Politics and the Church – Extrication From the Shoal Waters [Part 13]

From 12 November 2015 when I first started writing this series as a challenge that politics do not belong in the church, I have endeavored to show that politics and the church have been interrelated since well before the foundation of this nation.  In the coming weeks I will attempt to show how church involvement or lack thereof  has or has not contributed to the ‘decay’ our society has or is experiencing.  Our nation has never been ‘perfect’ but it has at least had foundation principles that would lead us in the right direction to attain to God’s desire for a Godly nation.

Despite the fact that roughly eight out of ten Americans regularly describe themselves as Christians [Frank Newport, “In US, 77% Identify as Christians”, Gallup Politics, December 24, 2012], Americans’ current beliefs about what is “moral” bear little resemblance to traditional Christian teachings and clear-cut Biblical directives.  We now consider the following behaviors to be “moral”:

  •    Homosexuality (58%) [Barna Group, “Frames Wave 2”, and “OmniPoll 1-14”]
  •    An unmarried woman having a baby (67%) [Riffkin, “New Record Highs in Moral Acceptability”]
  •    Divorce (69%)  [Ibid]
  •    Destroying human embryos for research (65%) [Ibid]
  •    Sex between an unmarried man and woman  (66%)  [Ibid]

The Bible, in unequivocal language, teaches that each of these things is not moral.  Originally moral was defined as that which is “good or evil, virtuous or vicious according to the law of God” [Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, New York: S. Converse, 1828].  Today’s definition no longer has any mention of God or His law [www.thefreedictionary.com/moral].  The current standard is now the one thrice denounced in the Bible as “every man doing that which is right in his own eyes” [Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 17:6; 21:25].

Historically, in America morality could not be determined apart from religious teachings, specifically those from the Bible.  Does this mean that all Americans were moral beings?  Not at all, however, acceptable social standards were based on Biblical morality.  President George Washington reminded the nation:

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion…Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. [George Washington, Address of George Washington, President of the United States…Preparatory to His Declination, Baltimore, 1796, pgs. 22-23]

Across the next century this continued to be the standard as President Zachary Taylor affirmed:

A free government cannot exist without religion and morals, and there cannot be morals without religion, nor religion without the Bible. [Zachary Taylor, “The President and the Bible”, New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, 4, no.11, May 9, 1849]

And in this century President Teddy Roosevelt still avowed:

The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life, that it would be literally…I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally…impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed.  We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards toward which we , with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves. [Theodore Roosevelt, A Square Deal, The Allendale Press, 1906, pgs. 203-204]

It was not just the executive branch that was forthright in its declarations that morals must be drawn from the Bible.  The judicial branch was just as forceful.  For example, Judge Zephaniah Swift, author of the first American legal text, allowed that “moral virtue is substantially and essentially enforced by the precepts of Christianity” [Zephaniah Swift, The Correspondent, Windham, CT, 1793, pg. 119].  Justice John McLean, placed on the Supreme Court by President Andrew Jackson, also affirmed:

The morality of the Bible must continue to be the basis of our government. There is no other foundation for free institutions. [John McLean, letter dated November 4, 1852, in Testimony of Distinguished Laymen to the Value of the Sacred Scriptures, Particularly in their Bearing on Civil and Social Life, American Bible Society, 1853, pg.52].

The US Supreme Court in a unanimous 1844 decision, queried, “Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?” [Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 US 127, 200, 1844]. When the American Medical Association adopted its original code of medical ethics 1847, it too acknowledged that religion and morality were also the foundation of medical principles [American Medical Association, introduction to the Code of Medical ethics Adopted by the Medical Association at Philadelphia in May 1847 and by the New York Academy of Medicine in October 1847, H. Ludwig and Co., 1848].

Part of what is perplexing about the current moral condition of America is not that we have so quickly abandoned and completely reversed positions long held to be moral but that we embrace the new morals even though there is abundant objective scientific and public-policy evidence demonstrating their harmfulness to ourselves and to our society.  We seem bent on committing societal suicide, if not national parricide.  The Bible assures us that all of God’s commands are given for our benefit, so that we can prosper and be successful [Deuteronomy 6:24; Joshua 1:8].  Even if someone held a completely secular viewpoint, then solely on the basis of public-policy evidence he or she would arrive at the same positions the Bible announces to be moral.  But this is not happening!

In the coming weeks I will address the following subjects: homosexuality; homosexual marriage; abortion; physician-assisted suicide; gun control; debt; entitlement programs; welfare; public school education; immigration policies; business regulation; national defense; and taxation.  As I address each subject I ask that you ask yourself…’Has government had a positive or negative impact on the subject matter’…and, ‘How have the churches, especially my/your church, impacted the subject in a positive or negative manner or have they just set back and watched society decay from the nation’s foundation principles’?  Remember, when good men do nothing, evil prevails.

– Bob Munsey

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