Civil Government and Moral Responsibility 

By David Pharr 

The Bible shows the necessity of civil government and admonishes Christians to be "subject unto the higher powers" (Rom. 13:1). We are told, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lordís sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors" (1 Pet. 2:13f). Peter adds in verse 17 that we are to "honor the king." It is necessary that society have government, and it is expected that Christian people will obey its laws and show respect toward civil authorities.

In showing the necessity of civil government, the Bible is equally plain in showing what the purpose of such government ought to be. Peter says that it is "for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well" (1 Pet. 2:14). Paulís explanation likewise shows that the God-ordained purpose of government is not that rulers should be "a terror to good works, but to the evil" (Rom. 13:3). The governments of this world, and their agents, are "ministers of God," when they attend to this necessary and noble purpose (Rom. 13:4, 6). When, however, any government becomes a supporter of evil and a threat to good, it has abandoned its God-given purpose.

When the New Testament was written, government corruption and tyranny were widespread. In spite of this, Christians were instructed to fulfill their duties to the government, the only exception being when obedience to such authorities puts one into direct conflict with the will of God (Acts 4:19; 5:29).

Probably no nation has ever enjoyed such a favorable history of benevolent rule as has the United States. The people of America are better protected and given more freedom than most people enjoy. There is a reason for this, and that reason lies in the fact that this government was founded upon ideals that respected and embraced Christian principles. This is not to say that the founding fathers were all Christians; neither is it to say that all of them were men of conscience and integrity. It is to say that the influence of Christianity was sufficiently prevalent so that freedom and justice had to be cornerstones of the American system. Morality was seen to be essential to the well-being of society.

Some interesting quotations recently appeared in a Tennessee newspaper. These are not quotations which will be found in the textbooks of our modern public schools. In fact, these things might be ruled unconstitutional if they were taught in public school history classes today. The problem is not whether they are true; the problem is that they do not fit the humanist agenda. They are not politically correct.

George Washington, in his "Farewell Address," said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars and remove religion and morality from politics." 

John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, said, "Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

Todayís Supreme Court would no doubt rule the first chief justice out of order for such a statement!

John Quincy Adams said, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

We can only wonder how tragically different our history might have been if this continent had been settled by Muslims or Hindus or New Agers or by politicians like those today who are so willing to coddle sin and who are so afraid to take a stand for Christian moral values. Some say America has now entered a "post-Christian era." This may be true! 

This is not an article about political parties. Frankly, I do not have much confidence in politics at all. This is not an article to tell people how they should vote. Neither is this an article intended to make any readers angry with me (though it will probably upset some). The ugly, shameful, undeniable truth is, however, that in his first week in office the new president issued an order that will encourage the killing of babies and sought to take action that would give respectability and acceptability to the filthy perversions of the so-called "gays."

In a Sunday Bible class the question was raised as to how Clinton and Gore can take the positions they do on these issues when they claim to be members of the Southern Baptist Church. The answer, I think, is that they are politicians first and Baptists second. We differ with our Baptist neighbors on many points, but it would be unfair to suggest that somehow being Baptists caused the president and vice president to take the positions they take. It is also a frequent reality that polities and religion donít mix ó not because they shouldnít but because they have become so incompatible. Government leaders have taken their positions on the issues we have cited either because they lack the moral intelligence to know what is right, or else they lack the moral courage to do what is right, and probably it is a combination of both. 

It is somewhat ironic that only a few months ago Tipper Gore, the wife of the vice president, was working to have warning labels put on musical recordings when the lyrics are obscene. And apparently the then Senator Gore stood with her. We applauded her efforts. Then when political opportunity presented itself, she took to the campaign trail under the leadership of a candidate who has made no secret about his rejection of many Christian moral principles. Senator Gore himself made the inane explanation that while he did not favor abortion, he did favor freedom of choice. He is not the only one to try to hide behind this foolish facade. It is nothing more than moral cowardice. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong. If it is wrong, it is the duty of government to stop it, not to allow people to make their own choices about it. Remember, it is the purpose of government to punish people who do wrong. It certainly is not to give them a choice. To press the point, it certainly is not the duty of government to take the money of taxpayers to encourage and assist those who choose to kill babies.

But we are told, "You canít legislate morality." This is one of those stupid statements that has been repeated so often that thoughtless people just assume that it must be true. (It is like the oft-repeated notion that "prohibition failed." It was not prohibition that failed. What failed was a government that lacked the will to uphold the wishes of the people.) 

No, legislation cannot make people have the right kind of hearts. Neither will it stop all immoral activity. But properly enforced legislation against immorality will put the government back into the business that God ordained for it. The fact is, however, that morality is actually being legislated all the time. Laws against drug abuse and civil rights laws are obvious examples of morality legislation. Those who argue that morality cannot be legislated usually mean only such legislation that would interfere with their own lifestyle.

