Tuesday, June 29

No Liberwocky Needed

Christopher Hitchens is one of those very rare birds in modern American culture: a genuine, honest-to-goodness Liberal. He doesn't play politically-correct games. He's not interested in the guise of liberwocky--that peculiar twisting of language that seems to be the stock-in-trade for most Liberals. He wants the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That means that he is often very much out of step with fellow travelers on the Left. His latest commentary in Slate, the online magazine edited by Michael Kinsley, is a case in point. Unfairenheit 9/11: The Lies of Michael Moore is astonishing in its clarity and integrity. This very insightful and entertaining article really is must reading. By the way, for all you grammar-checkers: yes, the spelling of Fahrenheit is deliberately--and quite cleverly--distorted in Hitchens' title.

Here's a brief excerpt, just to whet your appetite: "To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability.... To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of 'dissenting' bravery." Ouch!

Revelation Studies

The Micah Mandate Sunday School class has been working through the text of the book of Revelation for over a year now. Most of the recordings of those studies are now available online in three formats--RealAudio, WindowsMedia, and MP3 download--at both the Micah Mandate and the Christ Community websites.

Mac v. PC

Roger Ebert has never been one to shy away from expressing his opinions. With the unveiling of Apple's new OS X Tiger release this week in San Francisco, he has sounded off on the issue of which operating system really is best--but in the process he has commented on the whole of society as well: "Since any reasonable person would choose a Mac over a PC, Apple's market share provides us with an accurate reading of the percentage of reasonable people in our society." Hmmm.

Legislating Morality

“We simply can't legislate morality" is a mantra often heard these days. And admittedly, it is a truism that has the ring of truth--especially given the undeniable fact that we live in a pluralistic society and not a theocracy.

In point of fact, however, it is a logical absurdity of the most basic sort. Morality is actually the only thing we can legislate. That's what legislation is. It is the codification in law of some particular moral concern--generally so that the immorality of a few is not forcibly inflicted on all the rest of us.

Murder is against the law because we recognize that the premeditated killing of another human being is a violation of a very basic and fundamental moral principle--a moral principle that we all hold dear: the sanctity of human life. Theft is against the law because we recognize that taking someone else's belongings without permission is a breach of another one of our most basic and fundamental ethical standards: the inviolability of private property. The fact is, all law is some moral or ethical tenant raised up to social enforceability by the civil sphere.

Thus, the question is not "Should we legislate morality?" Rather, it is "Whose morality should we legislate?" The only real question we can ask is, "What moral standard will we use when we legislate?"

There was no ambivalence among founders of this nation on that question. The standard of morality that they unhesitatingly codified into law was the Bible. The Declaration of Independence was a document carefully informed by a Scriptural notion of life and law--indeed, it took the form of an Old Testament Covenant Lawsuit. The Articles of Confederation were likewise thoroughly entrenched in the Biblical worldview. The Constitution was undeniably influenced by Christian legal standards. The Federalist Papers were birthed of the great verities and profundities of liberty found only in the Bible. The Bill of Rights would have been inconceivable apart from the moral standard wrought by God in His Word. Indeed, every major document, every major consultation, and every major institution that the founding fathers forged from the fires of freedom to create and guide our remarkable legal system was a conscious affirmation and imitation of Biblical ideals, values, standards, ethics, and morals.

Now to be sure there were a number of other historical and philosophical influences that helped to shape the course of American law: Justinian's Roman Civil Law, Alfred the Great's English Common Law, Charlemagne's Rule of the Franks, William Blackstone's Commentaries, and John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government. However, each of these in turn was derived, at least in part, from the Biblical standard.

It is not necessary to deny religious freedom and societal pluralism in order to affirm the objective fact of America's essentially Christian moral foundations.

Robert Goguet, in his authoritative history of the development of judicial philosophy in this country, argued that the founding fathers' legislation of Biblical morality was more than simply a reflection of their personal faith or cultural inheritance; it was a matter of sober-headed practicality, "The more they meditated on the Biblical standards for civil morality, the more they perceived their wisdom and inspiration. Those standards alone have the inestimable advantage never to have undergone any of the revolutions common to all human laws, which have always demanded frequent amendments; sometimes changes, sometimes additions, sometimes the retrenching of superfluities. There has been nothing changed, nothing added, nothing retrenched from Biblical morality for above three thousand years."

The framers were heavily influenced by the writings of Thomas Hooker, founder of the city of Hartford in the Connecticut colony and learned Puritan divine, and thus they agreed wholeheartedly with his oft quoted maxim on the wellspring of law and order in society, "Of law there can be no less acknowledged, than that her seat is in the bosom of God, her voice in the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and on earth do her homage; the very least as doing her care, and the greatest as not exempt from her power. Both angels and men, and creatures of what condition , though each in a different sort of name, yet all with one uniform consent, admire her as the mother of their peace and joy."

John Jay was one of the most influential of the founding fathers and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He too affirmed the necessity of virtue for the proper maintenance of civil stability and order, "No human society has ever been able to maintain both order and freedom, both cohesiveness and liberty apart from the moral precepts of the Christian Religion applied and accepted by all the classes. Should our Republic ere forget this fundamental precept of governance, men are certain to shed their responsibilities for licentiousness and this great experiment will then surely be doomed."

James Madison, our fourth President, primary author of the Bill of Rights, and champion of liberty throughout the founding era echoed that sentiment, "We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, and to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

Again and again that same refrain was repeated. The men who framed our nation had a particular goal in mind: building a free society of responsible and morally upright men and women. They wanted to build a "city on a hill," a "light unto the nations," and a godly legacy. They were willing to give sacrificially--often giving their very lives and livelihoods--to achieve those ends.

Legislating morality is an inescapable concept. The first determination of any legislator is which ethical standards will be the basis for a given society's legislation. The American founders unashamedly and unabashedly chose to root their experiment in liberty in a peculiarly Christian morality. They legislated morality--however imperfectly--in accordance with a Christian world and life view.

As a result, America became a great nation. It became great because its character was rooted in an objective Christian morality. Thus, during his visit to the fledgling American republic in 1832, Alexis de Tocqueville reportedly observed, "America is great because America is good." But tellingly, the sage French nobleman went on to warn, "If America ever ceases to be good, it will cease to be great."

In light of all that has transpired since, that is a sobering thought indeed.

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