Recently there have been a few headlines about abortion laws being passed in Texas or DOMA being nullified by the Supreme Court. Some of my friends have commented that Christians should stay out of politics and let the world do what it wants. Others confuse being a Republican with being Christian. I want to take this opportunity to talk about basic principles of decision making on such issues.
First we need to understand the difference between ethics and morals. Morals describe what people are doing. Ethics describe what ought to be done. In a homogeneous culture there is an ethic that everyone agrees upon and lives by in order to preserve peace and harmony within a tribe, nation, or culture. There might be renegades within that setting, but they are quickly excommunicated and shunned or arrested and jailed for violating a standard everyone assumes to be true. Take for example Kovu being exiled in the Lion King 2 for being a part of a deceptive plot to kill Simba. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=the+lion+king+2+not+one+of+us&view=detail&mid=729AC795CBF4A5325CB9729AC795CBF4A5325CB9&first=0&FORM=NVPFVR
Now take two cultures that do things differently and have them both migrate to a new territory – they will be challenged to live together in peace (for example Norwegians and Germans moving to Minnesota and Wisconsin – or the Irish and Eastern European Jews moving to New York – or Koreans and Egyptians and Hispanics and Africans moving to Queens). In these situations tensions rise, ethics are questioned, and second or third generation children who grow up in that environment end up confused.
Let me explain, the first generation immigrant has a certain ethic they grew up with, which they try to pass on to their kids. Their kids try to follow their parent’s way of doing things, but when O’Reilly goes to school with Rishta down the street and thinks he’s a nice guy and doesn’t want to offend him by questioning his beliefs, O’Reilly begins to ask internal questions, which can lead to compromise. Eventually the third generation is born and brought up without clear ethical convictions being taught in the home and so that child takes on the morals of the new culture that has been made in America and which highly values tolerance and a ‘live-and-let-live’ mentality.
The sad reality is the original ethics of each of the different immigrants coming to this culture had more similarities than differences (e.g., murder is wrong, adultery is wrong, rape is wrong, marriage is between men and women, religion is important, be kind to your neighbor, etc.). The problem is that when cultures clash, ethics (even the ethics people agree upon) are questioned and in this process people experiment as they try to establish what they believe to be morally right and wrong as they try to survive a hostile world.
This is the culture in which we live in America. There are so many different cultural ethics from around the world that are brought to America, the ‘melting pot of the world’, and with no fixed ethic to live by the bar of morality is always changing without much accountability unless it is written into law and actually enforced.
Take for example marriage – I have read world history, I have studied world religions, I have traveled to 27 different countries and I so I have learned that the majority of the ethical systems of the world are very similar. We might disagree on how many wives a person can have, but we would all agree you can’t just take any woman you want, especially if she is already married. We might disagree on the punishment for stealing, but we would all agree you can’t take from someone whatever you want without asking. We might disagree about who God is and what He is like, but the majority of people agree there is something supernatural, which governs the universe and which we should worship.
So back to marriage – up until the last 20 years, there has been a fixed ethic about marriage – that it was an institution established for the begetting and raising of children, and for companionship between a husband and wife. As worldviews clashed in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s – people began to emphasize happiness and pleasure as virtues over family and commitment with delayed gratification. The result – “no fault divorce” – in the 1960s 4% of children were raised without both biological parents. Today 37% are raised without both parents in the home (http://www.divorcemag.com/statistics/statsus.shtml). In cities (where cultures clash more frequently) this statistic tends to be higher. As divorce has increased, marriage as an institution has been questioned by many Millennials under the age of 30. Now many couples are “shacking up” to test if the relationship will last before they decide to get hitched. (In other words, people are experimenting because they did not like the moral choices their parents made and don’t want to make the same mistake.)
But is “shacking up” the best solution? What happens when you get pregnant but haven’t made the commitment of marriage? The same decisions need to be made – but how do you make the right moral choice when ethics are not fixed?
So people go to their doctor, “I’m pregnant, but my boyfriend and I are not ready to be pregnant, what should we do?”
And so the doctor, who tends to have a humanistic, survival of the fittest moral ethic thinks –
This couple is not ready to have children, this guy might bail on this girl, if that happens this woman will be alone in raising this child, she might make $25,000 or $30,000 grand per year and have to live in a dangerous part of the city to survive, and then the government will have to give her welfare assistance to take care of the child, or pay for food, or pay for medical insurance…hmmm…my tax dollars pay for that and it leads to our country being in debt to itself…I know what I will recommend…besides…it’s just tissue like removing a wart…
And so the doctor says, “You should go to Planned Parenthood to terminate the pregnancy.”
