practices are passed to protect would be victims. In the same way Martin Luther King fought for laws that would protect those on the underside of power in his day. Today those who believe in human caused global warming (a position I am not yet convinced of) believe that we have a moral imperative to protect those who would be most drastically affected by the future they believe imminent, the poor of this world (half of which lives on less than $2 a day). Thus if correct, they do charge us to “legislate morality” in a way similar to current laws that stand.
    On the other hand, homosexual acts are legal only when consent is given by the adult with which the act is performed. Thus, the Evangelical desire to use the state to withhold rights from homosexual couples that are granted to heterosexual couples is an entirely different brand of “legislating morality”.
    Argument can certainly be made that homosexual acts performed between consenting adults is harmful them and others. But to use the examples of rape, murder and theft is irresponsible as it does little more than inflame passion on both sides. It is true that we do have laws against consensual acts because we believe them to be bad for society, buying and selling drugs for instance. Yet, I have never heard an argument comparing the societal ills of homosexuality (which some believe to be fictional) with the societal ills of the drug trade (which are obvious). Though I would be interested to hear such an argument.
    By the same standard I believe that abortion is an act that involves a victim and thus fits into the category in which Christians should pursue the formation of legislation to protect those on the underside of power.
    all this said, using legislation in order to avoid loving individuals in a sacrificial way seems antithetical to Jesus’ and the apostles’ lives.
    Thanks for the article Jordan

  • Eric Pagan says:

    Those those interested in thinking further on this I’d recommend “Blinded by Might” by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson. It was written while Clinton was still president and does not foresee the return of strength to the Evangelical block, however it is quite insightful.

  • Jordan Green says:

    Ryan,
    1. I didn’t say “Christian Church relies on laws completely”. it’s especially strange because you put that sentence in quotes. I’m aware that the Church does a lot of great things and provides excellent ministries. The Church, for instance, has done much to change this nation’s understanding of the AIDS crisis in Africa. I see the Church as I see myself: maybe I do good things sometimes, but I’m ultimately human, I’m prone to sin, and if I walked around patting myself on the back all the time, I would be lying to myself.
    2. I didn’t say the existence of God was unreasonable. I believe in God without a doubt, and His existence has been proven to me in my life. At the same time, we have free will to believe in God…He may make it obvious to everyone, but obviously not everyone believes. To me, faith means not knowing for sure, and I think this is a central aspect to Christian life.
    3. I hear where you’re coming from in terms of laws.
    However, I would follow Christ if the laws of my country permitted it or not, in the same way that an addict may use heroin whether the laws of his country permit it or not. The point being (for the umpteenth time) that laws do not change human hearts. I do believe that the Church puts far too much energy into the political system and not enough into individuals. The basis of the Church, Christ, seemed to understand this more than anyone, which is why He didn’t become King or overthrow the Roman oppressors. His presence on Earth was more than that.

  • Jordan et al.,
    I’d like to add another thread to this passionate discussion:
    Jordan is right that Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the Roman oppressors – at least not by force. And he’s right that Jesus’ presence on Earth was more than that.
    But I think we do sometimes miss the political dimension to Jesus’ life, ministry, and death.
    This discussion reminds me of a book I’ll be reviewing in June entitled “The Politics of Jesus.” The author, Obery M. Hendricks – building on the work of Walter Wink, John Howard Yoder, and others – claims that Jesus was every bit as interested in liberating us from the kingdom of earth as he was about getting us into the kingdom of heaven.
    Hendricks writes that “Jesus of Nazareth was a political revolutionary.” This doesn’t mean he was engaged in the “bargaining and compromises and power plays and partisanship” that we’ve come to expect from Beltway politics. What it means is that Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets who heralded his coming, called not only for individual salvation; he also demanded “sweeping and comprehensive change in the political, social, and economic structures” of Roman-occupied Israel.
    Hendricks: “[Jesus] not only sought to address the symptoms of the people’s suffering, but also…sought to alleviate the systemic causes of their suffering…In other words, most Christians will tolerate imputing radical spiritual and relational intentions to Jesus, but whey you go past the realm of individual piety and say that he actively opposed the oppressive political structures of his time – and counseled others to do the same – you’ve gone too far.”
    It seems to me that all believers (no matter their occupation or station in life) have a responsibility to be ambassadors of Christ, to usher in a new kingdom that is both spiritual and physical. That means we spread the principles of the new kingdom (justice, love, and reconciliation) no matter where we are. A politician who is a follower of Jesus therefore has a divine commission to ensure that the federal budget reflects God’s special love for the poor and outcast. In Jim Wallis’s words: “A budget is a moral document.” The same politician is commissioned to ensure that dope fiends aren’t just locked away for decades or end up in the gutter. She would make sure that adequate money is given to drug treatment centers, rather than spending it all on prisons.
    Is this legislating morality? Or is it moral legislation? Is there a difference? I think maybe.
    I think this work has to go hand in hand with the work of the non-politicians – a minister, for example, or a teacher, a doctor, a student, or a housewife – who devote their time and energies to serving others in the name of Jesus. This reminds me of Cutty, the ex-boxer in “The Wire”, working tirelessly with the Baltimore hoppers, and never giving up on them.
    Truly moral legislation and unceasing, selfless service – it’s all political. Because it all subverts the powers and principalities. The kingdom of God is like a nonviolent insurgency setting up outposts of love and justice in an enemy-occupied world. What could be more political than that?
    John

