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Legislating Morality: Marriage Amendment

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
Jesus spoke thusly to the people after the Pharisees accused Him of “breaking the traditions of the elders” by not washing their hands when they ate.  Their accusation implied that Jesus couldn’t be righteous because this act would make him “unclean” or “defiled”.  His renunciation claimed that it isn’t that which goes into a man that makes him defiled, but that which is within; that is to say, in his heart.

Israel was a people of laws from the time they were delivered from the Egyptians and received the “Law of Moses” at Mount Sinai.  The Hebrew Bible (Torah) is often referred to as “the Law” and there have been countless laws added (Talmudic) to the already well established Law of Moses in order to protect those laws from being broken.  Washing of the hands was one of those added laws – not a law of God, but a law of man, made to protect the holy laws of cleanliness.

History (both Biblical and non-Biblical) is clear in regard to Israel – the people constantly failed or “did evil in the site of the Lord”.  That is because “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery…”.  This is why Paul writes in Romans, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.”

This isn’t an attempt at a Bible study, but a study at the nature of man and law.  Today many, to include a large portion of Christians (of whom I am a part of) are attempting to make a mistake that has been proven ineffective for centuries; that is, to legislate morality.  Well intentioned individuals who are quick to throw off the yoke of the Law and cling to grace in their own lives are too quick to throw a yoke on someone else.  Currently, that group is the homosexual community.

I am not trying to say that homosexuality isn’t a sin, nor am I condoning the practice, but I am standing against the Constitutional Amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman.  Personally, I agree with this definition as it is defined in the Scripture – but God’s Law trumps man’s law (as Jesus made clear to the Pharisees).  This is why I am concerned with the Church.  It has found it necessary to put the power of defining marriage in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of God.  If we pass such an Amendment, will it not eventually become as corrupt as the men in government?

Our Bill of Rights was written not a list of rules for us to follow, but a list of rules for government to follow that disallowed intrusions on our liberties.  The Marriage Amendment would be a direct attack on the liberties of homosexuals, not the government.  We tried to legislate morality once during prohibition – and it failed miserably.  Now we have two obsolete Amendments that are permanent scars that act as reminders of this empty endeavor to legislate morality.  Shall we add another?

My stance is this.  Government had no part in my marriage.  Sure, it may try to infiltrate the union between me and my wife through various mechanisms, but in reality, they are a non-factor.  If the government were to come forward tomorrow and tell me that my marriage certificate wasn’t properly signed or documented, or that they didn’t recognize my marriage for some reason, would that make me any less married these past years?  Of course not!  That is because my marriage is between me, my wife, and my God.  It is a social and spiritual contract written on our hearts, not on parchment.

The same will be true of those who are gay if a Marriage Amendment were to pass (which it won’t).  Those individuals will still consider themselves married and go on doing all of the things that married people do.  Thus, the law will have failed in intent, even if it succeeded in letter.  That is an empty victory that the Church will have paid a heavy price for; recognizing government as the definer of marriage rather than God.

The laws in this nation are put in place to protect innocent individuals from harm or abuse.  Passing this Amendment will not put a stop to the actions of gay individuals.  Their moral inclination will not dwindle because of this law.  It may, in fact, be emboldened.  If the Church truly wants to amend the morality of homosexuality, then do it from a moral base in the churches and communities across the nation, not in the halls of Washington.  Don’t sell out on trying to keep them from doing an action, but sell out on doing the job of the Church – preaching the gospel and witnessing to their hearts.  After all, it is the heart that makes us unclean, not the action.


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  • silverfiddle May 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    I agree. Well stated.
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  • Bunkerville May 23, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    What I object to most is this issue is raised now solely for the purpose of division, and we would serve our cause better not to take the bait. Excellent post.
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  • Jim at Conservatives on Fire May 23, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    I agree that morality can not occur as a result of law. I would venture, however, that immorality can result from law _ Roe vs Wade.

  • John Carey May 23, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    One of your best my friend.
    John Carey recently posted..Legislating Morality: Marriage AmendmentMy Profile

  • Scott Wheeler May 23, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    Well, Jon, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this. This is not to say that I support the marriage amendment – in fact I don’t. But let me just represent, for a moment, the pro-amendment argument. Terms are defined by their history. The history of “marriage” has been the union between a man and woman for life for the purpose of the creation of family. If that is what “marriage” is – if that’s the definition – then it’s not even logically possible for a homosexual couple to experience “marriage”, since obviously two men cannot become the union of a man and a woman.

    Naturally it will be argued that definitions can, and do, change. I would argue back that it makes no sense for this one to do so. The argument for change is that if consenting adults want marriage rights, the gov’t should have no place in stopping them. If (when) gay marriage is legalized nationwide, what will be the response to aspiring Muslim or Mormon polygamists who want to have a marriage between 3, 4…9 consenting adults? After all, it’s not government’s place to intrude in these private matters. Peter Singer, the world’s most famous ethicist, has argued in favor of bestiality. What happens when a single consenting adult wants to marry a non-human being? It just seems to me that the exact same reasoning used to justify gay marriage can (and indeed will be) used to justify all sorts of other types of non-heterosexual/monogamous marriage.

