Elijah Friedeman, The Millennial Perspective
On Monday night, during the Republican debate, the moderator asked Congressman Ron Paul if faith has a role in public issues.
Ron Paul's answer revealed the lens through which he sees the world, and exactly why so many conservatives won't support him for president.
Paul said, "We shouldn't expect us to try to change morality. You can't teach people how to be moral."
Ron Paul's declaration is in the same vein as the popular saying, "You can't legislate morality" which so often is hurled in the faces of social conservatives who believe in upholding societal standards.
Both Paul's statement that "you can't teach people how to be moral" and the oft-quoted "you can't legislate morality" attain the depths of utter foolishness.
Granted, passing a law that makes theft wrong won't convince the people, who want to profit off of others' work, that stealing is wrong. If someone doesn't have moral qualms about an action, chances are good that he will engage in that behavior.
But every single law that has ever been passed in this nation carries with it a culture-shaping message about right and wrong, and each law legislates morality in some way.
The law is a teacher, training people about what kind of behavior is acceptable, right, and - yes - even moral in a culture. If all of us grew up in a society that said polygamy was acceptable and right behavior, we would likely agree with that view. But our society frowns upon polygamy to the point that we have rightfully made it illegal. So we, in turn, believe the practice of polygamy is wrong. It's worth pointing out, though, that polygamy wouldn't be illegal if Ron Paul could have his way.
Everyone, in every culture throughout history, has had an understanding of right and wrong, but that understanding is strongly influenced by a person's culture and its standards of morality.
When our nation was founded, the practice of slavery was largely accepted as moral by the citizens of America. It took almost one-hundred years, but the enslavement of human beings was eventually outlawed. Now, everyone agrees that slavery is immoral. The anti-slavery laws shaped the national perception about the morality of slavery.
Reason and logic stand in stark contrast to Congressman Paul's claim that you can't teach morality. As if that weren't enough, it's important to note that God disagrees as well.
In Exodus, after the Israelite people had escaped slavery, God gave them the Law, a moral code that would shape how their fledgling nation, raised in a pagan culture, would understand morality. As evidenced by the Israelites' behavior, God didn't change their hearts, but he did give them a set of laws that served as guiding principles for their culture.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul talked about why the law of the Old Testament was instituted. He said, "The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient."
God thought it was necessary to institute laws that would influence Israelite culture, teaching morality to the lawless. In doing so, He set a precedent which we should follow.
We cannot implant morality in people's hearts. But we can enact moral standards that shape the morality of our culture.
Congressman Paul apparently ascribes to a libertarian philosophy that says people should be allowed to exercise their "rights" without lawmakers trying to teach morality through imposing standards of right and wrong.
The flaw in his theory is that our laws do
shape how we perceive morality.
If we buy into the fallacy of libertarianism like Ron Paul does, it may take decades, but this nation's collective understanding of what is moral will completely shift. A culture like that will experience moral and social degradation to the point of its demise.
It is the duty of Christians in any society to change the morality of that culture so that immoral behavior is recognized as such.
If Ron Paul and proponents of libertarianism are successful in spreading their worldview, we will wake up in several decades and realize that our nation's moral compass no longer functions, because the laws of our nation do not reflect a right view of morality.
If we reach that point, God help us.