Archive for October 1st, 2015

Government changes, but morality has not ‘flip-flopped’

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015 8:37 am
By Ford Peterson

In his Sept. 24 commentary, “Why liberals always win, as history’s tide flows left,” James Haught illustrates a common misconception about morality and the proper role of government.

The author points out that an act of sodomy is no longer punishable by prison. Two unfaithful spouses can commit adultery, secure a divorce (without fault), and unwed motherhood has become the norm in some neighborhoods — the public stigmas are gone. We prohibited and then ended the prohibition of booze. Government not only sanctions, but also pays for ending of an “unwanted” pregnancy. Although the commentary fails to mention the subject, we can add that marriage is no longer between men and women exclusively.

He continues, “Within my lifetime, morality flip-flopped. Conservative thou-shalt-nots lost their grip on society. Liberals won — yet it happened so gradually that hardly anyone noticed.”

I strongly disagree. Morality has not “flip-flopped.” Our licentious attitude towards others who commit conservative taboos has changed. Everyone has “noticed.”
Many have reacted to changes to the way our government responds to moral controversy: debates, lawsuits, Supreme Court decisions, fights at all levels of government, civil disobedience, and even riots. Progressives won the legal battles and the right to engage in seemingly errant behavior, but progressives did not “win” in the way that Haught means.

Moral people did not lose the moral argument. Rather, the machinery of government has been compelled to tweak its definition of punishable sin. Our collective history has decided that no man or elected body has the right to enforce the majority’s flavor of morality.

Controversy abounds, but marriage, abortion, immigration, waste, pollution, exploitation, violence against others are not controversial for those with moral convictions. The law only decides what we must accept as allowable, not what is right, useful, helpful, or kind. John B. Finch, chairman of the Prohibition National Committee in 1882, summed up government’s role when he said, “… your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins. Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes.”

Make no mistake. Morality has not changed, but what we can expect our government to enforce on behalf of the majority opinion has changed. What we can expect our government to include in our children’s training — public school — has changed. The responsibility for moral education rests with parents, teaching by example what it means to be human. Society should never have delegated this important role to government, because the law rightly prohibits government from doing so. The human obligation to train children rests with parents, not public institutions.

Our quest for a “more perfect union,” in the words of Abraham Lincoln, is never ending. We cannot expect any party, or elected official, to enforce, or teach, true morality. All people of our communities, the moral and the immoral, must coexist without hostility. As the evening news bears witness to those living in places without the blessing of our heritage, we can thank all former Americans for creating this place of peace.

Of course, freedoms can only exist with limits — do not cry “fire” in a theater when there is no fire and do not swing your arms in a way to cause injury to others. These principles establish our civil society. Each legal battle that pushed for civil changes did so because the majority that established the rules bruised noses. Humanity must surrender to tolerance, or suffer the consequence and injustice of unresolved conflict.

While our nation has become more tolerant of the licentiousness of others, we must work to maintain strong family to teach morality without government’s help, and continue the moral vigil over ourselves. We must leave it to God — not government — to be our source of moral knowledge and our everlasting judge.