CultureWatch

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Libertarianism and Marriage, Part Two

Apr 4, 2012

In Part One of this article I very briefly laid out some of my concerns about libertarianism in general. I noted that as a Christian I have various difficulties with it, and find myself more closely aligned with conservatism. And as one very much concerned about the institution of marriage, and the vicious assaults now on it, I must now examine why the libertarian position on marriage is unacceptable.

The main way in which I will do this is to simply make use of an excellent three-part article which has just appeared by marriage and family expert Jennifer Roback Morse. I have reviewed her helpful material elsewhere, eg.: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2003/11/11/a-review-of-love-and-economics-why-the-laissez-faire-family-doesn%E2%80%99t-work-by-jennifer-roback-morse/

Here I wish to just offer some choice snippets from these three very important articles. So here is some of her reasoning: “As a libertarian myself, I have been quite disappointed that the ‘default’ libertarian position on marriage has become little more than a sound-bite: ‘Let’s get the state out of the marriage business.’ With all due respect, this position is unsound….

“Marriage is society’s primary institutional arrangement that defines parenthood. Marriage attaches mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. A woman’s husband is presumed to be the father of any children she bears during the life of their union. These two people are the legally recognized parents of this child, and no one else is. The grandparents are not; the former boyfriend is not; the nanny who spends all day with the kids is not. These two hold their parental rights against all other competing claimants. This is an intrinsically social, public function of marriage that cannot be privatized.

“You might reply, ‘Dr. Morse, your understanding of marriage is all about parenthood, and not about marriage itself. Not every marriage has children, after all.’ And it is perfectly true: not every marriage has children. But every child has parents. This objection stands marriage on its head by looking at it purely from the adult’s perspective, instead of the child’s. The fact that this objection is so common shows how far we have strayed from understanding the public purpose of marriage, as opposed to the many private reasons that people have for getting married.

“If no children were ever involved, adult sexual relationships simply wouldn’t be any of the state’s business. What we now call marriage would be nothing more than a government registry of friendships. If that’s all there were to marriage, privatizing it wouldn’t be a big deal. But if there were literally nothing more to marriage than a government registry of friendships, we would not observe an institution like marriage in every known society.”

She concludes her first piece this way: “Finally, getting the government out of the business of giving out marriage licenses does not mean that the government will be completely neutral with respect to kinds of relationships. The government is already deeply involved in many aspects of human life that affect people’s decisions of what kind of relationship to be in. For instance, government’s policies regarding welfare, health care, and housing have contributed to the near-disappearance of marriage from the lower classes, not only in America, but throughout the industrialized world….

“In short, the idea that we can get the government out of the marriage business in the early twenty-first century is an illusion. Marriage performs an irreducibly public function, of attaching mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. Given the current scope and size of the government’s activities, the state cannot be completely neutral with respect to different types of relationships.”

In her second article she demonstrates how governments will get bigger if we privatise marriage: “The call to ‘privatize marriage’ is an attempt to transfer an important structure of the market—contract law—into the family, where it does not properly belong.

“The belief that we can solve the conflict over the definition of marriage by ‘letting the market decide’ is a confusion between the private and the public, a confusion between how marriage functions for an individual family and how marriage functions as a public institution. Perhaps an analogy to property law will help clarify the issue.

“Most libertarians have no trouble seeing that the system of property and contract law is something different from an individual’s personal property or a particular contract he might have made. Under an economic system of private property, people get to do pretty much what they want with their own property. But backing up all those personal decisions is a public system, administered by the government and sustained by the consciences and habits of the populace. The minimal but robust legal structure of private property makes possible a dizzying array of individual activity and a wide swath of personal liberty.

“The institution of marriage is comparable to the market system in this sense. We get to do most of what we want, most of the time, inside our marriages. No one comes to check up on us, unless we do something really egregious. The freedom of particular couples is supported by and made possible by the institutional structure of marriage and family law. Marriage provides boundaries on people’s behavior: you have sex with your spouse and no one else; you take care of the children born to you and your spouse; you respect the parenting decisions of other families. And until the advent of no-fault divorce, you stayed married, unless someone did something really awful.”

