Monthly Archives: February 2013

Is Same Sex Marriage a Civil Right? Part One

To answer this question we must first answer a number of other questions like:

  • What is a civil right?
  • How do we decide what is a civil right and what is not?
  • Who gets the final say as to what is a civil right and what is not?

Question #1 What is a civil right?

We throw around terms like “rights”, “freedom”, “human rights”, “liberty”, and “civil rights” thinking that we understand the terms and that everyone else understands them the same way we do. Often we think that we can declare we have a right and somehow it must be so; and everyone must fall in line and defend our “right”. Well it is not that easy.

All kinds of people assert that they have some “right”. There is the right to life, the right to choose, the right to privacy, property rights, reproductive rights, the right to health care, States rights, right to an education, animal rights, parental rights, the right to a fair trial, the right to just compensation; the list goes on and on. Everyone is claiming some type of right and often they are competing rights. Sometimes they are contradictory rights. .

I think we can agree that there are competing “rights” and someone declaring a right does not automatically give them that right.

So what is a civil right? I didn’t look in the dictionary because people use the term all of the time without looking it up, and to different people it means different things. Let’s break it down. Civil is the root of civilization or civilized. It applies to the city or a group of people or citizens. We talk about civil government, which is the government that rules the city or a group of people. So in one sense we could say that a civil right is one given to us by the government, but that is not accurate. We would call that a legal right. We use the term civil right to mean something different. Often we mean a right that all citizens should have whether or not the government has written a law to protect that right. Often in saying it is a civil right we are saying, ‘there should be a law’. We are saying that there is a set of rights that should be common to all citizens.

We are also saying that the government does not establish these rights. These are based on a standard outside of the government and a good government will acknowledge and protect these rights.

Question #2 How do we decide what is a civil right and what is not?

We already established that there are clear disagreements among people as to what things are civil rights and what are not.  We also established that the standard for civil rights comes from outside of the government and that a good government will acknowledge and protect civil rights. So how do we decide what qualifies as a civil right and what doesn’t? It would be easy if we could sit down and clearly discuss and explore all of the different view points on a particular issue and everyone would come to an agreement, but that is not how the world works.  Even calm intelligent honorable men and women disagree on key issues. It gets even worse when the unreasonable, loudmouth, fools with a personal gripe want to contribute to the discussion (and these people exist on both sides of any issue). So what are our options?

  1. Consensus
    As mentioned above, reaching a consensus on any issue in America is nearly impossible. Consensus is seldom if ever reached. Usually it is more like a cease fire. One side or the other finally tires of the whole debate; they give-in, temporarily, in hopes of getting on to other things. “Consensus” does not mean that there is whole hearted agreement. Is consensus a valid base on which to decide on civil rights? The advertising statement that, ‘100 million Americans can’t be wrong’ is false. 100 million Americans can be wrong. In fact it is possible that all Americans can be wrong. More than once a unanimous jury has convicted an innocent man.
  2. Democratic Process
    There is the democratic method. We discuss and debate the issue, and campaign passionately for our side and then we take a vote. The majority wins and the issue is settled. This is supposed to be the American way, the Democratic way. We even enter into wars to make the world safe for democracy.
    The truth is we are not really in love with democracy. It’s OK when our side wins but we really don’t like the idea of just overpowering the losing side. And we really hate democracy when our side loses. In California Proposition 8 passed by majority vote, establishing marriage as between one man and one woman, the opposition took it to court to have the democratic process overturned.  A vote doesn’t settle an issue it just kicks off the campaign to overturn the vote or bring it to another vote when public sympathies are more favorable.
    In our soul we all know that truth is not democratic. Just because the majority of people believe something to be true, doesn’t make it true. Just because the majority of people vote to say something is a civil right doesn’t make is a civil right, it makes it a legal right and that is all.
  3. Compromise
    In a compromise each side gets some of the things they want, and they agree to peacefully coexist based on the agreement. Again we find that compromise may or may not fully define and protect a civil right. Often a compromise simply sends one or both sides back to promoting their agenda, hoping to gain more ground in the next fight and the next “compromise”. It’s a bit like a football game. The offensive team drives the ball forward, and the defensive team resists. The ball is downed and each team goes into a huddle and plans the next play. Again they push against each other until they reach a new “compromise”.  Generally the team that attacks the most aggressively gains ground.
    In the Gay Rights debate we have moved from questions of, “Should the government protect homosexuals from discrimination in housing and employment?” to “Should same sex couples be able to register as domestic partners guaranteeing them may of the same rights as married couples”; now the question is “Should same sex marriage be a civil right?”
  4. Might Makes Right
    In the musical “Camelot”, King Arthur is living in a society in which the person with the most power gets to determine what is right. When challenged, an issue is decided in a tournament or on the field of battle. The victor is determined to be right.
    King Arthur proposes a different, more civilized approach where Noble men gather together at a round table and discuss issues and come to agreement. As the musical progresses everything is going well until immorality, corruption and cover-ups come into the kingdom, along with sins of the past. The situation deteriorates until civilization crumbles into violent conflict. All of the methods above have a tendency to decay and deteriorate until it is a pure power struggle. The group that is the most passionate about their cause and is willing to fight hard for it will continue to gain ground. Those that will bring to bear the most money, influence and power will prevail. They will hold as much ground as their power will allow. The pendulum will swing the other way when another group brings money, power and influence to push it back.
  5. Common Acceptance of a Higher Objective Standard
    If we go back to the first part of this article we discover that the whole idea of a Civil Rights rests on the idea that there is a standard of right and wrong that is above and outside of the law and personal opinion. We also assume that this is a standard that doesn’t change. Every method discussed above is subject to personal or public opinion and every one of them can change and move.
    The existence of a Higher Objective Standard assumes that there is a giver and enforcer of that standard. This is a description of God.Note: at this point some of the readers are bristling and gritting their teeth. If you are one of those, I ask that you take a deep breath and relax. Stop gritting your teeth and read the rest of the article with and open mind. Only a fool decides an issue without considering all the evidence.

