Liberals and conservatives both believe that as Americans, we should be moral people. The major difference is where their morality intersects with their politics. Most conservatives believe that our morality should come from religion, separate from government. Most progressives incorporate moral guidance as a function of government.
The humanistic tendencies of the political left assume that morality can be governed by state laws and dismiss religion as an origin and arbiter of moral law. Therefore, government must become a humanist’s ultimate authority to address and regulate human nature.
The problem with using the limited resources of government for such a broad purpose is its impracticality. It’s hard to convey “being good” as written law. It’s even more difficult to express that sentiment to those who are not inclined to “be good” and will adhere to only the letter of the law, not the intent. Almost every instance of determining right from wrong must, then, have a clear, enforceable written law.
The founding of the United States took cues from Judeo-Christian principles on freedom and morality…and over 80 percent of Americans today still hold those values. I’ll use a biblical reference to highlight my point: In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus explained the New Laws, He was teaching that the Old Laws were being adhered to only by the letter, but no longer by the spirit they were intended. Other man-made laws had also been created to supplement a falling away from core commandments.
When we fail to understand why something is right or wrong, we lose our moral compass to arbitrary rules of conduct. Rather than adhere to just the letter of the law — of not committing murder or adultery, for example — Jesus taught that we must understand the sins of the “heart.” Anger leads to murder; lust leads to adultery. As Jesus proves, morality isn’t as easy as following a set of laws; it’s about changing the natural inclinations of our “heart” — our nature.
There is a fundamental point that humanists don’t understand about the power of Judeo-Christian faith in God. To have faith in God, one acknowledges that we are flawed beings and must rely on divine mercy and guidance for morality to rise above our base nature. Humanists believe the “savage” man is not flawed (i.e., in no spiritual need) and that it is possible to create a human Utopia. (See the French Revolution for a complete application of this humanistic theory.)
John Adams once said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Our Constitution is based on the view that our morality comes from our religion. It sees the overall role of government as one of basic regulation and protection from foreign and domestic enemies. Therefore, when citizens take responsibility for morality through their religion, the rewards and consequences of those citizens’ actions stay mostly within the realm of spirituality. This self-regulation serves as a positive influence on individual responsibility and personal freedom.
Governmental laws, then, can apply to those sins that affect other citizens, such as theft and murder, to be adjudicated by our court system and with juries of mostly moral peers. This approach to government allows maximum, realistic independence for all American citizens. But when morality erodes, as Adams warns, then our government needs to create more laws to maintain order. These new laws continually limit freedom and will eventually kill the spirit of liberty in America.
Progressives have proven through their regulation and governmental style their belief that morality can be translated into laws, which can then be enforced through government. Leftists’ collective morality, usually called something akin to “social justice,” is what feels fair and right (most recently: moral obligations for universal health care, top-notch education, etc.). The government is the ultimate authority for a morality defined by fickle, subjective social justice issues. However, when government tries to enforce morality in the absence of citizens’ religious faith, secular moral laws quickly turn into draconian rules that take away more and more freedom from citizens.
When morality starts and ends with the letter of the law, it must be conveyed and documented comprehensively — without flaw, redundancy, conflict, or loopholes. This is the only way for government to enforce morality.
So far, our laws have utterly failed in this task. The more laws we create, the more each benefits one group over another. By design, our laws are impossible to fully know and understand, so they become weapons against political adversaries, as nearly everything can be considered a crime. In effect, attempting to fully legislate and secularize morality creates a flawed and tyrannical government.
Governments cannot create and enforce morality — only law. The more corrupt a government becomes (as our human nature predicts), the more laws are created for power rather than justice — which is the reason why governments cannot be the arbiters of morality. In addition, when Americans stop taking responsibility for self-regulated morality, then the heavy hand of government must attempt to control human nature and suffocate our free will. If we lose the ability to know not only what is right and wrong, but why it is right or wrong, then we stop being moral. We become simply law-abiding, compliant.
HT: American Thinker