  • Ryan says:

    Jordan,
    But you did say it. Your post on this very page says it.
    This is your post…, “but in recent years the Christian Church has come to rely on laws completely, and laws don’t impact people the way people do.”

  • Patrick Sexton says:

    Eric,
    While comparing Homosexuality to rape and murder are apples and oranges to most “people”, it’s not apples and oranges to God.
    It doesn’t matter to God whether 2 homosexuals are consenting in their act. You need to reread the scriptures. Murder, lying, slander, gossip, sex outside of marriage is always wrong. The reason that we fight homosexual marriage so hard is because it is an assault on the family that God created and intended and we are seeing the societal ills daily of what happens when the family breaks down. It’s not about preventing homosexuals from having the same “rights” as heterosexuals. It’s about protecting the family unit. I think that every person has the free will to make choices, the problem is that homosexuals want me to say it’s ok and to bestow on their relationships the rights that are reserved for marriage. We don’t bestow special rights on non married heterosexuals, so why should we bestow it on non-married homosexuals. To say that “it’s questionable whether or not homosexual acts are harmful to themselves or others” is a pretty ignorant comment. Any time we engage in sin, then there are negative consequences for us and a lot of times those consequences affect others as well.

  • Patrick Sexton says:

    Jordan
    The reason I mentioned homosexuality and abortion was that they are the most often referred to when discussing legislating morality. It had nothing to do with hyperbole, but rather a logical extension of the idea that we should not legislate morality.
    You stated that “the vast majority of people agree that murder, rape, etc are wrong”, well in World War II Germany, most of the “people” believed it was ok to exterminate the Jews. Therefore, by taking the idea that we should not “legislate morality” to it’s logical conclusion, the world had no right to try the Nazis for war crimes or beat Germany into submission because their people said it was ok.
    We as humans, especially Christians, like to say “well I’m not doing what their doing”. That notion doesn’t work, because God is the one who is the basis for what is right and wrong. You and I don’t have the right to try and change what God has already said is right and wrong.

  • Ryan says:

    John,
    Excellent post! I totally agree. When people only focus on Jesus and his ministry they miss out on God and the whole Bible. Jesus had a specific mission and he relied on God for that direction as He says. He brought heart and light to the Old Testament. But he did not reject the Old Testament and neither should we say it is ONLY about copying Jesus. Heck then we should all be carpenters or we should all quit our jobs and be missionaries supported by three women. Heaven forbid I should ever diss Jesus, but there are more pages of the Bible to read. It’s still God and how he acts.
    The Bible says a lot about Business, Economics, Government, Art, etc. The problem is that most people don’t look to see God’s principles in these things. God says things like don’t have unequal scales, don’t giver preferential treatment to the rich man, and when you have to poo poo then do it outside the camp. This one is a principle of sanitation and I have to teach it so often in my missions work around the world and it is a real practical blessing to people. The Bible is not just a nice story!
    God gives principles for governing nations too. Jesus represented the Church during his ministry and I agree absolutely that the Church should NOT control government. But Christians in government should follow God’s principles for government of which the Bible has many. And on top of that, the Church is supposed to influence all of society including government. But notice I said, “influence”, not control. And I do agree that it’s best for the Church to teach it’s own congregations what the Godly principles are first.
    I think we could all agree that it’s not just a political party that is right, it’s about God’s principles for government. Sadly, I don’t think most people look at the Bible as a source for those answers. But it is. As Francis Schaeffer says, “He is there, and He is not silent”. I’m afraid when the emerging church and people like Donald Miller lead people away from principles and God’s precepts and say things like God doesn’t make any more sense than I do to an ant. David loved God’s precepts and they helped him. And they help me tremendously as I work to improve villages and nations in my missions work. Americans take their nicely functioning (it’s the worst country in the world except for all the other ones) society for granted and don’t think about how God’s principles really do change nations.
    Ryan