All the above results in the ethic of marriage as an important institution being questioned, and so when proponents of gay marriage complain,
“I was made this way, why should I have to be alone? Why am I being discriminated against? Why can’t I get married? Besides, you ‘all don’t really take seriously marriage anyway with a 50% divorce rate! So who do you think you are to sit on your high horse and look down on me if I want to make that life-long commitment, which you heterosexual can’t even keep?”
(Before I continue I have to comment on the 50% divorce statistic – truth be known the percentage of American adults who have ever been married is 72% and the percentage of American adults who have ever been divorced is 22%, which means 30% is the actual divorce statistic – http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelmedved/2010/06/23/al,_tipper_and_the_myth_of_a_good_divorce/page/full).
Back to the appeal of gay marriage proponents – they make their appeal, which is not an appeal to an ethical standard but rather an appeal to the morals of what is happening in between 2-10% of society – and then they use the term “bigot” to pigeonhole people who disagree with them saying, “You are intolerantly holding to an ethical standard based on your creed or religion or politics without being open to another person’s views or opinion.”
People don’t want to be called a “bigot” because the dictionary definition carries with it a tone of hatred and disposition of blind ignorance. And the powers that be use the media to present the case of proponents of gay marriage that you are a bigot if you disagree with gay marriage. And so people in our culture think, “I don’t want people to think I hate them or that I am uneducated or ignorant…” And so they compromise.
QUESTION: Does it really matter what we think is right or wrong about these subjects? There are almost as many opinions on these subjects as there are people, hence the reason for the confusion and the ever changing morals of our culture.
QUESTION: If God exists and if God created us with a purpose (ethical standard to live by) and if God will judge us based on if we actually live by God’s ethical standards and purpose, then shouldn’t we seek to know what God’s ethical standards and purposes are so that we can strive to morally live up to God’s standards?
QUESTION: Where do we find these ethical standards for the purpose of life?
The Bible has three answers: (1) the Bible (Luke 16:16-17 & 2 Timothy 3:16-17); (2) Jesus; and (3) our conscience (i.e., God wrote His laws on our hearts – Romans 2:12-16).
You might say, “That’s circular reasoning, how can you say the answer of the Bible is that the Bible has the answers of what is God’s ethical standards for the purpose of life.” Well, how can a written work be the Word of God if it doesn’t claim to be the Word of God? The Bible claims to be God breathed, God inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) and to have come about by the will of God as the men who wrote it were carried along by the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:20-21). So, either this is true or it is not true. But if this was not written in the Bible, then who would have the authority to say it was of God.
QUESTION: Does any other religious text outside of the Bible claim to be the Word of God? If you find one, show me I’d like to see it.
Related to Jesus teaching us the ethical standards for the purpose of life – He says so Himself that His words are in agreement with Scripture (read Matthew 5-7 or Luke 16:16-17 or John 1:1-18). Jesus has authority to speak for God because He is the only one who was with God in the beginning and who came to exegete (i.e., explain) God to us (see John 1:1-18, specifically vv. 17-18).
Our conscience directs us because God gave us a conscience and the basics of His ethics are written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15). The conscience is placed inside of us by the Holy Spirit, which is why we feel convicted when we hear or read the Holy Spirit written Word of God – in other words the Holy Spirit presses down on our conscience to convict the world of sin and righteousness (John 16:7-15). This is why people either fall on their faces in repentance when their conscience is pricked by the Spirit of God or they want to run or suppress the truth (see Romans 1:18-32).
In my humble opinion, this is the reason the term “bigot” is being used against those who would speak up and stand for natural marriage. This is a way to frame the argument and suppress or silence those who do not want to be labeled with such a strong word.
I have much more to say and not enough time. Please know I am asking questions and trying to get us all to think through what is right and what is wrong. I have come to the conclusion the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the Savior of the World – I was not brought up this way but have come to this conclusion by exposure to Christians – I have seen the light by how Christians live differently and I want to live by God’s ethical standards in Christ who justifies me and makes it possible to have this relationship with God through Jesus.
True there are people who claim to be Christians who are living a double life. To them I say stop it. And you should tell them to stop it as well. Say to them, “If you are truly a Christian, shouldn’t you live by Christ’s ethical standards?” When I first became a committed follower of Christ at age 18, I started pointing out how we ought to be living as Christians and it was thrown back in my face, “If you are truly a Christian, shouldn’t you change that part about your life as well.” They had a good point and so I started reading the New Testament so that I would know how I should change. If you believe I am still not living by some Christian standard, I ask you to please show me and I will pray for God’s help to change.
Such should be my posture and the posture of those who follow Christ. And with this posture we as Christians should do what we can to engage in the dialogue and join the discussion of morality and ethics in our culture by pointing people to Christ.