But as marriage and family break down further with the help of the sexual revolution, the state steps in more fully: “Every ‘increase of freedom’ turned out to be another episode of lawlessness. No-fault divorce, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and the early sexualization of children, all seemed like good ideas at the time, ideas that would free us by relaxing oppressive social and legal constraints.

“But lawlessness turned out to impose constraints of its own. Children suffered from loss of connection with their parents. Parents suffered from loss of connection with their children. And adults found themselves ever more lonely and unable to sustain meaningful long-term relationships.

“And who generously and kindly steps in to clean up the mess? Why, the state, of course. The government now involves itself in people’s private lives far more than it ever did in the dreaded fifties. When people got married and stayed married, they had a greater capacity to take care of themselves, their children, and the elderly in their families. And who has led the charge in the deconstruction of the family? Why, the ‘Lifestyle Leftists,’ of course.”

Her final article examines how children are harmed when we privatise marriage and seek to put all family relations in terms of contracts. “Contracts are not meant to establish permanent or unlimited obligations. Contracts are of limited scope and duration. Parenthood is, and needs to be, forever. This is the fatal conceptual flaw of the contract parenting model. That is why adoption is not a contract. No one signs an adoption ‘contract,’ where one party agrees to deliver the child to another, who then has rights to the child. No. Adoption confers parental status permanently onto someone.

“The second and even more fundamental flaw of the contract parenting model: it treats the child as an object, something to be negotiated over. Even a cursory look at these cases shows that this is true. The adults don’t mean for it to be true. I have no doubt that these adults brought children into being in all good faith, and out of love. But they simply can’t help themselves. Good intentions do not suffice to overcome the structural tendency for ‘contract parenthood’ to objectify children far more often and deeply than natural parenthood.

“When a child is conceived naturally, inside marriage, the child is biologically, legally, and practically the child of both parents. The child can be a focal point for unity between the two people. Of course, things don’t always work perfectly or smoothly. But the biological parents, married to each other, have a great advantage: they both have a connection with the child. They’ve both got skin in the game, literally. When they are married to each other, they have made a commitment to work together to build a common life. The children are their common project.”

She concludes, “The primary business of the state should be providing justice. Children are the most vulnerable parties in any society. But children are particularly vulnerable in a society like ours that values autonomy and independence so highly. Children cannot be autonomous and independent. Adult society owes children an obligation in justice to provide institutional structures that protect their most basic interests. This is why it would be unjust to children for the government to attempt to ‘get out of the marriage business.’ Providing justice to the vulnerable is precisely the business of the government. If it doesn’t perform that function, it has failed.

“It is not possible to create a free society in which everyone begins life as someone’s ‘choice.’ It is not possible to create a lasting society that systematically undermines the biological basis for human identity. Privatizing marriage would perpetrate injustices on children, expand the power of the state, and in the end, prove to be completely impossible. In short, the state has a duty to be in the marriage business.”

I admit that by cutting and pasting from her three pieces I may have not presented the most accurate picture of her line of reasoning. But hopefully the bits I offer here will spur you on to read her argument in its entirety. Like her, I am certainly no fan of big government.

But like her, I am very much concerned about the wellbeing of children. While parents are the fundamental support and safe haven for children, societies – and even governments – have some role in nurturing and protecting those parents – as in a marriage relationship – so that child wellbeing can be allowed to flourish.

Thus when it comes to marriage, family, and children, I am no libertarian.

Part One of this article is found here: www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/04/04/libertarianism-and-marriage-part-one/

www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/04/5069

www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/04/5071

www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/04/5073

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12 Responses to Libertarianism and Marriage, Part Two

  • The alternative is you let the government decide who is married or not and what you get is our current situation, where we get to have a Culture War over homosexual marriage. Yay! Go team.

    You create the rod for your own back – by giving government the weapon in the first place, you shouldn’t be surprised when it is turned against you.

    You take government interference in private business (incl. the varied handouts that are corroding Australia society) and all you have is debate and discussion – no coercion of anyone. But since you want to play the game of coercing others (by dictating who can and can’t call themselves married), you get feel the consequences.

