VOL. 16, NO. 6
Dec. 15, 2014
Back to the Basics:
Straightening Up America, XIV
America’s Marriage Miasma, Part 7
By Virginia Armstrong, Ph.D., National Chairman
“How far can you make a man bend over backwards before he breaks?” is the anguished cry heard in one of the most widely acclaimed musical productions of the Twentieth Century, “Fiddler on the Roof.” This question generates the theme for our current series of “Briefings,” the question whether America has bent over backwards too far in its spiritual, moral, and constitutional life. Are we on the verge of “breaking” and in need of a “straightening up process”? A strongly affirmative answer to that question is shouted by the recent same-sex marriage decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court — Perry v. Hollingsworth and Windsor v. U.S. We are analyzing these cases with the tools crafted for us by the preeminent Christian apologist, Francis Schaeffer. Six crucial components constitute a worldview’s theories of law. In this “Briefing” we consider the fifth of these components.
- TELEOLOGY: The study of purpose[s]. What are the purposes and functions of the law. Why is the law essential? Does law have unintended effects? If so, what are they?
Consistent with the other characteristics of godly law, the primary purposes of civil law are maintaining peace and order, punishing wrongdoing, and upholding standards of right conduct throughout society for the common good. Societies ipso facto depend on the law for stability and continuity. Change must therefore be within the limits of the “law (godly law),” or “revolution” occurs. The law must trump revolution if law and society are to survive and thrive.
The Judeo-Christian worldview asserts that law has three purposes: the political, the didactic, and the pedagogical. These purposes are not expected to eliminate the presence of sin from society but to reduce the predominance of sin in society. Or, to state the proposition differently, civil law purposes to make virtue easier and vice harder, not to totally eliminate vice and thoroughly infuse virtue throughout society.
The three specific purposes are ordained throughout the Scriptures and are achieved by actual legal systems in all healthy human societies. Of all societal agencies and institutions, only civil law has the authority and ability to perform these functions as we will define them. If civil law fails, society clearly suffers. Law will have effects, and we shall also briefly survey these.
Purposes of the Law
- The Political Purpose. One essential function of the law is to uphold and protect law, order, and peace. The Perry/Windsor approach makes it impossible for American law to perform its political functions. “Upholding the law” is impossible when, as we have pointed out in previous Briefings, the same-sex marriage cases obliterate any fixed definitions of “marriage,” so that any “relationship” can be defined as “marriage.” Such fluid definitions, characteristic of Humanism’s ontological relativism, destroy the categories which are essential to every legal system. There is thus no “law” for the legal system to uphold.
Likewise, there is no “order” possible in the long run in a Perry/Windsor society. These decisions are the very antithesis of order — they precipitate “massive disruptions of the social order,” as predicted by Justice Scalia in the Lawrence decision (2003). So many definitions of “marriage” and so many conflicting claims of the “right to marry” result from these cases that it is inevitable that, recalling Easton’s analysis of political systems, the very survival of our culture and Constitutional system is threatened.
Obviously, then, without a system capable of providing ongoing protection for law and order, “peace” is impossible. The end result will be a deadly constitutional and cultural pendulum wildly swinging between anarchy and autocracy.
- The Didactic Purpose. A second purpose of the law as revealed by the Judeo-Christian worldview is to recognize and encourage that which is “right” — “right-doing” — and discourage wrongdoing. But Perry/Windsor, rooted in epistemological relativism, offers no fixed standards for defining what is “right” and what is “wrong.” How can any legal system effectively fulfill its didactic purpose when it has no absolute base from which to operate? Indeed, all Reconstructionist court decisions, ipso facto, fiercely encourage behavior and values of “right-doing” which are antithetical to what is “right” according to the Scripture and the Judeo-Christian worldview. Simultaneously and inevitably, Reconstructionism (with Hitlerian ferocity) attacks as “wrongdoing” those behaviors and values upon which the Judeo-Christian worldview is founded.
- The Pedagogical Purpose. Finally, it is the purpose of law to specify, punish, and restrain wrongful conduct. But, as we have already noted, Humanistic thought erases absolute standards of “wrongful conduct.” What, therefore, is law to “punish and restrain”? This Reconstructionist conundrum stemming from axiological relativism is intensified by Humanism’s core assertion that man is only an animal. An “animal” cannot justly be punished for “wrongdoing” in the moral sense because animals possess no moral notions and cannot be held accountable for moral types of decisions.
