Alban’s (Grand Cayman) & St Mary’s (Cayman Brac)
HOW BEING WRONG ABOUT THE RIGHT THREATENS CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
Address delivered by Rev N. Sykes to evening congregation of Elmslie Memorial Church on Sunday the 17th June 2007
Text: S. John 16: 8-11
There is a language expressing "Right" that is said to be imminent in its inclusion in the Cayman Islands Constitution. Thus the "Bill of Rights" - or possibly, as in the UK, a "Human Rights Act".
The "Rights" that are referred to in the "Bill of Rights" are said to be "Human Rights" (as in a "Human Rights Act").
The idea of the Right as well as of people’s "rights" is very old. But their designation as "civil rights" is not so old. Their designation as "Human Rights" is very new indeed.
Does this matter? My contention is that it does matter, because what we call something is important to the way we think about it, and the way the thing itself influences our thinking. For better or for worse the language we use about Right or rights we allow to be put into the constitution is going to affect the thought pattern of this society in the years ahead.
The right required of a complainant - "WHY DO YOU NOT JUDGE FOR YOURSELVES WHAT IS RIGHT (the righteous thing)?" - Luke 12:57
That would be "the right thing" - that which is right to do - the morally right thing.
Biblically, the "right thing" is the thing that is in accord with the mind of God. Thought of as an obligation rather than a privilege.
The words of Moses to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 4: 5-8.
"Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?"
It is the statutes and ordinances of God’s law that are said to be righteous beyond compare, causing the peoples of other nations to ascribe to the possessors of them a wisdom and understanding that exceeds their own.
Biblically, the things that are "right" or "righteous" are those things and judgments that are revealed by the statutes and ordinances of the law of God to be in accord with the mind of God.
JESUS WARNED US BEFORE HIS DEPARTURE FROM THE EARTH THAT THE TIME WOULD COME WHEN THE WORLD WOULD NEED TO BE TOLD THAT WHAT THEY THOUGHT ABOUT THE THINGS THAT WERE RIGHT WAS IN FACT WRONG.
John 16:8-11 - the words of Jesus on "The Comforter".
"And when He is come, that One will reprove the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment; concerning SIN, because they believe not in Me; concerning RIGHTEOUSNESS, because I am going to the Father, and you behold me no longer; concerning JUDGMENT, because the ruler of this world has been judged."
Or - Good News Bible
And when He comes, He will prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about [God’s] judgment. They are wrong about sin, because they do not believe in Me; they are wrong about what is right, because I am going to the Father and you will not see Me any more; and they are wrong about judgment, because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
The world is said to be wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment - or in more modern terms about our MORAL DISCERNMENT, our RIGHTS and our JUDICIAL AND LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK, because we have severed these things from the essential things that God has revealed to us through Jesus Christ, who is no longer taken into account.
HUMAN RIGHTS have overtaken that RIGHT that is in accord with the mind of God. Human rights, in contrast, are said to be intrinsic to our human existence, conferred upon ourselves (or arising from our own condition) by human agreement and codified by human convention.
HOW DOES THIS MATTER?
A great deal. A Bill of Rights is considered to be the moral foundation of any constitution. It is seen to describe the way that a society has determined that it will relate within itself to its members, and the way its members will relate to one another. If in our Bill of Rights Human Rights have overtaken that Right that is in accord with the mind of God, then any theologically inclined person will readily predict that the moral foundation of the resulting constitution will not only be ungodly, but will fail the ancient test in Deuteronomy of wisdom and understanding. If we live in the framework of such a constitution, there will be nothing admirable about us to onlookers, in the way that Israel was to be admired and respected by those who looked upon her, for her wisdom and understanding.
HOW WILL THIS PLAY OUT?
If Human Rights have been severed from the Right that is in accord with the mind of God, we can only rely on human judgment to show us how to think about them, and in particular where some Right claimed by one party conflicts with some other Right claimed by another party, which one of these will prevail. For instance there was in last Monday’s Compass a full page advertisement or "Advertorial", with an Important Message, as they put it, from what was partly called The Committee for the Protection of Property Owners Rights. This full page ad promoted the view that the new Conservation Bill will strip Property Owners of too many of their Rights to develop their land and to make wealth for themselves and the country by doing so. What it doesn’t mention, of course, is the other side of the coin. What if a large Property owner has sold part of his land to a number of small homeowners, and then without regard for their comfort and safety, not to mention planning regulations, sets dangerous fires on the remaining part of his land, starts a quarry there and either uses a jack-hammer for long hours of the day or explosives endangering the new homes? What if large trucks roll in and out of the roads those homeowners had been assured were for their own purposes, coming to collect the excavated material? This Property Owner does not, apparently, care that his activities for self-enrichment, and perhaps in his own mind for the development of the country, are transgressing the rights of the newer property owners adjacent to him. Neither does he care that his activities are damaging many significant assets of the country and impoverishing the future for all of us. It is therefore partly for the sake of balancing his rights with the rights of th emo re vulnerable that Conservation and other sorts of regulation are necessary. Alternatively these people could move to the Australian outback or somewhere else, where, unlike in the Cayman Islands, there is plenty of space. Still the main point I am trying to make is that any promotion of Rights that are in concept divorced from the mind of God is going to spawn unresolvable conflicts as well as ever-increasingly complex legislation to attempt to resolve the increasingly unresolvable. Historically, the Church has always sought to balance the rights or privileges of ownership with the responsibility which that ownership confers upon a person, believing that by doing so it was expressing the mind of God on the matter, and as a society we should emulate that balance, and any constitution that is designed without this balance will lead to trouble.