    God is above all. He is moral, pure and right. He is the judge of all. He has the right and the power to enforce His perfect will. He demands and deserves to be followed. This is not a new idea. It is a solidly American concept. When the American Colonies were in conflict with Great Britain, we asserted that we had certain rights and that the might of Britain did not make them right. We made the claim that “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.” This statement says that there is a higher objective standard of rights and that all governments and men no matter their power are subject to this higher authority. A good government will protect and defend these standards and a bad government will fail to protect and defend these standards. A bad government will establish its own standards that contradict the standards of God.

Note that the 5th option is the only one that meets our idea of a civil right. At the same time there are many people that bristle at the idea of God. They especially don’t like the idea of a God that will dictate for them standards of right and wrong. They don’t like the idea that there is someone to which they must be subject. At the same time they want an external objective standard of right and wrong. This is what I call a double-cross. They want two things that are contradictory. You can’t have it both ways. Even though the 5th option is the only one that works philosophically, on a practical level we still need to work with all of the other options. For the 5th option to work fully it demands consensus. We will not have consensus as to the existence of God, what His standards are, and our obligation to follow His standards. So we will still deal with the democratic process. We will still have compromises and power struggles.

Question #3 Who gets to decide?

This question is actually two questions:
Who has the authority to decide?
Who has the power to decide or enforce the decision?

Who has the authority to decide?

If we fully accept the conclusions of the discussion above then there is only one person with the authority to decide. That person is God. He has the authority due to His position as creator, and His moral authority as the only one that is pure, holy and just.

Who has the power to enforce the decision?

I bring this up because at some level it still boils down to a question of might. Might, may not make right but might does determine what happens, right or wrong. Who has the power to enforce a decision? The ultimate answer is God. God is all powerful and only He can ultimately enforce a decision.

That sounds good but we know that what we see in the world is not always good and right. We see a lot of evil. That is because even though God has the right and the power to enforce the good He also allows us freewill and self-determination. Sometimes people confuse God’s allowing us freewill with Him giving us permission to do our own thing. God never gives permission to do wrong. God describes this aspect of His character in terms of patience. He warns that we should not mistake His patience for His approval. He is very irritated by our wrongdoing and someday His patience will wear out and we will feel the wrath of His judgment.

Who has the power to enforce? God does and He will. This understanding has led to civilized societies. It is this healthy respect, honor, worship and FEAR of God that has led individuals to adopt and strive for high moral values and has led societies to adopt law and protect rights that are in line with God’s standards.

In the meantime, based on our freewill, we are often caught in a power struggle to make and enforce decisions, right or wrong.

The end of part one

Part Two will take a look at God and His standards as they apply to same sex marriage.

Gun Control

Every time there is a major shooting on the news the gun control advocates seize the opportunity. It doesn’t matter if the guns used are legal or not, or if the shooter was totally crazed or not. The motive for the shooting doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it made the national news. And the answer is always more gun control.

