Listening to the debate on the Senate floor over the proposed constitutional amendment to limit marriage to heterosexuals, I was impressed with the biblical knowledge of some senators. Unfortunately for them, a majority of senators either did not agree with that text or did not think it applies while making secular law, and so a procedural vote to end debate and vote on the amendment itself did not receive majority approval.
Neither the cultural problem nor its solution can be found in Washington. It lies in the decisions by millions of Americans (and, yes, out-of-control federal judges, who reflect our moral indifference) to construct their own moral authority. Sufficiently large numbers of Americans either do not believe, or do not practice, what the Scriptures teach and cannot be made to do so through a constitutional amendment or any other law. Neither side is going to persuade the other of the correctness of its position, so it becomes a political power game.
Perhaps if those pushing for a constitutional amendment better modeled what they preach for others, they might find more favor among secular powers. According to a survey by the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life:
- "The divorce ratio among members of evangelical churches is virtually the same as among non-church members.
- "In the United States, 1 million children (have seen) their parents divorce.
- "The majority of children in America have less than 10 minutes of significant and meaningful conversation with their parents each week. If you remove the mother, you can measure this statistic in seconds."
Conservative Christians could use an "extreme makeover" to repair their own homes before they demand that others conform to a standard they themselves have trouble meeting.
That same book used by some senators also speaks of this world as fallen and beyond repair. Paul the Apostle writes of what to expect during the "end times," a subject that is popular among readers of certain best-selling novels: "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power." Having proclaimed his prophecy, Paul does not tell believers to embrace politics to influence or change the Roman government. Quite the contrary. He says, "Have nothing to do with them" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
There is something else. This book that Christians quote (sometimes selectively to conform to their politics) is about God, His nature, character and redemptive plan. When it refers to man, it describes his wickedness and pursuit of unclean things. The Old Testament laws are a holiness code that reflect God's character, not a set of rules man is expected to live up to (Christians believe only Jesus did that and so became the only acceptable sacrifice for man's individual and collective sins). To seek to implement such a code through human law is an exercise in futility and is neither expected nor mandated in that New Testament covenant.
The Bible is a book for those who would accept its message. Should anyone who does not believe it be expected to obey what it says?
During the floor debate, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) quoted historian Arnold Toynbee: "Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state America is in today."
America may be living on borrowed time, but its "lease" will not be extended by new laws or constitutional amendments. America and Americans will renew their moral strength when they decide in sufficient numbers to live differently. No power on Earth can make them do that. But a Power not of this Earth can help.
Given what the book quoted by some senators predicts, I wouldn't count on a "wicked and adulterous generation" rescuing itself through a marriage amendment or any other human effort. After all, "When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3).
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My column based on an interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld left a mistaken impression in some minds regarding President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. A transcript of what the Secretary of Defense actually said follows:
"I think that there is no question, but that the declaration that was submitted to the United Nations by Saddam Hussein was flawed, was inaccurate, was false and that the United Nations had gone through some 17 resolutions and that it was appropriate to enforce those resolutions as the coalition did. So I believe the president did the right thing."