THE TROUBLES SPAWNED BY UNBALANCED RIGHTS
Any society can only function by a process of discrimination: It is irresponsible not to discriminate, say, between a lifestyle that grows the society and is healthy, and lifestyles that are unhealthy and cause the society to die, and irresponsible not to invest socially in the former. It is also irresponsible not to discriminate or make a distinction between the vulnerable and the powerful, because in a civilised society, the strong have a duty of care towards the weak. If in the desire not to discriminate, the unhealthy lifestyles are accepted on an equal footing to the healthy lifestyles, and the weak have to compete with the powerful for their rights without regulation, you cannot have a well-ordered society, or even a society in the true sense at all.
To build a code of rights on an anti-discrimination framework is therefore irresponsible and damaging, and no good society can ever come of that. Only the devil could have demonised the word and the concept of discrimination in the way that it has been demonised in the Western world.
As Christians we need to insist that any system of rights that we construct must derive from the mind of God about what is Right. Then and only then will we be building a society wisely. Being wrong about the Right is a serious threat to any society.
EFFECT ON MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN
I want now to deal with two ways in which being wrong about the Right threatens us: it severely threatens the culture of Marriage, and it severely threatens the well-being of children.
The word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ acting upon western communities has produced the traditional Marriage culture of the West. In that culture, marriage is the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife for life, to the exclusion of all others. Such a union has wonderful privileges and solemn responsibilities, and these are set out in the marriage ceremonies that are used. I expect most people here would concede that Marriage is objectively a better way of life than cohabitation, but there are social statistics that abundantly support that position as well. Here is one. A survey of 18,000 adults in 17 industrialized nations found that married persons have a significantly higher level of happiness than unmarried adults, even after controlling for health and financial status, which are also linked to marriage (Stack and Eshleman 1998).
Marriage (as portrayed in traditional marriage culture) for all its human failings has been shown to be the safest and best social environment for the upbringing of children and the sustaining of the population of the society. This is supportable by overwhelming evidence. Here is one finding: "Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents' race or educational background, regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries." (McLanahan and Sandefur 1994)
It stands to reason that if the culture of marriage is threatened, society itself is threatened and every single child is threatened. Developments over the past twenty years in the West have indeed threatened the culture of Marriage, as all the Marriage statistics show. Marriage has been reduced by anti-discrimination and equality legislation in line with the prevailing cultural drift to being merely one of an array of sexual lifestyles, such as cohabitation with opposite sex or same sex partners. Christians must uphold the view, however, that marriage is special, and that although what is between a married couple is normally expressed sexually, marriage is of a higher order than merely a means for sexual release.
But someone may ask, if you allow two members of the same sex to marry, are you not supporting marriage but only widening its reference? The answer is No, and the words of Christ Himself show that it is a man and a woman who may marry, and not members of the same sex. Only a collapsing culture could come up with the idea that any kind of union between members of the same sex could be equivalent or as some believe identical to marriage. To support this assertion, which in fact could be supported in many ways, let me quote from a well-known study published in 1994 in the Omega Journal of Death and Dying. This study compared 6,737 obituaries/death notices from 18 U.S. homosexual journals with obituaries from two conventional newspapers.
Omega Study Results : Study comparing obituaries of 6,737 homosexuals to a sample of obituaries of heterosexuals
Even without the AIDS epidemic, the homosexual lifestyle is so unhealthy that homosexuals die at nearly half the age of the general population – cf. the average age of death of cigarette smokers.
If we believe that it is right to discourage and restrict smoking in our society, how can we honestly believe it is right to sanction and encourage homosexual behaviour?
Drawing on additional research studies, it is found that homosexuals may have experienced a short life-span for the last 150 years: AIDS has apparently reduced it about 10%.
So the study showed that marriage statistically increases dramatically the life-expectancy for men - that is, marriage, as it has been traditionally understood. 32% single and divorced men lived past the age of 65 in the study, while 80% of married men lived past the same age of 65.
