“God said you are shocking your people for something that is not yours.” According to Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, this statement in the Jewish Talmud means that recent earthquakes in Israel are a direct result of the rise of LGBTQ rights in his country. He has previously stated that homosexuals should get the death penalty according to Jewish law.
Despite my strong biblical beliefs regarding homosexuality, I am glad Rabbi Amar is not legislating morality for America.
Closer to home, a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, has received final briefs for a claim that mifepristone—half of the two-drug regime used in medicated abortions—should be removed from shelves across America. The judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, could issue a preliminary injunction to take the drugs off shelves while the case proceeds. According to the Washington Post, such a ruling would at least temporarily halt over half the legal abortions in America today.
The Post profiles Judge Kacsmaryk, a former deputy general counsel for First Liberty Institute (which is led by my friend Kelly Shackelford and defends religious freedom), as a person with a “deep passion for religious freedom.” It reports that his “religiosity” is “so strong it comes through in all aspects of Kacsmaryk’s life,” though he testified in his Senate confirmation hearings that he would not apply his religious beliefs when ruling on a case.
The separation of faith and state?
In yesterday’s Daily Article, we discussed former President Jimmy Carter’s description of our “self-indulgent” society that defines human identity not “by what one does, but by what one owns.” We also noted George Washington’s observation that “human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” I stated in response that self-governance depends on our ability to govern ourselves and each other, which depends on an operative, consensual, objective morality.
Today, let’s ask how Christians can and should work to strengthen such a moral foundation for our secularized culture.
In the view of many, people of faith who seek to bring their faith convictions to bear through their public influence are “imposing” their personal morality on everyone else. Such critics point to extreme examples like Rabbi Amar in Israel. They claim that Thomas Jefferson’s metaphorical “wall of separation” between church and state should mean the separation of faith and state.
A secular society in which religious beliefs have no standing or influence is their ideal.
However, this argument is fatally flawed at its core.
Discussing the baseball season
Those who assert that Christians should not “impose” their moral beliefs on others are explicitly seeking to impose their moral beliefs on Christians. For example, many claim that biblical morality is homophobic and dangerous to society, which is itself a moral claim.
By definition, to reject a moral position as immoral is to take a moral position.
You can articulate a personal opinion on all sorts of subjects without invoking your moral beliefs. You can discuss the upcoming baseball season and the pending NBA playoffs without once issuing a moral opinion, for example. But just as you must use medical thinking to discuss a medical procedure, so you must employ moral reasoning to reject a person’s moral beliefs as immoral.
In short, Christians are not alone in seeking to use their influence on behalf of their personal beliefs. Everyone who wishes to influence society on a moral level does the same.
“May the best ideas win”
The question is not whether Christians should be allowed to “impose” their moral beliefs on others, but the most moral means by which they—and everyone else—should do so. Here we find secular and biblical answers that align.
America’s founders wisely constructed a democratic republic in which consensual morality could be determined through the electoral process. Laws made by legislators elected for this purpose could plausibly be seen as reflecting the moral beliefs of the electorate. Minority viewpoints would be safeguarded by First Amendment speech and religion protections.
In addition, a capitalistic economy rewards behavior that is valued by customers. In this context, Christians should be free to compete with those who espouse any other worldview for the support of voters and consumers.
“May the best ideas win” is the idea.
The biblical response to encouraging morality is similar. Christians are to be the change we wish to see by reflecting Christ as “the light of the world” (John 9:5) through our lives (Matthew 5:14–16). We are then enjoined to “be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” (1 Peter 3:15 MSG).
For example, early believers with no political leverage by which to end slavery and child abandonment purchased and then freed slaves and rescued and then adopted abandoned babies. Over time, their moral example became transformational for their societies. By utilizing their public influence with Christlike character, Christ followers such as William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr. became agents of moral reformation.
Once again, “may the best ideas win” is the idea.
A river must have a source
Of course, a river must have a source. For Christians to help our culture be transformed through faith in Christ, we must first be transformed by faith in Christ.
Our spiritual source is clear: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). As a result, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
For the sake of your soul and our society, let me ask you: How fully will you “walk in the light” today?