A few months ago the nation watched the Clarence Thomas hearings. Regardless of who we might have thought was telling the truth, those hearings dragged out all the dirt that could be scraped up. We watched and listened as every sordid detail was exposed, questioned, refuted, and exposed some more. I have no sympathy for any wrongdoing which might have been committed by either party. What is astonishing, though, is how so much ado was made over what was charged as being sexual harassment, when it is common knowledge that fornication, drunkenness, adultery, and other immoralities are a part of the lifestyles of some of the very ones who eventually voted for or against Judge Thomas. 

While we are on the subject of congressional hearings, let us propose some. Why not a televised hearing on abortion? Why not show some real evidence? Congress may pass a national right-to-abortion law. Will there be the kind of thorough and detailed hearings like there were in the Clarence Thomas case? Will the whole story be told of how certain abortion methods burn the flesh off the infants? Will there be televised testimony about suction devices that shred the bodies of babies as they are ripped from the womb? Again, I make no claim to being a prophet, but I think I know that such testimony will never be allowed. You see, that would not be "politically correct."

Or will there be hearings that will reveal how depraved homosexuality really is? Yes, there will be some hearings, but they will be kept on a politically acceptable level. We will not expect that much attention will be given to Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; or Leviticus 18:22; 20:13. Actually little will be said about such texts in churches, so we could hardly expect to hear them in Congress. I doubt that any questions will be asked that will really bring out the filth and depravity. You may also be pretty sure that the news media will avoid sharing very much of any sordidness. 

Instead, the populace will hear more of the same old tripe about how gays never hurt anybody and that they want to be treated just like regular people. The gay advocates and their friends in government know that most Americans would suffer sickening revulsion if the whole truth about homosexual practices were accurately and completely made known. Of course, several celebrities will be brought in to tell of what great contributions gays have made, and a few million gullible people will fall for some more of the devilís lies.

In the debate over gays in the military our concern is over moral principle, not practical effectiveness. Whether gays can effectively do their duty is not the problem. The fact that there have been gays who have served well in the military or anywhere else is not denied. The real issue is whether presidential policies, congressional policies, public policies, should imply acceptance of moral perversions as merely an alternate lifestyle. Paulís description of heathenism is directly on target: 

For even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another: men with men working that which is unseemly ... who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Rom. 1:26-27, 32).
One of the propaganda tricks being used by the pro-gays in the government and in the media is to say that "discrimination" against homosexuals is the same as discrimination against blacks. This is a slick bit of sophistry intended to make those who oppose homosexual practices appear as bigots. There is such an essential difference between the two issues, however, as to make them totally without parallel. To those who respect the Word of God, the difference is obvious: Racism is an evil that the government needs to correct; homosexuality is an evil that some in government want to approve!

Some states and cities have already passed laws which give special protection for homosexuals. We are not referring to mere protection against their being abused. We are as opposed as anyone to that. The gay rights laws, however, go far beyond the kind of protection which should be provided every person. They may require landlords to rent to homosexuals. Some will allow marriage between members of the same sex. Under some of these laws, employers cannot have any anti-gay literature in the work place. This would, of course, have the effect of outlawing the Bible. Brother, you may be sure that the wheels are turning to make such laws for the entire nation. 

I did not watch the presidential inauguration, but I understand that the tradition of placing the hand on the Bible was a part of it. This tradition is common when a person takes office at most levels of government. This should be a symbol of an officialís intent to seek to serve according to the will of God. If, however, the principles of the Bible, especially its plain declarations on moral issues, are going to be willfully disregarded, this has to be a hypocritical and sacrilegious performance. One might as well put his hand on a rabbitís foot or embrace a statue of a toad! When the Bibleís teaching means nothing, what does it mean to lay oneís hand on the Bible?

Americans have a special privilege in that they are free to express their concerns to the leaders of the nation. Too many of us say too little. One does not have to be an articulate writer to make his concerns known. All that is needed is a postcard or a simple letter, saying, "I oppose abortion. I oppose acceptance of homosexual practices. I stand for Christian moral values." Such letters should be sent to officials in every level of government, from the president down to the local councilman. Politicians may not pay much attention to what God says, but they usually notice what the voters say. Less than 2 percent of Americans are gay, yet they have made themselves heard. Friends and brethren, it is time for the rest of us to be heard.

One other point needs to be emphasized. Neither abortion nor homosexual practices are unpardonable sins. They are indeed heinous, but even these crimes can be forgiven. As followers of Christ, we should hate sin but love sinners. It is not denied that homosexuals may not have chosen to be attracted to members of their own sex. Let this be granted. But the fact remains that God demands that they keep those urges under control. The fact that oneís psychology tempts him to be a homosexual, to be one who craves bestiality, to be a child molester, or to be a heterosexual fornicator does not give him license to practice such sins. Read James 1:14-15.

Returning now to the original thought of this article: The purpose of civil government is to protect those who do right and to prevent and punish those who do evil. The kind of evil that ought to especially concern government is moral evil. Unless the government of the United States reverses its direction, we shall become as Sodom and Gomorrah.

We are taught to pray for "all that are in authority; that we may lead a quite and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We will pray for the president and all who are in authority. May God bless the government and the people of the United States of America in all that is wholesome and good. May God send whatever chastisement is needed to save this country from destroying itself.

Published October 1993