I hear it all the time and often from well-meaning people: “You can’t legislate morality.” I always vigorously disagree.
First let’s clarify what morality is. Morality is someone’s view of what’s right and wrong. Those views can be based on anything or nothing. Morality can and does shift with time and people. A great example would be our society’s view of marriage. The perceived rightness and wrongness of behaviors associated with this foundational institution have certainly changed in our society in the last twenty-five years.
For Christians our morality—our view of what’s right and wrong should be based squarely on the truths of the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Non-believers tend to determine their morality based on their own opinion of what is right and wrong, what is good and evil.
A number of years ago I had a conversation with a teacher in a Madison public high school where I’d been invited to speak on marriage to a Current Events class. After one of the classes, the teacher asked me what my ultimate authority was for what I believed on this issue. I told him the Bible. He exclaimed, “Ah hah! That’s what I thought!” I calmly responded, “So, what is your ultimate authority for what you believe is right and wrong?” His response was, “Me,” meaning himself.
Consider how different his authority is from those of us who say the Bible is our authority. His authority is internal; ours is external. His is subjective; ours is objective. His is ever-changing; our is forever-fixed—forever settled. Those differences are monumentally consequential when it comes to determining morality, even morality related to legislation.
Because morality is someone’s view of what’s right and wrong, every federal law, every state law, every local ordinance, every school board policy, every rule and regulation enacted by government agencies, and many decisions from courts, legislate morality—they are the legal representation of what someone thinks is right or wrong.
Think about the 2015 Obergefell US Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage between persons of the same sex. Clearly this decision legislated morality—a morality based on the view of the majority of Supreme Court justices. Or what about local school board policies that allow biological males on the girls’ athletic teams and in the girls’ locker rooms, changing rooms, and restrooms, and vice versa?
At the state level, we have examples from this past legislative session. One bill required that women be told that the first stage of an RU-486 chemically-induced abortion can be undone with a pill. Yet another was the “born-alive” bill that made it clear what medical professionals must do for a baby who survives an abortion or attempted abortion. In general, these bills are in synch with my morality.
But what about the bill that was introduced that bans so-called “conversion therapy” for minors? “Conversion therapy” is any counseling that doesn’t affirm or encourage a minor to continue to identify with and act on his/her same-sex attraction and/or gender-identity confusion.
This bill legislates a morality that runs counter to my morality—a morality I hope and pray is always rooted deeply in God’s Truth. What becomes quickly obvious is that the core beliefs, the morality of our elected officials, make the difference in what morality gets legislated.
Knowing this truth should drive us to at least two actions: first, we need to faithfully pray for our elected officials—all of them, by name on some kind of regular and systematic basis. Scripture admonishes us to pray for kings and all those who are in authority, and even tells us why we should pray for them: so that they come to faith in Christ and so we can lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Good laws that legislate good morality are good for everyone and make for a quiet and peaceable society.
Second, we need do our best to elect people whose morality most closely aligns with ours as Bible-believing Christians. We need to be on the lookout for good candidates, and we need to support such candidates when we have the opportunity.
In truth, morality is legislated every day. The question is whose morality—whose view of right and wrong—will be ensconced in law? When God’s view becomes the law, everyone benefits. May God grant us more of that type of morality being legislated in our nation, state, communities, and schools.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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