  • Ryan says:

    Eric,
    I agree with Patrick. The homosexuals are consenting, you got that right. The question is does this nation want to give a privilege and honor that relationship. That answer for any Christian is no. Why would we want to give our blessing to that form of relationship which will harm our country. Having strong man and woman families will be a blessing to our nation so we want to promote that in our laws. We are promoting what is good and not promoting what is bad.
    How is homosexuality bad you ask? Yes, because God says so and he sees more than I is the first answer but here’s another. If I said that we didn’t need women teachers in universities you would probably strongly disagree. If I said, what do they have to offer that men can’t, you would probably give me a list of ways women are special and unique and see things men don’t. Now apply that to a family. Why would we eliminate all the wonderful and unique gifts of a woman to child raising. Or conversely, men are also different with special attributes that compliment in a family. I want my kids to have the nurture and feeling that my wife has for our twins that I can’t compete with. And I want my kids to have the strength and “pushing forward” in life that my wife doesn’t focus on. Simply put, men and women are unique and we want all of that in a family. Even if I didn’t have kids, I still appreciate all the differences that my wife brings to my life.
    Ryan

  • Eric Pagan says:

    Patrick,
    Thank you for your response. I agree with the majority of what you said and would like to try to further specify where we differ as much for my own clarification as yours.
    I agree with you that sin is sin, regardless of how socially acceptable it is in any given culture. I also agree with you that the Bible is clear that homosexual acts are sinful. I am passionately concerned about how the church responds to the lie that homosexuality is OK. I believe that the church needs to be faithful to God by refusing to be involved in ceremonies uniting two people of the same sex. However, while I do believe that the ?wages of (all) sin is death?, I also believe that sins reflect the state of a person’s heart. While someone who tells a ?white lie? is guilty, to compare them with a serial rapist is unfair. One is misguidedly trying to help someone feel better, while the other shows a violent disregard for others by forcefully taking that which is not his to take. In the same way, comparing a practicing homosexual with a serial murderer (in my opinion) is unfair. I believe that the former reflects a misguided attempt to find love while the latter displays a willful desire to take life. That is why I urged against the inflammatory language regarding those who victimize others.
    If, all sin is the same = we should legislate against both murder and homosexuality, then we should also consider legislating against lying, slander, and gossip, or at the very least, extramarital sex. However, I agree with Jordan that it is primarily the church’s responsibility to deal with these issues in the lives of disciples of Christ.
    You state that we ? don’t bestow special rights on non married heterosexuals, so why should we bestow it on non-married homosexuals?? However, legally in most states, any heterosexual couple that lives together for 7 years is considered married by common law. They receive the same benefits that married couples do. In the vast majority of states homosexuals are not included in the process of ?common-law marriage?, thus do not share in the benefits of non-married heterosexuals.
    I agree that one of the biggest problems in western civilization is the breakdown of the family unit. I believe that the church needs to fight against that breakdown. I also believe that the current state of homosexuality is at least as much a result of family breakdown as it is a cause of it. At the very least, the breakdown of the family has been caused by multiple factors, the foremost of which is rampant divorce among heterosexuals. I find it hard to trust the motives of a movement that said little when ?no fault? divorce went through in the 70′s for heterosexuals but now warns us of the implosion of the culture that will result from homosexuals being allowed to commit to each other.
    I did not state that ?it’s questionable whether or not homosexual acts are harmful to themselves or others?, I completely agree with you that all sinful acts are destructive both to the sinner and those around him. I intended to state that a large percentage of the population (much of which does not share our faith) does not believe homosexual practice a producer of societal ill, while drug trafficking on the other hand is pretty universally recognized as such.
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify what I intended to say, feel free to respond if you feel I misrepresented any of our points of agreement or if you would like to critique anything I said as I am sure that there is much to critique.
    If you’d like my email adress so we can continue to dialogue, I’d be happy to post it, let me know.

