“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” – James Madison, 1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia.
“Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” – Ronald Reagan
The recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage has civil rights and gay rights advocates celebrating. It could be argued that historically, laws against such relationships were never intended to be discriminatory, but were thought to protect the greater good and the strength of the fabric of society in general. An amorality of such relationships might have been historically presumed, but if concerned legislators and scholars alike were questioned, they would undoubtedly point to a threat of the overall weakening of a society. The degradation of any society in which traditional family values and roles are undermined inevitably poses a threat to the sustainability of that society.
The ruling can be viewed as the result of a minority seeking to use the law to alter the values within our society at the potential cost of uncertain consequences in the future. The tide of political correctness and questionable constitutional procedure that accompanied this decision seems to ignore sociological fact at the expense of a false, feel-good sense of accommodation. The deception of principle suggests that if we somehow accept the change in morality for the good of those who wish to participate, somehow all will be well with the pursuant societal outcomes. This is dangerous ground.
Morality is central to any concept of democracy. The standards of morality as codified in the Ten Commandments and the overall tenets of Judeo-Christian traditions have supported functional societies for centuries. Dr. Clay Christensen, a celebrated Harvard business Professor with longstanding ties to Utah, recently posted an analysis given to him by a Chinese Marxist fellow who was studying at Harvard. His colleague’s eye opening discovery was that the centrality of religion in democracy was an unexpected phenomenon. His atheist friend’s conclusion was that a democracy only functions well when the citizenry voluntarily chooses to behave in a moral and legal manner, not because a government forces them to do so.
Without this self-contained moral compass, societal order will eventually break down, and we are witnessing that breaking down in many of our recent national difficulties. And it is America’s religious institutions and nuclear families that have traditionally taught these moral codes most effectively, underlining an accountability not just before men or governments, but before God. A brief synopsis of Dr. Christensen’s insight can be found here:
It is a well-documented fact that the Founding Fathers of our country understood this principle. The James Madison quote above is only one of dozens of such references integrated into our country’s early history. It is an accepted fact in Utah’s history that seeking freedom of religion, in an era where such liberties should have been preserved but were abused in the case of the Saints, forced Brigham Young and the early pioneers west. And in President Young’s day, persecutions were based on the premise of intolerance, much as today’s objectors to same sex unions are falsely accused of.
Any society that grants great freedoms and liberties implies a self-guiding moral code within the individual that will promote personal responsibility within each citizen so governed. The simple fact is that the cornerstones of Christianity, as described in the Ten Commandments, have provided a solid, historical foundation for such self-directed, moral behavior. Until recently, it was held that such common moral underpinnings were assumed in political behavior. But that sandy ground is shifting.
While the machinations and philosophies of so-called modern rhetoricians, politicians and scholars may seek to find exception to these time-tested truisms, history is devoid of any examples where wholesale violation of such basic moral codes resulted in a long-standing, well-sustained empire. In other words, when a society abandons the strength of their moral foundations, it easily collapses from within if it is not quickly conquered from without.
If history shows such repeatable patterns in monarchies and imperialistic establishments, how much more fragile are the tenets of a self-guiding democracy? Further, anyone who thinks that their liberties are the result of the condescension of government, not inherited, God-given, inalienable rights, is open to being infringed upon by that same government. In such light, the Supreme Court has taken a step towards defining both the concept of family and morality, a difficult step for many who can foresee consequences to liberty.
How long will it be before the tax-exempt status or operational privileges of religious institutions are attacked based on their polite refusal to recognize or support same-sex relationships based on their long-standing Christian doctrines? Does anyone believe that those on the far left will not take advantage of this ruling to broaden attacks on all institutions associated with religious purpose? Is there any doubt that the high-positioned secularists, a group that has always been in the minority but continues to grow, will seek to scrub any association with religion from public discourse?
Dr. Christensen’s analysis begs fervent discussion. Without solid religious institutions stepping forward to teach our people a perpetual and well-codified sense of personal, moral responsibility, where will future generations find the internal moral guidance to function well in an open democracy? The state certainly cannot and should not be the one to do it, and modern families seem to be struggling with the task. Each individual should face the inevitable question: should one trust in the institutions of the state or of men, or should we put our trust in the time-tested teachings associated with a benevolent God? History will whisper the answer, but only if we are open minded and objective enough to listen. It is in God we really should trust.