    For a libertarian, Dr Morse has completely avoided talking about the self-organising character of society and spontaneous order, which is disappointing and utterly central to a libertarian vision of the world. But hey, politicians are so much brighter than the community at figuring stuff out so we should leave it up to them…

    Lee Herridge

  • Thanks Lee

    Sorry but I am not buying it. In typical libertarian fashion you offer us a false dilemma here: it is either complete open slather, or totalitarianism. Nope, history shows us there are plenty of alternatives in between. And as a Christian I believe in both the institution of marriage and the institution of the state. God created both, and they are part of his will for humanity. The institution of marriage of course preceded the institution of the state, so all the state can do is recognise this pre-existing reality. It does not define it. But if and when it does start getting into the business of defining marriage, it is because, as Morse says, we have handed that right to the state by allowing our sexual free-for-all, all in the name of individual liberty of course. And anyone with children will not take such cavalier and demeaning attitudes toward their wellbeing.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “The alternative is you let the government decide who is married or not and what you get is our current situation, where we get to have a Culture War over homosexual marriage.”

    Lee. I’m not sure why you believe this a viable alternative?
    I think Bill’s reply is spot on. We recognise the institute of the State and the separate institution of marriage.
    A well known working rule on the obligation of the State is to protect its citizens – and not least as Dr. Morse implies, never more so than to protect traditional marriage in order, in turn, to protect the status of the family, and particularly children.
    Dr Morse is I believe entirely correct therefore in stating:
    “This is why it would be unjust to children for the government to attempt to ‘get out of the marriage business.’ Providing justice to the vulnerable is precisely the business of the government. If it doesn’t perform that function, it has failed.”
    It most certainly is NOT a function of the State to attempt to redefine marriage as now being attempted with the introduction of SSM. That would be to destroy its basic nature and essential role in society. (In any event does it have the authority? Absolutely not in the light of Scripture)
    Please enlighten me if I’m wrong but I am unaware of a single example in history where a national State has sought to redefine heterosexual marriage, much less to endorse that which is clearly sinful to God and destructive of real marriage as in SSM.
    I assert then, in company with all other biblical Christians that an attempt to redefine it is clearly in defiance of God and his clearly revealed will.

    Having read several of Dr Morse’s articles I would say that it is not her libertarian views which are prominent, but rather her thoroughly Christian views on the nature and role of marriage, and particularly her much needed emphasis on the vulnerability of children if SSM goes ahead, which is wholly creditworthy. I presume you agree with the main thrust of her points about the protection of children?

    About the position of the State I believe Bill is right in that the State must recognise the institution of marriage and protect its unique status. It need do no more than that in order to effect necessary social or fiscal legislation where needed.

    Graham Wood, UK

  • The problem that Libertarianism has, which causes it to diverge from Conservatism, is that it thinks you can do away with God as the source of our rights– while still maintaining the benefits of those rights.

    In other words, it wants the benefits of God creating us in his image and endowing us with inalienable rights, without recognizing him as the source of those rights. This allows them to then treat the exercise of those rights as the greatest and only good. The result is a profound loss of understanding of the importance of the responsibilities that come with the exercise of one’s rights.

    This is seem clearly in their approach to marriage: “As long as no one else is hurt, anyone should be able to marry anyone. And how is anyone hurt by same-sex marriage?” (I’m paraphrasing Judge Andrew P. Napolitano’s argument in his book “It is Dangerous to be Right when the Government is Wrong”, p. 89.)

    Of course, this claim (that SSM hurts no-one) ignores the fact that what is happening is not an extension of marriage to a wider group of people, but a RE-DEFINING of marriage itself. To claim that no one is affected by this, is ludicrous. To remove the responsibilities from marriage and extend its benefits to those who are outside of a true marriage relationship, does violence to the very concept of marriage and does harm to true marriages and families, and by extension, to a people as a whole.

    But this is the logical result of claiming that we have rights simply by virtue of being human, rather than recognizing God as the source of those rights. When you have no responsibility to God or to moral behavior, then Liberty becomes License– freedom to do whatever you want, rather than freedom to do what is right.

