Monday, October 02, 2006

Response to Tony Campolo on Marriage Law Cont. Part III

Another disadvantage of removing the family from the human law of government is that the church has no real enforcement ability today. At one time, the threat of excommunication or shunning was a real stick carried by the church and feared by the laity. But today, most churches are reluctant to even speak against the primary sins of their congregants from the pulpit lest these people take their consumer-minded religiosity to some other less offensive congregation. If the regulation of marriage is left to the church, there will be some chastisement of words but no force behind the institution of marriage. We will have gone to a situation in which marriage will be abandoned except as a sentimental and romantic token of affection. Overall, I would have to think that the situation in which marriage was merely like baptism or communion—a ceremony offered by the church but in no way attached to any actual real world results—would be an even further degrading of marriage. Marriage has already been severely weakened because society in no way enforces law against adultery and is beginning to give up on its laws against statutory rape. Will pedophiles be the next group to claim that their civil rights are being violated because of the state’s rejection of their “inborn” proclivities? (I don’t really think that they are inborn. But undoubtedly that will be the claim made. And even if they were, having a greater proclivity to sin than other people does not make one’s desired activity less sinful.)

I don’t doubt that many people will think that my polemic on this page is an unnecessary panic. They will believe that things will go on much as they have gone on in the past despite these radical changes. But we can look at the history of the last 100 years in the United States to easily see that that is not the case. With the advent of no-fault divorce, there has been a genuine weakening of the family. Divorce and adultery have become far more common. The change in schools to the point where morality is no longer taught and enforced has opened the door to the Playboy lifestyle being thought of as normative by many people. In some large cities, sex education encourages people to have sex rather than educating them about the risks of venereal disease and poverty. Today we have more and more out-of-wedlock births and more and more human unhappiness as a result. The failure to domesticate men by bringing them into a stable family institution and requiring them to be faithful to that institution has led to not only out-of-wedlock births but an increase in child abuse as boyfriends who have no interest in a woman’s children other than predation become their temporary custodians without genuine commitment. We need only look to Scandinavia and the Netherlands to see how lax attitudes about the family and sexuality actually do contribute to its deterioration. Do we not wish to go even further and allow our country’s people to debase themselves even further in the interest of a theoretical need to separate the government from God?

Perhaps part of the impetus behind the belief of people like Tony Campolo in a radical separation between morality and the state but not between help for the poor and the state is a belief that people who are morally miserable are more likely to become Christians than people who are unrighteous but relatively nice people. I had a friend once in college who, when asked about his work at Disneyland, replied that it was depressing. When asked why, he said that it was terrible to see all of those non-Christians enjoying themselves and having fun. My friend called Disneyland the “tragic kingdom” because he believed that when sinful people had a good time it distracted them from their need for God. The corollary of such a view would be that misery brings people closer to God. Indeed, in some ways there is some truth in the idea that God uses our afflictions to get our attention. C.S. Lewis said that God whispers to us in our pleasures, and shouts to us in our pain. But the Bible does not seem to support the idea that we should maximize human misery in order to bring people to God. Jesus said that offenses are inevitable, but woe unto those by whom they come. This fallen world is full of plenty of sickness, sin, death, pestilence and pain. It is our job to alleviate what we can rather than seeking to increase or maximize human suffering. People will suffer more than enough despite our ameliorative efforts. If we do not seek to end suffering but rather seek to allow suffering, God is not happy with our decision. This is why Jesus says “woe unto those by whom offenses come.” Far be it from us to be the source of offense and suffering rather than a resistance against it. Far be it from us to seek to be infection and darkness rather than salt and light.

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