  • Eric,
    That was a good response to Patrick’s post. Well-reasoned and polite. I may disagree with you (and Patrick) on the homosexuality issue, but intelligent and inclusive comments like yours will make for a vibrant, healthy discussion.
    Keep it up.
    John

  • Jordan Green says:

    Ryan,
    Ah! You’re right. I’m very sorry for my reaction, which was unfounded. I suppose I could delete both posts and pretend like it didn’t happen, but harsh doses of humility are sometimes pretty sweet.
    In my defense, I will say that I spend far less time on the comments I write than the articles. In retrospect, I was wrong.
    I think the Christian Right spends too much time on political endeavors, but I also know that they spend a lot of time doing a lot of good in the world.
    Thanks for pointing that out…seriously…I kept scanning over the article looking for that sentence. I am prone to hyperbole myself.
    more later…
    Jordan

  • Jordan Green says:

    Patrick,
    “You stated that “the vast majority of people agree that murder, rape, etc are wrong”, well in World War II Germany, most of the “people” believed it was ok to exterminate the Jews. Therefore, by taking the idea that we should not “legislate morality” to it’s logical conclusion, the world had no right to try the Nazis for war crimes or beat Germany into submission because their people said it was ok.”
    Naziism would be included in my qualifier, which referred to sociopathic mindsets. You don’t have to go back that far to find genocide…it’s going on all around the world right now.
    “We as humans, especially Christians, like to say “well I’m not doing what their doing”. That notion doesn’t work, because God is the one who is the basis for what is right and wrong. You and I don’t have the right to try and change what God has already said is right and wrong.”
    I agree, but I don’t think you have the right to say you understand fully what God said was right and wrong. If you do, I’d challenge you to make a full list.

  • Jordan Green says:

    Let me ask a theoretical question here:
    Should all sin (defined by the strictest Biblical principles) be illegal and punishable by fines or prison time? Is this how the United States should govern?

  • Ryan says:

    Jordan,
    Thanks for your honesty. I appreciate that you didn’t delete. I believe you just missed seeing it.
    You wrote, “I agree, but I don’t think you have the right to say you understand fully what God said was right and wrong. If you do, I’d challenge you to make a full list.”
    Yes he does have the right. We may not actually “get it right” with regard to what God says is right and wrong. We may not accurately interpret the Bible correctly, this I concede of all Christians. But we most certainly have the right to believe and make statements about what the Bible says. And we have a right to speak our beliefs. That’s all we do as people. I’d hope that Christians would try to be as honest as possible in interpreting the Bible, but as they do, it is their Biblical duty to communicate to others what the Bible says.
    And again. Who makes the laws? What beliefs/morals are behind those laws? Are you saying that a non-Christian has more of a right to make laws because they don’t come from the Bible which can be mis-interpreted? All laws come from a worldview/belief. Are you saying we can’t have any laws then (because no one knows all)?
    It just seems as if you are afraid of Christians being wrong, or overbearing, so your solution is to stop Christians from being of influence so they aren’t embarrasing to you. Please tell me if that is wrong. I might not be reading you correctly of course. But the point remains in that everyone legislates their beliefs and everyone has a right to do so.
    I’m not going to tell God how to interpret His Bible, but I am going to influence others with what I believe the Bible says. It’s where I get my guidance to understand my world. Where does anyone else get their guidance?
    Are you not just being postmodern and relativistic to think that no one has a right to say their beliefs because how can we know anything for certain. Is your solution that Christians should be the first to doubt themselves and silence themselves in the spirit of tolerance because really, who can know anything for sure.

  • Patrick Sexton says:

    Jordan,
    I can take the time to write the list for you, but rather than recopying the Bible for you, or I can just recommend you read that. Everything that we need to know for life, including what God says is right and wrong is in those 66 books of the Bible. So yes, I can know what God says is right and wrong. You seem not to have a very high view of what’s written in the Bible which is the source of Truth in this world.
    You and I as Christians do have to have questions in life that are not directly answered in the Bible. Things such as “do I take this job?”, and “should I marry this girl?, are not directly answered in the Bible. The principles for answering those questions are in the Bible. A job that requires us to compromise our principles that God laid out for us in His scripture would be wrong for us to take. Marrying a non-Christian would go against His word that tells us not to be unequally yoked. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us in those decisions that aren’t directly addressed, however, He will never guide us to make a decision that goes against what God has written in the Bible. The Holy Spirit would never guide me to divorce my wife and marry someone else because that new person is my “soul mate”. Those are some examples of what I’m talking about. Remember what 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS (emphasis mine.)”

  • Jordan Green says:

    Thanks, Patrick. I’ll look into this “reading the Bible thing”.
    Sheesh. If you keep up with the condescending sarcasm, this debate is over.
    And Ryan, I didn’t ask you if God has the right to uphold His own laws (I know that He does), but that was a nice sidestep. What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?” it seemed to me like that was a specific situation where the law was being upheld in a correct manner established by the Old Testament.
    Also, neither of you answered my rhetorical question, so I’ll ask again:
    Should all sin be illegal in the United States?

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