Friday, July 1, 2011

Government, Gay Marriage, and Moral Authority

A week ago today the NY State Legislature legalized re-defined marriage, allowing same-sex couples to marry.

All people should be given the same rights before the law regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or the size of their ears. Morality and legality are different animals. Adultery is immoral, but not illegal. Adulterers should have the same civil rights as the faithful. For the purpose of maintaining civilization, the government declares some acts which most consider immoral to be illegal (see murder) and also some acts which most consider moral (or amoral, but that's another discussion entirely) to be illegal (see underage voting).
Regardless, homosexuals should have the same legal standing as heterosexuals. Ideally, a civil union would be the legal equivalent of marriage, distinguishing between the moral/religious idea of marriage and the civil structure. For some reason, that is not the case. If a non-religious heterosexual couple wants to make a legal partnership, they get "married" in court. The unfortunate reality is that marriage is understood by most inhabitants of the United States as an inherently moral/religious institution. Consider these results of a 2008 Newsweek poll:


"Now thinking about marriage more generally: Some people think of marriage mostly as a legal matter and others think of it mostly as a religious matter. Do you personally think of marriage mostly as a legal matter, or mostly as a religious matter?"
.
Mostly
Legal
Mostly
Religious
Both Equally
(vol.)
Unsure
%
%
%
%

30
41
25
4


Two-thirds of our population believe that marriage has something to do with religion.

Interestingly, marriage rates across the country have been dropping, while the incidence of cohabitation rises. Marriage is dying, primarily because it is seen as a religious institution. [This also confuses me--what do homosexuals see in marriage that so many heterosexuals do not? I think it's more than just a tax cut.]

According to the same poll, 77% of people in the US say their religion has some influence on their views of gay marriage:


"How much, if at all, do your religious beliefs determine your views on the issue of gay marriage? Are your religious beliefs very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important in determining your views on gay marriage?"
.
Very
Important
Somewhat
Important
Not Too
Important
Not at All
Important
Unsure
%
%
%
%
%

41
21
11
23
4


Of course, that shouldn't mean too much. One would hope that a person's religious belief (worldview) would affect their thoughts on all parts of life.

Regardless, the question remains--who defined marriage in the first place? It certainly wasn't the government. And yet now they presume to have the authority to re-define what is considered by the majority to be primarily a moral issue. Government's redefinition of the basic unity of human community amounts to a declaration of moral authority.
In Roe v. Wade the Judiciary did not legalize abortion. In 1973 the Judiciary re-defined human life. They claimed the authority to decide when a being with distinct DNA is a human (thus having unallienable rights) and that being is not. Roe v. Wade dehumanized the child in the womb. Last week, NYS redefined the family.
Bit by bit, the government is making itself the final moral authority. "Legislator with a capital L," as my boss (@compasscare) likes to say.

This is democracy plunging toward tyranny. For the government to maintain control of a people, those people must be ruled by a uniform set of moral standards. Otherwise, chaos reigns. Since we have eliminated God as the transcendent authority, the government has appointed itself in His place.

For our civility to be maintained, the primary relationship of each individual must be to their final moral authority (by definition). If my primary responsibility is to a god, I may not obey government. If my primary relationship is to my wife, I may have occasion to disobey government. The only way the government of a people not self-controlled can maintain order is to make itself the primary relationship for every individual, and the final moral authority. This is tyranny: government over the individual.

Then, it will employ terror and fear (see abortion, climate change) and find ways to placate the enslaved population (see consumerism and entertainment media).

I've said enough, for now.

5 comments:

Elliot said...

Interesting perspective.

However, you make a couple leaps I disagree with:

-You take a survey asking if marriage is a religious matter (the results of which are unsurprising considering the fact that the majority of Americans consider themselves Christian), and then say that a majority say it is a moral issue. "Religious" and "moral" are far from synonymous. Religion does not have a monopoly on morality, and religion cannot be reduced to merely morality.
-You conflate legality and morality inappropriately. It's an interesting comparison, the two concepts. They both purport to define what is right and what is wrong. But they have different consequences. As Christians, we are even commanded to respect legal authority, even while we strive to be moral. This tension has always existed, but morality and legality will always be separate. I see no proof that the tension we see now is any different from the tension that existed all along and thus see no reason to believe that the tension heralds the onslaught of slavery.

I agree with the first part of your post. This entire issue would be cleaner if civil marriage did not use the same word as religious marriage. However, I do not agree with your argument that we must have one legal and moral authority. There is no historical or biblical precedent for that.

In fact, it's quite healthy to have a tension between legality and morality. When legalism is applied to morality, you have people deciding they can't go to heaven if they smoke, drink, dance, or play cards. When morality is applied to legalism, you have a state religion where human leaders are looked to as moral authorities, when only God should be.

Legal authority is present to govern people on earth. Moral authority determines salvation.

Jfishjosh said...

Excellent post. Thanks for the read. I've been seeing and thinking similar things recently... and you've definitely done a great job of putting these thoughts together for others!

Thanks!

Jillian said...

Wow. Well said.

Mike Gastin said...

Matt,

I think it's good to hash out ideas and use writing as a medium for thinking.

That said, I think you logic is flawed on a few points, such as the right for civil union for homosexuals and your focus on who/what instituted marriage.

It would be nice to talk about these issues. I'll not bother here in comments, but let's talk next time we meet at CC.

M~

Elliot said...

Another issue with this argument:

If the government legalizing same-sex marriage is it trying to assert itself as a moral authority, how is the government prohibiting same-sex marriage not also asserting moral authority?