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Law, Morality, and Christians

EP recently raised an interesting point on another thread when he said that he thought that "diversity" was either a good thing or was needed (not that there's much difference between the two) in the AA religious community. If I read him correctly, he said that he thinks there is too much Christianity and there should be other religions and philosophies among us.

Which I think brings up a question:

What is the relationship of law and morality? What should it be?

We do say that law does not cause morality. "You can't legislate morality" is the common thought on this, and yet that is precisely what we do through legislation. All law is an expression of morality, an imposition of a morality. To say, "Don't impose your beliefs on me" is to ignore a very important fact about law and community, which is that someone's beliefs are going to be imposed on someone. The belief that beliefs should not be imposed is often imposed itself.

What should a Christian decide on this issue? When should Christians support legislation that encourages righteous behavior?

Biblically, I think the answer must be, "When it pleases God for them to do so." This is sometimes a sticky and tricky process, for "I" often gets mistaken for "God," and so the Christian needs to be very humble and very careful when deciding what and how to do this. Most of us, when we do this at all, do it imperfectly and thus must remain open to other conclusions.

But we have to decide something. That's one of the natures of this life. One thing we must not decide to legislate is a law compelling prayer, for example, or Sunday worship attendance, or tithing, and such. I don't think that Christians are in any danger of suggesting that, anyway.

The reason that we would not and should not is because the one part of "you can't legislate morality" that is right is that righteous behavior does not yield salvation, which must always remain the Church's goal and life (not micromanaging others' lives). Rather, salvation yields righteous behavior. Therefore, Christians should not legislate their spirituality.

But can and should they try to legislate their morality? As long as that morality reflects God's reality and not some denominational perspective, yes.

Most of the time most people would have no disagreement with this. Laws against murder and malicious damage to persons and property, for example, or against financial fraud, meet with almost universal approval.

But where people apparently have trouble with Christians legislating is when the Christians' worldview conflicts with their now-opponents.

That's really the problem, I think--worldview. All law legislates a morality and thus cannot be morally neutral. To distinguish between "good" and "bad" we have to borrow a morality and a worldview from some place, from some worldview.

Thus, Christians have every right to argue their case, since they are arguing from a worldview, which is what everybody else does. If we forbid Christians form doing so, we must forbid everybody else from doing so, and that result very likely is not possible. If possible, it would be unendurable.

Some debates, therefore, about law are not really about the law but about worldview and thus about reality. Should the law redefine this or that action to be criminal or allowed, that is, good or bad? That must be based on a view of reality, and that is from where the arguments should start.

Is, say, homosexual marriage really "marriage"? In our society for some time we've had a tendency to believe that all concepts are malleable and fungible, which gave rise to the predominant use of the concept "gender" instead of "sex." Gender is a social construct, we are told from academia mostly, and thus is changeable, so that is where some have put their energies and thought. That is the imposition of a worldview. Under that worldview, homosexual marriage is possible, because marriage becomes political and thus changeable according to the concepts of the time.

But is it? Christians generally have a different worldview, which makes a gay relationship real but not true, therefore not available to marriage any more than would be, say, two rivers or two stones. Christians who resist gay marriage do so on the basis of saying that this is not an area in which the government has the right to redefine reality.

Now, if we really believe in the goodness of diverse points of view, we would have to say that the clash over this issue--and over others like it, capital punishment, for example--is healthy and desirable.

Christians must remember in it all that their worldview also says that God is in control no matter which way this debate finally comes to rest. Therefore, the world will not end should gay marriage become legal in all fifty states.

But under the circumstances of our present philosophies, the Christian worldview is not automatically disqualified from having a fair hearing. After all, it is a worldview and everybody has one, so it should be heard, too.
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