Who’s Attempting to Legislate Morality?

Actual photo of a limited edition Frank & Ernest cartoon

We encourage visitors to read the transcript from or listen to the audio of a brief statement from Pastor Bryan Clark of Lincoln Berean Church:

“As I’m sure you’re aware, this is an election year. I’m sure you’re also aware that we are very divided as a nation. Our Pledge of Allegiance says that we are “one nation, under God;” but, of course, we’re far from that in reality. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that thoughtful, caring Christians can differ pretty dramatically on their politics. I think people mostly agree on the concerns, but vary widely in their opinions on the right way to solve the problems. I would certainly agree, it can all get very confusing.

One thing that’s helped me over the years is to try to think through our core theology and then think through how that addresses national issues. In other words, what do I believe to be true theologically and how, then, can that inform my political or social opinions?

So, here’s an example. According to the Bible, is the human heart changed by external laws? Is that really what we need? More laws? Aren’t there already lots of laws that prohibit the bad behaviors that plague our culture every day? Isn’t the message of the New Testament that only internal conversion can change the human heart? So, what’s the real problem, and what is the lasting solution? What is the responsibility of government and what is the calling of the church?Bryan Clark-from Stories Matter-cropped

While we may differ in our politics, I would hope we are united in our belief that Jesus is the only hope of the world.

This is Pastor Bryan Clark, keeping you connected to the One who offers hope to a confused and hurting culture.”

— From My BridgeRadio , July 4, 2016 (Radio Rewind)

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“Moral relativism is the idea that ‘ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and, therefore, subject to a person’s individual choice.1The definition of moral relativism quoted is from a site dedicated to the subject of moral relativism and includes extensive inquiry into a variety of world views.’ In other words, there are no absolutes. No absolute truth, no right, no wrong, just what each individual decides is true for him or herself at any particular time in a given situation.Grassroots in Nebraska small logo

A society whose governing philosophy is moral relativism must, actually, have more government, more laws, stricter enforcement, and it must impose more stringent punishment. Why? Limited government is only possible when men are capable of the level of self-control that comes with a moral, religious world view2This passage in the article, when originally published, contained a footnote which is actually the quote from John Adams that appears in this article; it is the second to last quote in the list..  All human laws involve some moral principle being enforced by threat of consequences. Speed limits are enforced on most roads because of a moral conviction that risking other people’s lives is wrong. The same is true for murder, theft, perjury, fraud, and so forth. When moral relativism becomes dominant, however, legitimate moral principles are no longer the foundation of those laws. Since everything is relative, then these laws are just a matter of opinion, and the only universal reason to follow them is to avoid consequences. This strongly encourages people to look for ways to ‘get away with it’; after all, it’s just one person’s opinion against someone else’s.”

 — From “Is it Heartless or Just Lawless: Right and Wrong in a Whatever World”, October 2011

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“To trace the mischievous effects of a mutable government would fill a volume. I will hint a few only, each of which will be perceived to be a source of innumerable others.  james_madison1-150x150In the first place, it forfeits the respect and confidence of other nations, and all the advantages connected with national character.   . . .  The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

— James Madison, The Federalist No. 62

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“And what are the arguments marshaled in defense of this intentional disregard of rule of law, a concept which is so vitally fundamental to our legal system?  To reduce the justification offered by everyone from our Mayor to the editorial staff of the local paper to one succinct statement, they contend this is the right thing — indeed, the moral thing — to do and, therefore, a vote of the people is not required.  The newspaper’s editorial actually went so far as to say:

‘The Journal Star believes it is not incumbent upon elected representatives to put matters of right and wrong up to a communitywide vote.’Grassroots in Nebraska small logo

Seriously?  This from progressives who routinely dismiss social issues from the political sphere — at least, those with which they disagree (e.g., abortion) — as impossible attempts to ‘legislate morality’?  The very same progressives who contend that personal character doesn’t matter in the selection and retention of our elected officials now argue that our representative republican form of government empowers those very same officials to determine what is morally right and morally wrong on our behalf?  Neat trick, that.  I think it’s called talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.”

— From “Why Process Matters”,  May 2012

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“[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”John-Adams-Durand-Naval-Center quote

— John Adams, Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, October 11, 17983Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.

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“The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.”John_Quincy_Adams_by_Gilbert_Stuart,_1818 quote

—  John Quincy Adams in a letter to his son, George Washington Adams, September 15, 18114Source: John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M. Alden, 1850), pp. 22-23.

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Images & Graphics Sources


The images and graphics in this article were obtained from the following sources:

Frank & Ernest cartoon by Bob Thaves is a scan of a framed, limited edition print owned by Linda

Photo of Pastor Bryan Clark from StoryHook

President Ronald Reagan quotation image created by Shelli Dawdy with an image of President Reagan from the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum and quotation source information from Wikiquote.

Portrait of James Madison by John Vanderlyn hangs in the Blue Room of the White House

Portrait of John Adams by Asher B. Durand via the U.S. Navy

Portrait of John Quincy Adams by Gilbert Stuart via the White House Historical Association

Divider image from PNGALL

Grassroots in Nebraska logo by Nathan Dawdy

References & Notes   [ + ]

1. The definition of moral relativism quoted is from a site dedicated to the subject of moral relativism and includes extensive inquiry into a variety of world views.
2. This passage in the article, when originally published, contained a footnote which is actually the quote from John Adams that appears in this article; it is the second to last quote in the list.
3. Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.
4. Source: John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M. Alden, 1850), pp. 22-23.

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