    So while Conservatives and Libertarians agree on many of the rights we want to protect, and while we agree that government should be limited, we disagree in a very basic sense on what that all means. Libertarians basic stance boils down to, “The government should protect my right to do whatever I want (as long as no one else is harmed)”, while true Conservatism’s stance is “The government should protect my right to do _what_is_ right_”.

    Ronin Akechi

  • As a follow-up, I should note that Judge Napolitano doesn’t claim that our rights don’t come from God– he says that it doesn’t matter if they come from God, or from nature. He claims that it doesn’t matter if you’re theist or atheist, Christian or Evolutionist, it doesn’t matter if our rights come from God or not, that the result is the same.

    Of course, this is philosophically insupportable. If our rights didn’t come from God, then there is nothing to keep your neighbor or the government from taking them away. There is no such thing as “natural” rights in evolution, except for the “right” of the strong to take what they want from the weak– “survival of the fittest”.

    This is why I say that Libertarians desire for the benefits of our God-given rights, without the necessity of recognizing the god who gave us those rights, is flawed.

    Ronin Akechi

  • Where do I mention anything about totalitarianism? Not once because I don’t mention it. So much for a typical answer…

    Bill, you’re wrong, the Marriage Act 1961 has defined marriage (courtesy of the 2004 amendment): it is between a man and a woman. So now we get to play political football over the Marriage Act – a situation that you all have brought upon yourselves by pushing for such an amendment in the first place.

    The fact that Christian marriage preceded the nation-state by, oh, maybe a couple of thousand years, and the model it is based on for even longer, shows that marriage has never needed the ‘protection’ of the state.

    The fact that you all are so keen to have the state ‘protect’ it shows how little faith you have in the power of a good idea. By removing coercion from the picture, all you have is debate, discussion and persuasion – why are you afraid for that to be the way disputes are settled? If lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is actually the best way to live (as all of us agree), why are you scared to let that debate occur in the community where it belongs, instead of fighting over it in parliament where it has no place?

    As I said before, by going to the state to win the argument, you create the conditions for those who have no compunction in turning the state against their ideological enemies (ie the Greens) to take over and go much further than you ever imagined.

    Where you might be happy to stop at an amendment in the Marriage Act as as far you think the state should go in interfering in private business, for people like Lee Rhiannon, it is once step in a broader agenda. They have a comprehensive vision of state interference in lives of individuals and then you all come along and beg the state to add one more area for the state to muck around with. As the saying goes, ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ – well now the sword has come swinging towards you….

    Instead of having the state interfering in the private business, you let people decide for themselves what marriage is and what marriage they should recognise or not. I, for one, would never recognise homosexuals as being married, never allow them to marry in my church and leave a church that did marry homosexuals to each other. I suspect you would all do the same.

    By saying the state has no business interfering in private business, even the private business of those hurting themselves (ie anything outside of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual Christian marriage), it also eliminates it capacity to force people to accept another person’s marriage.

    But by empowering the state to get involved in more and more in the private affairs of individuals through your lobbying, you are inviting them to force us to accept their claims of marriage, which people like the Greens are very keen to make happen.

    Lee Herridge

  • Graham: the state should only be involved in protecting individuals from coercion, fraud, aggression and breach of contract – not protecting people from themselves.

    Homosexuality is immensely damaging to people but if they are adults, they can make their own decisions and wear the consequences themselves (which they do).

    On children, kids are currently living with homosexual parents and while I am not in favour of the state allowing children to be adopted by homosexuals, I am also not in favour of taking them away from their parents who happen to be homosexual. I suspect neither do you.

    Kids have to suffer from the varied and numerous failings of their parents and that is just something we all have to live with. Stopping two consenting adults from calling themselves married won’t stop that.

    Lee Herridge

  • Ronin: I suspect non-theistic libertarians would have a utilitarian approach to the source of natural rights, which I agree is philosophically unsupportable but nevertheless, as long as they are on the same page, I don’t really mind.

    My belief in the fundamental freedoms we should all be able to enjoy stem from the freedom I have in and through Jesus Christ and his atoning death on my behalf. Just as I am happy to stand with Catholics on the issue of abortion or euthanasia despite Calvinist evangelical Protestant convictions, my Christianity doesn’t stop me from working alongside libertarians of all stripes, as we are all content to peacefully coexist.

