Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Legislating Morality?

While reading Dr. Mohler's excellent blog article this morning looking at the results of the voting on the various initiatives defending the traditional definition of marriage (one man, one woman), it occurred to me that this is a perfect example of the classic argument that you can't "legislate morality." Mohler makes the point that while ballot initiatives defining traditional marriage passed strongly in California, Florida and Arizona last week, this hardly means that the issue is settled, or even agreed upon.

For example, consider the demonstrations in California last week protesting the vote there. Consider the legal challenges already filed in that state claiming unconstitutionality because the initiative "revised" the state constitution rather than "amended" it. Consider the statements made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger encouraging homosexual activists to continue to fight the issue, and hoping that the courts will overturn the initiative once again. Consider the statements of liberal clergy who assert they will continue to bless and perform same-sex unions regardless of the law. Consider the statements of Nancy Pelosi, who essentially seems to think that her constituents in California were too dumb to understand what they were really voting on.

Now all these things have huge political implications. When elected leaders express their desire for courts to overturn the will of the people, that is a serious thing. When religious leaders consider their moral authority above the rule of law, that's a serious thing. When the will of the majority has been voiced clearly but yet is summarily dismissed by the political leadership, that is a serious thing. While the voice of the people has spoken, and the law has been set, the very people who are tasked with establishing and enforcing this law are opposed to doing so on moral grounds.

And herein is why you cannot legislate morality. Because morality, the making and holding of moral judgements and the conformance to those judgments, is a personal issue, not primarily a political issue. Moral standards are held individually, based on the condition of one's worldview and one's heart. And no law can change the worldview, will or heart of man. Only the Gospel of Christ can do this.

Does this mean that we should never strive to ensure that the laws of our land are based on the righteous moral standards of God's Word? Absolutely not. In a real sense, we in fact do legislate morality in many areas. That's why we have laws against murder, theft, and a host of other immoral acts. Since God created the world with a moral order, a society whose laws most closely reflect that moral order will be the most in tune with the way God intended the universe to operate. The entire nation is blessed when its laws are aligned with the moral precepts of God's law. But, we must never cross the line into thinking that this is the final answer. Indeed, this is the problem in much of today's evangelical movement. Substituting political action and influence for proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And expecting the nation to be transformed. The only transformer of a nation is the transformer of individuals - God Himself, as He purposes through His Son. When we forget this truth, we start down the path to forgetting to be the Church.

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