Several years ago, a friend and I were talking about our nation's problems and how they could be solved. His position was that new laws were needed for every new situation, and I said multitudinous comprehensive laws were already in place and needed to be enforced.
When the discussion turned to morality, Henry became agitated and blurted out, "You can't legislate morality!"
Surprised, I asked what he meant.
"Outlawing alcohol – you know, prohibition – in the 1920s didn't work; outlawing gambling didn't work; and outlawing prostitution, drugs and other activities won't work; so we need to change the laws. Those things should be legalized so the government can collect taxes on it all. You just can't legislate morals!"
But the young man had no idea what he just said. It takes legislation to make something either legal or illegal, and our government has legislated morals since our nation's founding.
Morals is defined as: relating to or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct; the distinction between right and wrong; concerned with the judgment of right or wrong human action and character.
By the way, verdicts that judges or juries give are comments on legislated morality. But who or what said there is a right and wrong? Let's look into it.
What about taking a life? Homicide has commonly been called 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree murder, and it's against the law in the U.S. to murder someone. What about theft? On the books we have petit larceny, then four degrees of grand larceny: also, against the law. What about lying? Perjury is spelled out in the U.S. Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 79, § 1621. You guessed it: illegal.
Nevertheless, lying is prevalent in our society – especially in government and the mass media. However, some rename it and call it disinformation.
The following are several disinformational methods: Telling a big lie openly, then retracting it quietly. Giving erroneous reports as fact. In a valid report, omitting data needed to make a proper and correct evaluation. Quoting others out of context to give an erroneous viewpoint. Over-publicizing a news item to ignore or cover up something more important. Denigrating the integrity of one who is telling the truth.
In all situations, disinformation is a means of hiding truth. Let's see now: morals is the distinction between right and wrong. And we just identified three moral activities which we have outlawed by legislation. Murder, stealing, and lying are also prohibited in the 6th, 8th and 9th of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34); so our government does agree with Scripture – sometimes.
Obviously, we can and do legislate morals, so the question is: what morals do we choose to legislate? The answer: many! We legislate many good and honorable ideas; but we also approve anti-Biblical and anti-American laws that nullify constitutional rights.
Rev. Ravi Zacharias, on his radio program titled Let My People Think, said, "The nonChristian world politicizes morality while they moralize politics." He is correct. Some of our politicians favor good morality and truth while others outright disdain truth. What baffles me is that sometimes our leaders and judges listen to a small minority of society and make or break laws for them resulting in overriding the desires and morals of the voting majority. What kind of democracy is that?
We also have a built-in dichotomy in our government. Some well-known government officials can commit crimes and lie about it, and we overlook it; while other well-known officials commit crimes and lie about it and are prosecuted. Yet other officials are prosecuted when there is no evidence for prosecution. The morality of the issue seems to depend on what side of the political fence the official is on. They moralize politics.
However, if it's a hate crime, it's a double legislation of morals. Example: murder is wrong, but murdering certain people is doubly wrong.
Friends, we legislate morals all the time. But we have a problem. Often, we're outlawing wholesome, healthy core values, while approving anti-Biblical values and morals. This goes against our national heritage and weakens our nation both spiritually and politically.
Morals – right versus wrong – is both a Biblical and political issue. Galatians 6:7 says, "Don't be misled. You can't ignore or mock God and get away with it." Therefore, if we don't revert to using Scripture for our legislative standard as we formerly did, our national problems will become more profound than they are now. We need to wake up and turn back to God.
S. Eugene Linzey is a teacher, author, mentor and conference speaker. Send comments and questions to [email protected].