    Unfortunately, those who believe in the virtue of state intervention in private matters can’t really claim to want to peacefully coexist in quite the same way…

    Lee Herridge

  • Lee, you said:

    “You create the rod for your own back – by giving government the weapon in the first place, you shouldn’t be surprised when it is turned against you.”

    Isn’t this making the assumption that government is a construct of the people? Such an assumption is extra-Biblical since, as Bill reminded us, government is a God-ordained institution of authority.

    I suggest that Biblically, government, family and church are the three institutions God has provided to assist us in living a life of self-discipline. Each has delegated authority over people, with limited jurisdiction, plus the power to discipline for breaches of the rules.

    At the moment, government dominates over both family and the church, and we see the consequences in what Dr Morse writes about – vastly expanded government intrusion, especially since the “liberating [read libertarian] sixties” when individual freedom became the supreme goal of life.

    [Historical comment] notice that the sixties attempt to “throw off the chains of oppression” has actually backfired, as Dr Morse recounts, so that we have more intrusion and less individual freedom now than in the fifties.

    John Angelico

  • Thanks Lee

    The trouble with deep and complex debates is that they can hardly be done justice with by brief comments. Almost all of what you say I find problematic, so an article or two would be needed to deal with your thinking properly. And I am not sure if you have actually read both my articles, and the four I linked to. They go a long way in making my case.

    But a few quick points if I may. It is the idea that the state somehow created marriage that I am rejecting. Of course any time it legislates on marriage, there will be definitional aspects to it. That is not my point. My point is the state did not create marriage, but simply recognised it, and when it seeks to redefine what marriage is, then that work of redefinition must be challenged. Libertarians seem to think we are to just all sit back and let the activists destroy marriage, and let the radicals destroy everything else which is worthwhile, be it by legalising drugs, porn, and prostitution and so on. Sorry, some things are worth fighting for, even on the legislative level. The libertarian aversion to having the state be involved in any of this is just a cheap excuse for immorality and amorality. It certainly is not about biblical social responsibility. I am not buying for a moment the libertarian escapism and irresponsibility.

    If the homosexual activists seek to use the state to redefine and destroy marriage, then I for one will certainly fight this on that level as well, and not make lame excuses about the state not being involved, or not supposed to be involved, and so on.

    You say, “The fact that you all are so keen to have the state ‘protect’ it shows how little faith you have in the power of a good idea.” Marriage has always been subject of legislation, as long as states have existed. There was Mosaic legislation about marriage, and Greco-Romans laws, and so on. So did Yahweh have little faith in the good idea of marriage because he thought legislation was valid for it? One might as well argue that laws against murder should be dropped because it shows how little faith we have in a good idea.

    Neither is your other cop-out of any use – at least for biblical Christians: “Instead of having the state interfering in the private business, you let people decide for themselves”. OK, let’s just have open slather, since God obviously does not give a rip about any of these matters. Consensual paedophilia? Hey, fine. Polygamy and polyamory? No worries? Incest? Bestiality? It is all just fine for the libertarians, and we are just supposed to let people do what they see is right in their own eyes. Hmmm, seems we saw that happen in the book of Judges and the outcome was very bad indeed.

    This is simply a complete abdication of Christian responsibility, on both a state and individual level. Righteousness exalts a nation, we are told, and some things are worth fighting for. A complete hands off approach in moral issues is a recipe for disaster, and I care too much about my own children to have such a cavalier and unbiblical mindset. (BTW: how many children do you have?)

    All societies have taken an interest in, and regulated for, heterosexual marriage, because of the tremendous benefits marriage gives to society. Marriage is a social institution, not a private contract. Thus libertarian thoughts about it are completely amiss. This is a social good which has always had social support and undergirding. And that has been entirely proper and sensible. I will always fight for the God-ordained institution of marriage, and I do not buy for a moment your ludicrous claim that in doing so I am somehow giving the Greens what they want. This is really the foolish end of libertarianism speaking, and it is as reckless as it is senseless.

