This post has to accomplish quite a lot by way of background before I can get to the subject at hand, so please bear with me as I set the stage. The first and heaviest prop needed for this particular display is a less “American” and more Biblical understanding of morality and rights.
As I’m sure you’re aware, much of American morality comes down to a little something we call rights. The idea is that all people have them and that you shouldn’t make like a bull and trample them underfoot. In this sense, morality is essentially other-focused. Do whatever you’d like, but don’t squish anyone’s rights. This is the foundation upon which our culture builds most of its morality.
American morality has not always been built on rights, although as a nation it has always had them in view. The Declaration of Independence spoke of rights and built on them, but at that time, rights were built on the presupposition of a Creator, Who is today largely ignored by ethicists and lawmakers.
It should come as no surprise to you, but the final day of creation was not the day on which God endowed man with rights. In fact, the Bible speaks very little of rights (the word isn’t even used in translations of the Bible older than our nation). Scripture builds its morality on the Law of God and not on the importance or equality of man.
No one would deny that one reason God commanded us not to murder is because murder harms people. That’s pretty obvious. But after King David committed murder, he recognized that his sin was against God and His righteous Law (Psalm 51:4). This is how the Bible wants us to think of morality. Biblical morality is not about protecting people’s rights; it’s about following God’s Law—which happens to do a pretty good job of protecting what we call rights, by the way.
This means that people who love and study God’s Law are not the legalists they are often made out to be. The legalists are those who ignore God’s law and think they can establish another system: one built on the idea of rights, for example. People who think that capital punishment should be enforced because God’s Law commands it and He knows best, they are like the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119. People who think that capital punishment is too harsh and that it is unjust to forcibly take away a criminal’s right to life, they are like Pharisees—be they Christian, Jewish, or Atheist.
Leveraging a Broken System
While the Law of the Lord is perfect and gives life (Psalm 19:7); the same cannot be said for a law system that ignores God. Our system of rights attempts to ensure there are never any victims, or at least none that can complain. Complaining and victimization actually explains a great deal about our current problems.
I want to start addressing these issues by affirming the fact that there are definitely victims, but they are not the same-sex couples who make out like bandits by filing lawsuits against Christian photographers and bakers. Our system tends to favor the whiners, and for this reason we’ve provided everyone with health care while murdering millions of babies behind the scenes. Why does a mother’s right to her body supersede the child’s right to live? Because the baby can’t whine yet.
Abortion is handy because when your reason for working during the week is Friday night’s fornicating, accidents happen and God likes to bring life out of accidents. Caring for children is a lot of time and money. Your time and your money are your right. An unborn child should not stand between you and your right to pursue happiness, right?
More could be said about the victims of our flawed moral system, but this is not the time or the place. Right now, I want to talk about the people who are leveraging the system. The mothers and same-sex couples have figured out how to tilt the pinball machine and are raking in rights left and, uh… right. Their strategy is to play the victim.
Because our system, instead of being built on God’s Law, is built on primum non nocere (first, do no harm), all you have to do to get noticed is claim to have been harmed. This is precisely why abortion and same-sex marriage debates center around rights.
Christians have also figured this out, at least subconsciously. We find ourselves fighting sexual-freedom rights with religious-freedom rights, fighting the right to choose with the right to live. As strategies go, it could be worse and I don’t wish to entirely condemn it. Answer the fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Not Leveraging the System
As Christians, we might leverage the system by pointing out that the other side is violating its own foundations. However, as we answer the fool according to his folly, we need to be careful lest we become like him. Their morality is built on rights (which they violate), but ours must be built on God’s Law.
Much of Christian response to the secularization of our nation and laws has been the same kind of whining that the secularists have been doing. Our rights are going to be squashed! Every group gets treated fairly except ours! That guy looked at me funny when I mentioned Jesus…
As we look to Scripture, we do not often see the prophets pleading to be allowed to continue preaching on the basis of rights. When Amos is told to stop prophesying because of the upset it is causing among the people, he doesn’t claim an inalienable right to free speech. Rather, he speaks God’s Word authoritatively and refuses to stop prophesying on the grounds that God had called him to speak (Amos 7:15). Similarly, the apostles refused to stop preaching not because they had the right to free speech, but because they had to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Of course, Jesus did point out that He was being victimized on a few occasions (John 8:37), but this wasn’t to preserve his life (since He was planning on dying); rather, He was trying to show the Pharisees their hypocrisy. Paul leveraged the Roman legal system, but this was partly a strategy so that he could take the gospel to Rome.
As Christians, we are entrusted with the Word of God and thus we are in some manner prophets (2 Timothy 3:16). As such, we are called to speak out against the sins of our world and our government. Whining is, in some cases, a legitimate tactic—but it must never be the endgame. We need to use wisdom and distinguish between whining-as-strategy and whining-as-reaction. Our whining must be calculated, not conditioned. We may whine as an aide to preach God’s Word, but not because we’ve forgotten all about it.