The thing that amazes me the most is the public debate that follows. The parade of experts begins. There are experts from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the American Civil Liberties Union, there are victims of gun violence, law enforcement, neighborhood watch commanders, church leaders, pollsters, political analysts and of course the politicians; lots of politicians. They discuss crime rates, assault rifles, hunting, hand guns, concealed carry, gun registration, ammunition sales, the size of ammunition clips, background checks, TV, movie and video game violence, waiting periods, the right to privacy, and the right to bear arms as guaranteed under the second amendment. People discuss whether or not additional gun control laws would violate our Constitutional rights. Oddly enough people believe that the Second Amendment protects our right to bear arms, and that the right to bear arms means guns for hunting and personal self-defense.

I guess that not too many people have actually read the Second Amendment. It doesn’t say anything about hunting or personal self-defense. The Second Amendment reads as follows

The Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The issue being faced by the writers of the Constitution was not a Columbine shooting or a Sandy Hook shooting, it was a war. Recently we had fought our war for independence from England. We as American colonies had been invaded by the British army. This was our army. These were the soldiers that were supposed to protect us from foreign invaders, instead they were sent to put down the rebellion in America. They were here to force peace upon us and to get us to comply with British law. We had fought a war to end that type of oppressive military force being used against citizens. We fought the war through a network of colonial/state militias. Once the war was over and we needed to decide what structure we would have for our future defense. We could have a strong Federal standing army or we could maintain a loose network of individual state militias. If we went with a strong central army we would run the risk of the central government might end up doing the same as the British had done and try to impose their will upon the various states. So we decided to maintain a decentralized military with the bulk of the power in the hands of various state militias. In order to accomplish this it was necessary to add the Second Amendment guaranteeing the rights of individuals to own weapons.

Well that is great as a history lesson, but what does it mean to us today? We no longer maintain strong state militias; we gave that up sometime after the Civil War. Now we maintain the strongest central army in the world. So now we are left with a Constitutional Amendment that doesn’t really apply and one of the largest homicide rates in the world.

A Biblical Review

Arms, Armies, War and Government

Before we go any further in this discussion, let’s take a look at how the Bible approaches this issue. I know they didn’t have guns during Biblical times, but they did have national defense and they did have homicide. There are some clear principles that apply.

First let’s take at national defense. One of the first battles recorded in the Bible takes place in the time of Abraham. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their allies battled against the armies of four other city states (see Genesis Chapter 14). Sodom and Gomorrah lost; their cities were plundered and the people were taken into slavery. Abraham learns that his nephew, Lot, was taken captive, so he assembles an army, mostly from this own slaves and workmen and peruses them. It sounds a little like a sheriff in the old west putting together a posy. Abraham’s army is successful and the people and goods are returned.

The next time we see Israel with an army is during the conquest of the Promised Land. In that case there was a draft. Every man over the age of 20 was to serve in the military. The rest of the people were mobilized to support the war effort. Fighting groups were organized around tribes; each tribe was required to raise up their own fighting force. It sounds quite a bit like the American Colonies fighting for independence with Colonial militias. Israel maintained these standing militias until the conquest of the Promised Land was complete and then the armies disbanded.

The Tribal Militia system continued throughout the period of the Judges. Typically there was no army until there was a need based on a threat from the outside. Occasionally Israel would enter a period of disobedience and rebellion against God. God would use a foreign kingdom to discipline them. They would lose the wealth and freedom. When the time was right God would raise up a deliverer, a Judge, to call the nation to repentance and to arms. They would defeat the foreign power and return to God and a time of freedom and prosperity. During the entire period of the Judges Israel would only raise up armies as needed, and they would be structured around a Tribal Militia system.

The only Biblical account of arms control is in 1 Samuel Chapter 13. Saul has recently become King of Israel and he begins a campaign against the Philistines which have dominated Israel during the last part of the time of the Judges.  The Philistines held Israel as a conquered land. The Israelites had to pay tribute and they were not allowed to own weapons of any kind. In fact they were not allowed to process metal that could be used as weapons. All of their farm implements were brought to the Philistine towns to be sharpened. They in essence had a registration system. The Philistines knew the owners of every metal implement in Israel, in this way the Israelites were suppressed, controlled and defenseless. Of course, if God is your defender, you are never defenseless as the Philistines found out.

The next phase in the life of Israel was the period of the Kings, beginning with King Saul. The Israelites began to look at the powerful surrounding kingdoms and decided they would like to have a King. They felt that a stronger central government under a single leader, a king, and a standing army would make them more secure and powerful on the world stage. God is very disappointed at this. He feels that it is a rejection of Him as their one and only central leader. He knows that this move will lead them to look to their king for leadership and guidance instead of to God. He also knows that they will look to their military for defense rather than to God. He also knows that this will lead to high taxes and a reduction in freedom. God warns them of these things but He gives them a king anyway. See 1 Samuel Chapter 8.