    Suffice it to say I am a Christian, so Christ and the Bible are my ultimate guides here, not secular libertarian ideology. If the lobby work I do on behalf of families, marriage and children is offensive to you, then I suggest you go elsewhere to spread your moral anarchy – it is not biblical and it certainly will contribute to the eventual death of any Western nation.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,

    I too reject that the state has created marriage, which is the main reason why I want the state to stay out of it. You say libertarians sit back and watch activists destroy marriage but if marriage finds its value in people (like you and me), in the community, how could it ever be destroyed? That is where we depart in a substantial way: you think that culture finds its value in the state’s ‘recognition’ of it, I say that it finds its value in the collective action of individuals regardless of whether the state ‘recognises’ it or not. As it did for thousands and thousands of years, marriage did just fine through the cultural institutions that existed well before the modern nation-state.

    If the strength of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual (LMH) marriage dies, it isn’t because the state didn’t protect it – its because individuals have changed their value of it. Hollywood or Home and Away or Colin Barnett or Julia Gillard cannot singlehandedly destroy marriage – they will only reflect what the culture they live in values. The cultural shift away from LMH marriage (as you well know) has been going on for a long time (I would argue since the Enlightenment).

    This is why it is pointless dying in a ditch over an amendment to a superfluous Marriage Act – it is redundant because marriage finds its power not in the state but in the people. State coercion has never changed the heart of anyone and it will not start, no matter how much you desperately wish it to.

    (As an aside: it is also worth pointing out that there is no comparison between the Law of Moses and the laws of everyone else – the Law of Moses existed to show the people of God how to live as God’s people in God’s land. It has little relevance outside of that context except to show the nature of God’s character).

    You seem to think that I am ok with homosexual marriage – I am personally not. I wouldn’t ever marry to homosexuals, I would never attend a church that did and I would leave a church that decided to start marrying homosexuals. The difference between you and me is that you want to force people to abide by your convictions where I want to persuade them to share my convictions (primarily through the preaching of the gospel).

    You seem to think (as you have pinned me as some straw-man libertarian) that I don’t think there are things worth fighting for – I think that there are LOTS of things worth fighting for!!!! You may find this a shock Bill but I agree with your take on the destructive nature of any form of sexuality outside of LMH marriage. Those things are terribly destructive! And the reason I comment on your blog is because I appreciate that you do fight for them. You should! Where we part ways is that I think that the best way to resolve how consenting adults should live is through persuasion and debate and you think it is through coercion and state intervention.

    Part of your problem is your inconsistency. I would be genuinely shocked if at any point you would say that Christianity should be legislated for all people – that by law, everyone should be a Christian. I imagine you would think such a thing anathema and you would sharply condemn any such suggestion. We would both agree that the way you get people to become Christians is by the work of the Holy Spirit in persuading them of their need for Christ, through the preaching of the gospel. You cannot compel people to become Christians – you can only convince them, and any attempt to compel them (no matter how well intended) would be completely counterproductive.

    Why, then, do you think you can change any other part of culture by compulsion? If you cannot compel people to take heed of the single most important decision, how they respond to Jesus, why do you think it would be any different in any other aspect of their moral lives? If you can accept that people reject the only thing that really matters, Jesus, and live peaceably with them anyway (provided they do likewise), why can’t you accept how consenting adults respond to marriage or drugs or anything can result in people living civilly side-by-side?

    We ALREADY live in the time of Judges – every man does what he sees as right in his own eyes and that will not change until the day the Lord Jesus returns. All we can do to change the hearts of others is, as far as it depends on us, living peaceably with others and by preaching the gospel faithfully. What you are promoting is the violence of the state against those consenting adults living their lives peaceably, which runs contrary to how God’s people should conduct themselves.

    Lee Herridge

  • Thanks again Lee

    But I am not with you here. I get your sort of thinking all the time here – but from atheists, anarchists and secular humanists. I expect it from them, but I sure don’t expect it from those claiming to be biblical Christians.

    Where exactly do I say that “culture finds its value in the state’s ‘recognition’ of it”? Perhaps we need to go back to Politics 101 here. What is the purpose of government? Whenever we have more than one person living on the planet, we have society, and in a fallen world, God has ordained government to deal with messy social relations. It is God who said government is a good way to keep evil in check and enforce the common good. Culture is made by God, and so is government. Both are important in a fallen world, and both can help maintain a moral social ecology.