“Justice” is a term frequently heard in the debates over punishment and civil law’s pedagogical function. Reconstructionists argue that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is “unjust punishment” of these persons. Banning same-sex marriage is unjust in the “substantive sense” because the very substance — core/focus of the law — is beyond civil law’s legitimate jurisdiction. But Humanists may also deny that same-sex marriage opponents have violated “procedural justice” — standards concerning the enactment and/or enforcement of law.
A most egregious recent example of Reconstructionists’ absurd invocation of “procedural justice” is the action of the openly lesbian mayor of Houston, Texas, who refused to call a referendum allowing Houstonians to approve or disapprove a new public restroom ordinance which homosexual forces favor and pro-family/morality forces oppose. The mayor’s argument has been that procedural standards concerning such referenda have been violated because the petition requesting the referendum did not have the minimum number of signatures required by law to call such an election (the number of petition signatories was approximately three times greater than the minimum number required). Just this one battle in the Culture War illustrates again the oxymoronic nature of same-sex marriage advocacy — fixed standards for defining key terms are denied by Humanists, yet absolute standards of “justice” are wielded by an iron-fisted pro-homosexual Humanist government against Judeo-Christian forces (anarchy and autocracy again appear hand-in-glove in American law and culture).
Effects of the Law
As Perry/Windsor thoughts and values have metastasized through American law and culture, the proper Judeo-Christian purposes of civil law have been scrubbed from society and replaced by Humanistic effects. These Humanistic effects include generating more proof than ever before that the following propositions are truth.
- Fixed standards/norms are inevitable in law (and life). The question is which worldview will undergird our legal norms? As political scientist Francis Canavan pointed out in 1981, “normlessness [i.e., relativism], however, turns out to be itself a norm . . . . [a policy of assigning top priority to individual freedom] necessarily sets norms for a whole society, creates an environment in which everyone has to live, and exerts a powerful influence on social institutions.” And when this happens [as Perry/Windsor so clearly demonstrate it has] “government is under constant pressure — to which it constantly yields — to use its power to promote or enforce new norms [e.g., constitutionalization of same-sex marriage] in the guise of leaving normative decisions to individuals. The result is not no norms but different norms and a reshaping of the institutions of society.”
- These unavoidable legal norms are rooted in “social morality and wider moral ideals” of “every modern state,” as the pre-eminent Anglo-American scholar H.L.A. Hart asserts. In America in particular, he observes, these “moral influences” “silently and piecemeal enter the law through the judicial process.” Thus, “the ultimate criteria of legal validity” becomes the “principles of justice or substantive moral values of the system.” Law has not only the effect of behavior modification, but “can also serve a symbolic or educational function” (Erik Luna, 2000). This unassailable fact was recognized 2,500 years ago by Aristotle, expressed in the Third Century A.D. by St. Augustine, and acknowledged repeatedly by honest and perceptive scholars thorough the ages.
- The ultimate purposes and primary effects of civil law and its moral roots in America have been, and continue to be, in a tiny number of hands of the judges occupying the benches of the federal appellate courts. This is clear in the description of the U.S. Supreme Court penned more than thirty years ago, a description which we have cited before. Dean William Forrester of the Cornell Law School noted then that the Supreme Court has morphed dramatically from its original state. Now it “selects our societal values,” and ultimately directs the nation in “political, social and ethical matters.” “It has become the major societal agency for reform [‘reform’ meaning the annihilation of Judeo-Christian values in the public square and their replacement by the courts with Humanistic values].”
The same point is made in 1982 by prominent Reconstructionist law professor Michael Perry. Concerning the U.S. Supreme Court, he argues that the Court is “[obligated to resolve — must perform the function of resolving] moral problems, not simply by looking backward to the sediment of old moralities, but ahead to emergent principles in terms of which fragments of a new moral order can be forged” — Humanist legal teleology in its purest form.
In summary, then, America’s Humanistic judges have wielded the law to achieve increasingly blatant Reconstructionist purposes throughout the legal system and culture. The Judeo-Christian and Humanistic worldviews occupy polemic positions concerning the purposes of civil law. At the roots of their positions on civil law’s purposes is the commitment to absolutism (Judeo-Christian law) and to relativism (Humanistic law). Obviously, the latter is impossible, so a Humanistic absolutism prevails. Law becomes a militant change agent rather than a wise and deliberative conservator of universal Christian truths. And Revolution trumps law.