Those who want to opt out of serving at same-sex “marriage” functions often claim a right to religious liberty. Some say it is a matter of following one’s beliefs and conscience. Still others believe it involves freedom of speech and opinions.
Such claims, while valid, are doomed to fail, because the center of the debate is no longer in the realm of upholding civil liberties. Rather, it has touched upon the sensitive issue of morality and sin.
Of course, progressives will deny this since they have adroitly framed religious liberty laws as “license to discriminate” legislation. However, by railroading laws into the books that compel people to participate in acts they consider sinful, activists will actually be establishing “command to sin” laws for the first time in American history.
If this happens, it will be a major step in the breaking of the American consensus that has long been the framework by which Americans agreed to get along and enjoy their freedoms while maintaining order.
There has always been tension between freedom and order inside this consensus. However, what lessened the tension was the fact that the American consensus was historically a Christian one with moral rules loosely based on the Ten Commandments, which served as a glue to keep society together and a platform for a prosperous republic. Most Americans, whether believers or not, always respected religion as a source of stability and order inside this consensus.
All that changed in the whirlwind of the sixties when moral certainties were reduced to a mishmash of vague ideas, beliefs and opinions. Moral restraints were overturned and questioned. In such a relativistic framework, liberals have sought to deem all beliefs and opinions equal. No one belief has a superior claim to rights over another. In a climate of unrestraint, everyone is encouraged to “do their own thing” as long as they do not hurt the other.
In such a regime, however, some beliefs prove more equal than others. All it takes is an offended person to arise and claim to be hurt by the other, and the majority (usually Christian) is soon compelled to change its beliefs. Moreover, the State has often intervened and taken measures contrary to the beliefs of others, especially in the field of sexual morality, as might be seen in the case of abortion and recent “marriage” laws.
The resulting Culture War in America has largely been fought on the battlefield of morals and sin by those who protest the slide toward disorder. It is a curious battle since liberals are careful to avoid the mention of sin. They have an advantage if they can reduce sin to a mere opinion among many, and God to a vague belief.
If Christians are to win, they must affirm categorically that sin is not a mere opinion. Sin is an act that not only offends God, but one that causes disorder in society. The reason why sin offends God is because it violates His universal moral law that applies to everyone. Indeed, it is so much a part of human nature that Saint Paul says this law is written on every heart (Cf. Rom. 2:15). Sin must be opposed because it is an irrational act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law.
This God-given moral code is what maintains order in society. It is the foundation of all law including the American Constitution. Through this natural moral law, everyone knows that lying, stealing and killing are wrong. They also know that no one can be forced to sin.
That is what makes the present phase of the Culture War so alarming. It is no longer a matter of not sinning – not committing abortion, for example. Rather, recent mandates and laws are perilously close to forcing Christians to actually sin by assenting to or facilitating sinful relationships or acts. Such measures put at stake a person’s eternal salvation … and all society.
When the glue that keeps American society together no longer holds, the social order will shatter into a thousand pieces. When the moral law is absent, big government easily establishes itself as a secular tribunal to dictate to Christians what acts are “sinful” and which are not. From there, it is only a small step to suppress religion itself.
That is why it is important to continue the fight for America’s return to order.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Soceity--Where We've Been, How We Go Here, and Where We Need to Go. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.