    The value of not murdering others is a cultural good, but no one says it can exist on its own. In a fallen world we need regulation and the force of the sword to ensure that this cultural good is observed and maintained. Anything of value in a fallen world is fragile and susceptible to being abused, misused or overturned. Thus there is a God-given place to allow regulation and legislation to support, strengthen and if need be prop up any socially good institutions. Only dreamy-eyed romantics who reject the biblical notion of sin would decry such supporting structures. Of course government is not the only one – mediating structures play a crucial role here as well, such as church and family. These are also God-ordained institutions. But that does not mean we simply ditch government altogether here. I would think that only anarchists and radical followers of Rousseau would find a problem with any of this sort of thinking.

    And as I keep having to remind you: marriage is not a private contract. It never has been. It has always been a social institution, and as such, societies and even states have a keen interest in it, especially since it deals with the next generation. Your hands-off libertarianism in regards to marriage is simply historically incorrect. Societies have always taken an active interest in the institution of marriage, and rightly so. They have always recognised, supported and even favoured this most helpful of social institutions.

    As to Moses, the secular libertarians may say that morality must somehow be free of government coercion or restraint. The fact that God thinks otherwise shows the lack of biblical thinking on their part. All laws and all governments deal with morality all the time. God sees no problem with this, and neither should we. I know secular humanists don’t like this, but Christians should have no issues with this.

    And please tell us all where I state that I “want to force people to abide by [my] convictions”. I am afraid your straw men, red herrings, and non sequiturs are becoming a bit worrisome here. To affirm God’s design for human sexuality, and to engage when necessary at the social, legislative and political levels to make the case for it and to defend it and promote it has absolutely nothing to do with coercing others into accepting my beliefs. It is called exercising my rights as a citizen living in a democracy. Sorry but you tend to sound far more like an atheist and a secularist here than a biblical Christian.

    Moreover, there is no inconsistency on my part whatsoever. Please inform all of us where I have ever said the state should “compel people to become Christians”? We are nowhere ordered in Scripture to coerce people into belief. We are however told that God created the state and ordained the use of force to maintain justice and restrain evil. The two are quite different, so I am baffled as to why you cannot see this.

    And yes radicals can do a very real and very thorough job of destroying things like marriage. It is happening as we speak. The idea that we just sit back and do nothing, because it does not fit our libertarian ideology, helps absolutely no one. With all due respect, the truth is this: when the radicals have won this battle, and destroyed the institution of marriage, and people like me have been imprisoned, websites like this have been closed down for being hate-speech sites, and my book has been banned, there will be one group of people who will have to take responsibility for all this. It certainly will not be those like me who realised what a very real threat this was, and fought it with all our might on every level possible: spiritual, cultural, social, intellectual, political, legal and legislative. My side will not take the blame for this – we did everything we could to prevent this.

    No, it will be those who just smugly sat back and did nothing, justifying this inaction and apathy in the name of secular humanist notions of individualism and freedom. Their theoretical libertarian defences of these abstract notions simply resulted in a total hands off, laissez faire attitude to all this: ‘hey, it is none of the government’s business – they have no reason to get involved. So whatever happens, happens.’ It will be those folks who deserted the cause in the name of humanistic ideology that will have to answer for all this. It sure won’t be people like me.

    I am so glad the libertarians and Randians were not actively around at the time of Wilberforce. They would have told him to just ease up – this is not a government issue. Slavery is a private matter, an economics issue – it won’t impact anyone else anyway. Coercion cannot stop this. So don’t use politics and legislation to fight this: it will just lead to bigger government and more tyranny. “What you are promoting is the violence of the state.” Besides, we trust the people will work it out for themselves. “All we can do to change the hearts of others.” Yeah right.

    Sorry Lee, I am just not at all with you on all this. I get this unhelpful line of thinking all the time from the atheists and secularists. It saddens me when it comes from those claiming to be biblical Christians. So we will just have to agree to disagree here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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