William Collier- I am all about freedom, especially freedom to find and fulfill God’s best for your life with excellence and in a freewill covenant association with other people of your own choosing. I further believe every child is owed the right to learn of the ways of God and to be raised by his or her natural parents within a community of people who nurture the best in them, free of corrupting influences. But in a society that applauds sins as rights and righteousness as wrongs it is both difficult for adults to pursue God’s best and unlikely children will be nurtured in a most healthy and uplifting manner.
This essay is directed at Christians who embrace the long-held tenets of Christian doctrinal and moral orthodoxy and who wish to be part of a society of people who adhere to those tenets as the basis of their freewill covenant association.
If your definition of freedom creates a social milieu in which pursuit of God’s best and the imparting of God’s truth to the next generation are hindered or even shunned, then this is not true freedom as God sees it. Our objective is to conform our lives and our own societies to the image God has established in Scripture, at least as much as we know how. Righteousness, not the liberty to publicly transgress and to shun or shame those who pursue God’s best, is what exalts a nation of people. Imparting righteousness in pursuit of God’s best to the next generation is a moral duty to all parents and it is morally transgressive for a society of people to interfere with that impartation or to introduce corrupting influences into childrens’ lives.
To the average worldling this will be scandalous and intolerable. They will leap to the incorrect conclusion that I am speaking of laws and politics here, when I am not. The pervasive embrace of unrighteousness as liberty by the societies of most western countries is not caused by nor can it be mitigated by mere politics and laws. The only thing we as Christians can and must demand and assert is our own right to form freewill covenant associations that reflect our moral and ethical standards.
I am advocating for the rights of people and their free associations, especially national peoples, to set cultural norms and for a limited state that protects both individual rights of free association and national peoples’ right of socio-cultural self-determination. I don’t care if you and your free association disagree and choose different norms, nor will that cause me to lose respect for you as a human being.
It was Andrew Breitbart who said politics is downstream of culture, but I would propose this is a normative statement, not everyday reality. Culture can be imposed from above, for a time, by political authorities. In America, public opinion regarding abortion and changing marriage to include partners of the same sex both resulted in an uptick in support for the court imposed views after rulings on both those issue flew in the face of current sentiment. In the case of abortion, we are seeing a change back toward opposition, but as for redefining marriage in a manner that may undermine the very existence of the state, no real effort to fight against the imposed culture is underway.
While the arc of history tends to favor culture over politics, the left especially believe everything is politics and have no hesitation using politics to attempt to change culture. In the long run, this often fails, but it has been known to have effects, at least for a generation.
But even the political interference in culture is usually supported by a trend toward that political norm. In the case of abortion there were signs of more acceptance and in the case of changing marriage, there were definite signs that the public was generally disinterested in the institution and that its sanctity as an institution was not much supported. Still, the court decisions did go against majority opinion, it’s just the opposition to those decisions was not strong in the general population.
In other cases, however, raw force has changed culture permanently. Consider the Hellenization of much of the Middle East or the Muslim conquests which changed culture deeply and permanently by the use of force. In these bases, the political state imposed culture, and , result was corruption and woe.
Today the political state in America and Western Europe is an agent of the forces of cultural corruption. For the social conservative Christian in those states there is not much hope in any political party that their concerns about the immorality of society will be heard in the halls of power. Nor am I advocating the state as socio-cultural referee or enforcer.
But, while today policy from Washington or Brussels, and the courts in particular, is dictating to the culture, it is not a permanent state of affairs and it is not something we must be changed or controlled by. A nation isn’t the state. We can see nations resort to the agency of the state to protect their interests and territory, but not always. And usually one state is not the exclusive agent of only one nation of people.
Righteousness exalts a nation. A nation is a body of people who generally share the same origins, the same way of life and beliefs, the same sense of destiny, and the same homeland. But if a state or kingdom, as described in Scripture, somehow imposes immorality as the basis of culture on its constituent nation or nations, then it too becomes infected and corrupted, which leads to negative consequences. You cannot defy the laws of cause and effect in God’s universe and not endure natural consequences, just as you cannot eat horrible food for years and not have health problems.
Righteousness is the basis of freedom, in a socio-cultural sense of the term. Whatever a society or its agencies, including the state, protect and uphold as rights must conform to righteousness, because this alone exalts it. Righteousness frees us, not in the sense of freewill but in the sense of freedom from the negative results of violating the laws of God’s universe.
A state may be relatively neutral in matters of culture and allow the greatest liberty in free association for the nations of people within its boundary of protection. But when it deigns to make positive judgements which punish or suppress those who refuse to condone and be silent in their opposition to immoral behavior in the public space, it joins the ranks of the unjust rulers.
So then a state may leave to each of its constituent national peoples or to other free associations of the people governing authority over such institutions as marriage and the family, but when it positively chooses to govern such matters it must do so according to the righteous standard. Its choice is to either leave these matters alone and let free associations of people decide, merely protecting their self-determination, or to judge in such matters according to a righteous standard. Whenever negative consequences apply to any person for refusing to participate in, condone, or to not publicly oppose any unrighteousness behavior, then injustice has occurred and the cry of the oppressed demands just recompense which the laws of cause and effect in God’s universe WILL recompense.
So then, the state may recuse itself in such cultural matters and leave it to the peoples and their free associations, in which case consequences belong only to those free associations, not the whole state, if those individuals and bodies of peoole choose foolishly. But whenever the state sets policy that impacts and controls culture, if it defies a righteous standard and, worse, if its policies tend to punish or make life harder for those who refuse to go along with the unrighteousness, then it commits injustice.
In a proper order, culture should be upstream of politics, but when political policy determines cultural norms it must do so only on the basis of a righteous standard that conforms with the laws of God’s universe.
That being said, cultural norms do not require the state much at all. Families, extended families, and communities are quite capable of setting and enforcing such norms, albeit far more gently than the state. And in a pluralistic society, the individual can choose the associations of people they wish to be a part of, so there is a lack of coercion by martial force. I would be less desirous of state enforcement of cultural norms which belong in the realm of nations as free associations, and more in favor of the state as a protector of the rights, persons, and property of both the individual and of the bodies of people, especially the nations in their own homelands, within their protective boundary.
I would only speak of a righteous standard applying to the state in matters that the state makes judgment and sets policy, even though I would wish to see the breadth of matters dictated by the political state reduced to absolute bare necessity. The political state has proven most proficient at using force to protect boundaries and to punish those who violate the peace within its boundaries. I would propose that it has never succeeded in matters of culture and usually only ends up abusing its power and becoming a corrupting influence.
But as for nations of people, it is righteousness that exalts them and sin which destroys them. If the political state imposes a cultural norm that is unrighteous and punishes people and national peoples who prefer to enforce a righteous standard as the basis of their freewill covenant association, then the state becomes anathema, accursed.
If you want a people to thrive, their cultural norms have to be righteous. The end goal is righteousness, not “freedom” per se. Freedom is a natural consequence of righteousness, but freedom in the sense of being able to pursue God’s best for your life and freedom from the negative effects of unrighteousness. This power over socio-cultural norms belongs to individuals, families, extended families, communities of people, and national peoples or nations of people, not so much to the political state.