Thursday, July 5, 2007
Legislating Morality

I admit that I hesitated even typing the words for this subject.  As a socially conservative Christian, I don’t know how many times I’ve read someone suggesting that I want to “legislate morality.”  Frankly, I’m tired of hearing it.

On one hand, I really am not offended.  Sure I want to legislate morality, and I certainly want to legislate against immorality (rape, murder, theft).  What I have a problem with is other people who self-righteously attempt to say that they don’t.  Ultimately, our whole system of laws is based on a moral code.

It certainly isn’t based only on some kind of scientific consideration.  No matter where we stand or even if we claim otherwise, we all believe that morality trumps pure science (facts vs. values).

For example, even those who support Darwin’s theory of natural selection don’t stand by its racist implications.  Darwin’s theory of natural selection claims that some humans are “naturally selected” because they have superior traits.  Their descendants will live longer, fuller lives because they have special genes.  These superior humans are evolving into a more perfect creature.  In the end, this means that we will have subclasses of humans who are inferior to others.  This theory argues, in fact, we may have some now.  Without a moral argument that claims otherwise, how can Darwinists argue against discriminating based on any number of traits?  In other words, opposing racism is done based on a moral argument- not a scientific one.

Also, Liberals today suggest that we should create hate crimes legislation in Indiana.  Why?  Because certain crimes are worse in their eyes, in that it is more wrong to murder someone based on their race, gender, or sexual orientation than it is to murder them because they slept with your wife.  This is certainly legislating morality as well.

Ultimately, these are moral issues.  They aren’t decided the same way that the laws of nature are decided.  They aren’t cause and affect.  They aren’t cold, hard factual issues. 

Society has adopted a series of beliefs from a shared moral consensus and response to these issues.  Having a debate about what those beliefs should be is healthy.  Pretending somehow that only one side wants to legislate morality is a great error.  Both sides want to legislate morality or again, immorality.  For society, though, it’s a decision of WHOSE morality we are going to legislate, not IF we are going to legislate morality.

Comments: (3)



Kristan: You are of course correct when you say that everone, liberal or conservative, believer or nonbeliever, wants in some way to "legislate morality". To say otherwise is nonsense. And I don't necessarily quibble with your statement that it is WHOSE morality that's to be legislated rather than if.

But that doesn't end the matter: Isn't there a serious question of WHAT kinds of things get included in the spectrum of morality to be legislated, and WHAT kinds of things get excluded? And what standard should be used to make that determination?

To me, as one not fully within the pale of what most call "evangelical Christianity", yet one who thinks that this forum can be useful in civil dialogue and mutual respect and understanding, it has always been a puzzle as to how, given that there is only one Truth, there can be valid differences of opinion as to, say, why public nudity ought to be punished as a crime while private fornication shouldn't. How can there be valid pluralism on that differentiation?

There definitely is a serious question of what is and isn't included in the spectrum of morality to be legislated and what standard is used. That is the nature of the political process. People have different beliefs on what should be included and excluded and what the standard should be. They have the opportunity to elect people to office who hold their view.

However, your last paragraph really touches on a different issue. The example you use is the difference between holiness and morality. I don't know any thoughtful "Evangelical Christians" who would support legislating the Bible. In other words, criminalizing lying, lustful thoughts, etc. That seems to be what you indicate with your public nudity vs. fornication example.

God will hold us all accountable for each and every one of our sins, because he demands holiness. However, public morality is different. It is the standard we agree for government to hold us up to. So, for example, through our elected officials we have decided criminalize public nudity for the public good (most people don't want to see the average Hoosier running around naked, health concerns, protection of children, etc). Through this distinction, a pluralism of thought can compete in the marketplace of ideas and a "good enough" public standard can be maintained.

I think (imho) that legislating morality might cheese off too many of "those" people....I would rather see the politicos legislating STUPIDITY!

That to me would go a lot farther to get morality back "on track", but again, how to go about it?

Having taught Sunday school (and even some time spent behind the pulpit), it leads me to believe that while we shouldn't hate PEOPLE, we can still find THEIR ACTIONS deplorable.

And we can legislate "actions", can't we?

It's like the old proverb:

GIVE a person a fish, and you feed them for A DAY....TEACH them to fish, and you feed them for LIFE!

I think our lawmakers could learn a TON by reading that a few times (out loud).

And where knowledge goes...morality, integrity, honor, ethics, and even a level of "holiness" cannot be far behind.