Religious Freedom & Legislating Morality

In a recent post by Douglas Wilson he commented about the reasons why Christians take the stances they do:

So our reasoning should go like this. You don’t get have four wives because Jesus rose from the dead. You don’t get to marry someone of your own sex because when Christ took His bride He established the only final pattern for marriage. You don’t get to dismember little children because we are a nation of Christians, not a nation of Molech worshipers. Because—rest upon it—a nation that worships no one in particular will always break in Molech’s direction.

He gives Christian reasons for Christian reasoning, but what about government and laws how should they factor in when we are supposed to be free? It did make me wonder at how he subsequently added religious liberty to the mix as something we strive for and grant while also acknowledging that it comes from a truly religious morality i:e Christianity. Religious freedom is a Christian idea derived from not wanting the government to sponsor a form of religion mandating a way to worship, as in the church of England, and certainly not meaning freedom from religion as our laws were absolutely influenced by scripture.

Our question becomes how do you both legislate a Christian morality while also truly allowing for a religious freedom? Doesn’t one negate the other? I think this issue has been an Achilles-heel for Christian politics for a while now because many think that it does. This may have worked when Christianity was the sole religion in America so to speak, but with the melting pot idea in full boil we now notice that the religious parts are like oil and water.

The case for legislating morality is simple: everybody does it. Everybody votes and rallies for what they believe to be right. If Christians refuse to bring their morals to legislation as some sort of misguided compartmental Christian virtue guess who will instead, and then further guess what society will continue to look like? A vote is simply the will of the people so why would a Christian withhold a Christian worldview from his society, when a pagan will absolutely not refuse to bring theirs? The kind of laws you want, is the kind of government you vote for. It is that simple.

A problem occurs when we think about freewill. This is because we wouldn’t want to push our faith on people. That is not how we evangelize. But faith is not simply a worldview, it is the best way to live a life because it is a life as prescribed by God. If God makes a suggestion, we the people should take it! I surely hope that at least all Christians agree on that.

The comeback is why are Christians so obsessed with political power that they would want to impose their values on others? Well if you can ask that same question with a straight face to a garden variety pagan voting their opinion too I suppose we might get somewhere. But to answer the question, people vote because people have to live here too. It is not a power grab to take part in the most fascination human project ever: democracy. It means we get a voice, why are some voices more free than others?

But to follow this rabbit. This is simply a false accusation. Some seem to believe if a Christian votes a certain way that must mean that is where their hope is housed that is where god is seated and that is where their true allegiances are placed and as such they have abandoned the true God. What this is really is Christians hitting each other below the belt because they differ in politics. I can love Jesus the same as you and think differently about how the government ought to do things. If not let’s discuss it peacefully as brothers. It is a sad day when even Christians adopt virtue signalling as a mode of sowing discord among the brethren.

Christians appreciate democracy because having a voice is what God himself gives us. He gives us the a choice. But this brings us full circle though doesn’t it? If God gives us a choice with the Gospel why do we want to take away choices from a pagan, so the argument continues.

Here is why: It is the Truth that sets us free! God’s truth sets man truly free. This isn’t about denying rights but actual God defined freedom. Some don’t agree, I get it. This is why as much as freedom is a cool thing that we all appreciate, freedom is not my God, God is. Therefore as a Christian I believe that God’s values and opinions will create the best society possible for that same free people. This is why I am against murder, against rape, against abortion, against licentiousness. Not because our society has evolved to this point. Cultural values waver from border to border. This is the point: the way our freedom works is the choosing, seems obvious, but because we are a society we need a structure or grid to operate the choices out of. It is not an anarchy. Freedom does not mean always granting the volition to do otherwise. Freedom does not mean we get to ignore laws. Therefore if we are going to have laws, as a Christian I want those laws influenced by the best and most holy opinion there is. This is the point: It is not simply my opinion.

Not engaging is simply giving ground to a different set of morality. As I said everyone is doing this. Even as God grants us the freedom of choice here, he expects us to come to a decision. It is the same in politics: we don’t get to remain perpetually in a state of blissful freedom while ignoring the big-boy pants of actually coming to a decision.

How does withholding values and making way for an upside down morality allow for ministry to happen? It doesn’t, it curtails it. Some want to say (while I doubt meaning that they want actual persecution) but the Gospel flourishes under persecution! It flourishes because the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Gospel. Does that mean we really want to purposefully create atmospheres of oppression for Christianity hoping that those who were told to not stand up for their faith in politics should now stand up for their faith under personal threat?