From that time on Israel maintains a standing central army; the Tribal Militia system is gone, in fact it is not unusual to find foreigners fighting in the army of Israel.

Note that Britain used foreign mercenaries in their war against the American Colonies.  Congress is proposing using foreigners in our military as a path to citizenship.

There is a definite parallel between the development of Israel and their national defense system and the development of the United States of America. We originally were a federation of States, and we looked to our State Militia system as our primary means of defense. This changed sometime after the Civil War. As national armies became more sophisticated and weapons of war move to be much more the just hand guns and rifles, we move to have a strong central standing army. We also experienced a large increase in taxes and a significant decrease in personal freedoms. We also move from a dependence on God to a dependence on Government.

Homicide

The Bible specifically outlaws murder. It makes the same distinctions for classes of killing that we do today. There is accidental killing, killing in self-defense, war, and premeditated murder. The Bible defines each of these; gives method of determination, trial and punishment. The focus is on crime and punishment, not on control and prevention. There are basically two aspects to control and prevention. The first is to train up a people who are dedicated to God and have adopted a personal commitment to follow Him and obey His laws. When that method fails the second method of control and prevention is punishment. Those that murder are to receive just, sure, swift and public punishment through public execution. The phrase that is used is that the people will “hear and fear, and thus you shall purge evil from Israel”. These are the only Biblical methods of control and prevention. Any other methods are repressive and erode personal freedom. (Deuteronomy 19:15-21).

Biblical Principles

Although we are expected to defend ourselves personally and nationally, we are to primarily trust in God for our defense not our weapons. (Psalm 20:7, Isaiah 31:1)

God often uses armies to carry out His will in the world. God used foreign armies to discipline Israel. When God defended Israel, He normally had them raise up armies to fight wars, but God gave them supernatural victory.

God’s design for society leads maximum freedom and prosperity within the bounds of His Law. Abiding by His law is the means by which this blessing is experienced.

A strong central government and military tends to draw people from a dependence on God to a dependence on government.

Arms control is a method of suppressing and controlling people.

The primary method of preventing homicide is a personal morality which comes from a personal faith in God and a commitment to following His ways.

The secondary method of preventing homicide is just, swift, and certain public punishment.

There will always be evil in this world, and there will always be homicide.

Conclusion

Note: there has been a shift in thinking among leaders in America. It used to be that the government would restrict the rights of convicted criminals. The new trend is to restrict the rights of those that are perceived as being a potential threat. We have seen this in laws that restrict the behavior of “gang members” telling them who they can congregate with and where. Most recently this philosophical change has been applied to potential gun owners. Law makers are proposing background checks that would have the government determine how much of a potential threat an individual poses based on criminal records, psychological records, and group affiliation. This amounts to a conviction and sentencing based on a background check rather than true criminal behavior and trial. These types of philosophical changes in thinking are the most dangerous and often go undetected by the public. Often the danger is not so much found in the specific law as it is in the thinking behind the new law. When there is a philosophical shift it opens up the floodgates to a deluge of new laws. Once this type of philosophical change is accepted by the public it is almost impossible to reverse.

After reviewing America’s history and Biblical principles it is my conclusion that America should do the following things:

  1. Make a personal and national move to acknowledge God as our provider and protector.
  2. Current highly technical world military situation requires a strong standing army.
  3. The Second Amendment as it is written does not address the current reasons for gun ownership. It should be rewritten to eliminate references to militias and replace it with the right of personal gun ownership for personal and public defense.
  4. Laws should be in place to prevent convicted criminals who have used guns in the commission of a crime from obtaining or possessing guns. There should be penalties for anyone who sell or gives such a criminal a gun. No moves should be taken to register, restrict or reduce gun ownership among general, non-criminal, citizens. I realize that this does little to stop potentially violent persons from obtaining guns, but personal freedom is a valuable asset and is worth the risk.
  5. The public should be ready, willing and able to defend themselves; they should not be totally dependent on the government at any level for their defense. If necessary the public should be ready, willing and able to defend themselves against an unjust and ungodly government.
  6. People need to be trained about guns. If they own a gun they need to know how to maintain and use it properly. They need to understand the danger of accidents involving guns. They need to understand that a person is 54 times more likely to be shot by a family member than random criminal assault. They need to know that having lethal force within easy reach makes it much more likely to be used.
  7. Deliberate steps should be taken to teach people to dedicate themselves to follow God wholly. The home and the Church should be the primary instruments for accomplishing this but it should be supported by all aspects of society.
  8. The American Justice system should be completely revamped to return the focus to justice that is sure and swift and punishment that is sure and public. We will deteriorate into an increasingly violent society unless this is done.