    I suppose a good libertarian may be ok with this. Are you?

    Real quickly on a few other points you made and I’ll be done: prohibition likely would never have been passed on moral reasons alone – it was the use of materials that went into the making of alcohol that tipped the scales when WWI started. People realized the resources could be better spent elsewhere, so the political tide turned (although, it made little sense that it remained even after WWI ended).

    But the real issue is that prohibition worked. The consumption of alcohol went down DRAMATICALLY under prohibition, despite the illegal alcohol trade. I’m not saying it was a good idea…just saying that it is factually incorrect to say it was a failure.

    Anyway – the marriage amendment is not an attempt to legislate morality. It doesn’t try to make homosexuality illegal or prevent, in any way, homosexuals from partaking in the joys of homosexuality. It’s mostly just pointing out that it’s not logically possible for a man and a man to join in a union of a man and a woman. Again…I don’t support the amendment, though this post probably sounds otherwise.
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  • Steve Dennis May 23, 2012 at 8:17 PM

    I happen to agree with you as well RHM and I don’t think the government should have a role one way or the other on the issue of marriage.
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  • RightHandMan
    RightHandMan May 24, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    Thanks for the comments guys.


    My stance is that government shouldn’t be in the business of protecting definitions – the Church (in this case) should or society in general. If society changes the definition, then let society deal with the consequences.

    I disagree with you on a few points and I would be interested to hear further rebuttal from you. First, “The history of “marriage” has been the union between a man and woman for life for the purpose of the creation of family.”
    While that might be a part of marriage, does that mean that individuals who get married knowing full well that they can’t “create” a family aren’t eligible for marriage? Perhaps by “family” you just mean the minimum of the two of them?

    Second, this is a Constitutional Amendment we are talking about. We don’t have any Amendments in the Constitution regulating bestiality or polygamy – nor should we. So why are we going to regulate marriage via Constitution? (I know you’re not for it)

    I do take the stance that government just shouldn’t be involved in the process at all. I would disagree with you on the amendment not being an attempt to legislate morality on a few bases. First, because this is exactly how it is being sold to the public from those who are pushing for it. K-Love had a pastor talking about it a few days ago. In his dialogue with the hosts he challenged them saying something to the like of, “If the American Government cannot take a stance on such an obvious and historical principle then….”. The rhetoric behind those who do support it often use the old line “This country was founded on Christian principles”, and a newsletter sent out by Focus on the Family on the issue does little other than focus on the moral vs immoral implications of homosexual marriage.

    Though you might not subscribe to the idea of “legislating morality”, that is OBVIOUSLY how it is being sold to its supporters.

  • Teresa Rice May 24, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    I’m not sure why you would think that passing a law which states that marriage is between a man and women wouldn’t be in accordance with God’s Law? This is where I disagree about people having a right to do wrong. Just because some people in the Bible and others Today fail to follow laws in the Bible or instituted by state and the federal government doesn’t mean it is a bad, unjust law that is not in accordance with God’s Law. Just to ask a question – do you think that Roe v. Wade should be overturned? IMO, yes, because it should never have been made a federal issue but now it is so a law is needed to protect the innocent human life in the womb. I am not saying “legislating morality” is the only way to nudge individuals to make the right moral decision but one instrument given to us to sid people in making moral decisions. The Ten Commandments is one example where the laws of nations have drawn from biblically based laws to institute man’s laws.

  • Scott Wheeler May 25, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Jon – I don’t have much time to write as I’m at work, but briefly:

    I think the intellectual defense of the amendment is different than what the popular defense may be. It’s unfortunate that at the popular level people believe this would be for the purpose of legislating morality, but the reality of the situation is that the citizenry misunderstands the purpose of laws all the time. We shouldn’t be surprised that this one would be no exception.

    You said: “this is a Constitutional Amendment we are talking about. We don’t have any Amendments in the Constitution regulating bestiality or polygamy – nor should we. So why are we going to regulate marriage via Constitution?” I’m not 100% sure what you’re getting at here – these things are illegal in all states in the union. In the absense of an amendment the courts are consistently defining marriage however they please, the gist of these definitions coming down to some cliche about consenting adults. My point is that in the absense of an amendment, laws against bestiality or polygamy or the like should be struck down as unconstitutional given the legal reasoning for legalizing gay marriage.

    Anyway – I do oppose the amendment simply because at the national level I believe the constitution should deal in generalities rather than specifics. If these things make it into constitutions it should be at the state level. Also I’m not sure I’m convinced by my own argument on the definition of marriage…that’s just how I’ve heard it defended by supporters whom I respect.
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