Well? They will because that is what faith does, but don’t tell me those are the best conditions to minister in. It seems like many believers are attempting to stand for Freedom and pray that will lead to God while I think it should be that we stand with God and pray for freedom. I don’t want to bank on our human system’s ability to foster liberty, I want to, while we still have the option to, buffet the system and continually turn it towards God.

This brings us to the next question what kind of world is the best to minister in? If my purpose is to make disciples, which kind of world is best to do it in? A world without the influence of Christians or one that does? I guess you can answer that one but I know the kind of world I want to minister in. I don’t see how waiting until there is open oppression of the Gospel as the best season to flourish in. The best time to minister?

The answer is the current one.

We are called to flourish and spread and share the Gospel and yes even vote now! Not that voting is tied to my faith, but my faith should be tied to all aspects of my life, which includes voting. If we believe that a time is coming when we must say Caesar is not Lord but Jesus is Lord, how is that supposed to happen if our values for today are not to raise a fuss? Today is the day of Salvation and that means carrying my faith into every facet of life. God does grant us the choice to respond to his Gospel, absolutely, however there still is a better of the choices to be had. We know that he is behind the scenes drawing us to the better option. Because the Gospel is a choice means we wouldn’t legislate that is not be. But I would still hope that the people adopt the values of God, those are good choices to make.

Christianity flourishes under persecution because the faith of the people are bold, despite the political climate. However, if we are cowards now because of social blow-back, we will not have a society that flourishes under persecution but one that happily agrees to the silence because peace was their goal not the gospel. It just doesn’t follow. It is a policy of not wanting to stir the pot, not one that seeks to honor God. People will not find boldness later when they stifle it now. This is that reaping what we sow stuff.

A buffet of garbage with a panoply of choices, does not a grander meal make. All this will do is resurrect the old proverb that God wanted put to an end. “The Parents have all eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” We chose relativity and the children reaped anarchy, we chose malice and the children reaped evil. We chose sexual freedom and we got immoral sexual politics. We chose selfishness and we reaped abortion. Or we chose to not engage our faith and so we got a devoid faithless anarchist society. The rule do not murder came about after a murder had already taken place. Sometimes responding to the ridiculesness of society is the very point.

Some have said that pursuing a Christian worldview does not work in a democracy and therefore we should not pursue legislating morality. I agree only as if in pursuit of a Theocracy. There is a difference from returning to Old Covenent Israelite law and New Testament Christianity. The Apostles were arrested and persecuted for saying Jesus is Lord not Caesar. Jesus said the world hated him because he called its deeds evil and that his followers would be treated likewise. I think we are rapidly approaching the time in our history where that is where those lines are being drawn.

This is the challenging bit. If government is in the business of justice then I want them to have a people who presses them for what is truly just. But having said that I don’t want people prosecuted for not going to church. This really is the breakdown of this whole discussion: at what point do you prosecute or not prosecute sin? This is a call for wisdom. We need to understand and extrapolate out that while all injustices are sins, not all sins are technically injustice for the government to address. Therefore we wouldn’t want a situation where we prosecute all sin.

So how do you legislate morality? Well ask yourself what are we legislating if not morals? If not rights and wrongs are they just opinions? If only opinions should they be made laws? If they are stronger than that perhaps they might just might creep into the arena of morality? My question is how do you not legislate morality? Upholding morals is what a just society does, but mandating opinions? That is tyranny.

Making that distinction is what government does at the behest of the people. At least this is what ours does, for now.

Paul’s message to the Greeks in Aeropagagus not to his fellow countrymen but to pagans and certainly not in a Christian theocracy, and his message was “Repent and believe in Christ”. Paul didn’t call for reform in the laws but a return to Christ, but he did appeal to the system. (Acts 25:1-7) We are in a unique position where are able to do both. I don’t want people prosecuted for mere sin but I do want the system that is about justice to be aware of true justice from God, otherwise we are left to simply laws that man decides are best. This will only truly serve a society as the people are moral themselves. If not, we start legislating immortality and well that is was we are seeing now.

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

I think the big difference for us today is that our marches and demands for moral justice are being led by men in the flesh rather than men in the Spirit because the church is either absent or complicit.

We have a responsibility to our kids about the kind of world we create and leave behind. We have a responsibility to our God to actually carry our faith outside into the public. A world of more choices are not the values a Christian leaves behind, but one that ends with more babies being butchered. Everyone else is doing some god’s bidding. So why wouldn’t we go and legislate the Lord’s? I know the how is the difficult part, but that should be a problem we work at not run from.



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