Do we find anything like the same increase for homosexual partners? Counting people without AIDS, we find that 9% of them without steady partners lived past the age of 65, for those who had a steady partner the figure was 7%. If anything, those who live in steady homosexual relationships live less long than those who are active but without such partners. This movement from 9% to 7% is in stark contrast to the equivalent movement, 32% to 80% for those who married. The study confirms dramatically the age-old position that marriage is for two members of the opposite sex. Importing the idea of marriage to a same sex situation under the moral imperative of anti-discrimination and equality is damaging to the individuals concerned and destructive to the society. It is being wrong about the Right, which is that Right that is in accord with the mind of God.
THE U.K. - SEXUAL ORIENTATION REGULATIONS
Recently, under powers created by the Equality Act, 2006 in Britain, regulations called the Sexual Orientation Regulations, "the SORs" have been created and railroaded through parliament, making it illegal for anyone who provides goods, services, facilities, premises, education or public functions to discriminate against that person on the grounds of their sexual orientation, i.e. whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. Normally a Christian would not need to exercise the freedom to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, in the provision of goods and services, but there are certain cases in which they ought to. For instance under the regulations
1. A Christian printing company would be acting illegally if they were prepared to print a book about the importance of marriage, but refused to print a book promoting homosexual relationships, including homosexual sex.
2. The Regulations automatically assume that homosexual civil partnerships are fully equivalent to heterosexual marriages
3. There is a crucial gap in the protection of pastors so that it will be illegal for them to teach their congregation that they should follow the Bible’s teaching on sexual morality even where this conflicts with the SORs2 Regulation 3(4). For example, it would be illegal for a minister to cite the example of the Christian printing company and then say ‘it is better to follow the Bible’s teaching and risk being sued than to be complicit in sin by printing leaflets promoting gay pride’.
4. An individual Christian GP (General Practitioner), for example, would have no freedom of conscience to refuse to give a reference recommending homosexual parents as suitable for adopting because the GP did not believe it would be right / in the best interests of a child to be raised without a father and a mother.
5. There is a substantial danger that it will be illegal under the SORs for faith schools to continue to teach that extra-marital sexual relationships are wrong.
6. There is a danger that it will be unlawful for pastors to be able to continue to preach that sexually active same-sex relationships are sinful.
7. Ques. Is it a defence to argue "I am not treating this person differently (discriminating) because of their sexual orientation but because of their sexual practices"?
Ans. No. The Government have never accepted this distinction in law and neither (to date) have the courts.
8. Is it a defence to argue "I am treating this homosexual person in the same way I would treat any unmarried person"?
On the whole, the answer is ‘no’. The Regulations state expressly that treating homosexual couples who have a registered civil partnership, differently from married couples, will always be assumed to be unlawful2.
However, a Christian B&B owner who refuses to let a double room to an unmarried heterosexual couple and also refuses to let a double room to a homosexual couple who do not have a civil partnership, will not be discriminating unlawfully. The difficulty is that if the B&B owner allows married heterosexual couples to book a double room, then he will be acting illegally if he refuses to allow a homosexual couple with a civil partnership to do the same.
9. Do the Regulations protect homosexuals from violence and bullying?
No. There are already numerous other criminal laws which protect against violence, bullying and other related behaviour, but these Regulations deal with the provision of goods, services and facilities.
10. Many Christian adoption agencies will be forced to close: because they receive funding from the local authority and they will therefore not be able to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation: they will not be allowed to take the view that it is right for children to be adopted into families which have a mother and a father.
11. Will the Regulations affect the content of what is taught in schools – the curriculum?
The position of the curriculum is, in legal terms, extremely unclear. However, the specialist Parliamentary lawyers who advised the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments were adamant that the curriculum was covered by the SORs. The Joint Committee on Human Rights stated that they were unclear but that they believed the Regulations should apply to the curriculum.
RESISTING AN UNGODLY DESIGN
The truth is that the cultural drift that has produced such a state of affairs elsewhere has undoubted power to produce similar effects here. If what we put into our constitution includes Sexual Orientation as a protected right, and under the prevailing culture of the West, this will be extremely difficult to resist successfully, and if in general our rights become divorced from the Right which is in the mind of God, the Marriage culture, which derives from a Christian culture, will be doomed. The prime losers from this situation, as always in processes of social experimentation, as in the infamous Nazi experiments and the experiments of the infamous Kinsey report, will be our children. For their sake, we must place our constitution on godly foundations and by the grace and help of our Lord, resist successfully the encroachments upon our minds and upon the very language of our concepts, of the Evil One.
In his essay entitled "Screwtape proposes a toast", C.S. Lewis has his senior devil Screwtape, in replying to a toast in his honour, say this about a base version of Equality, namely the idea that "I’m as good as you". "I’m as good as you", says Screwtape, is a useful means for the destruction of democratic societies. But is has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind, which necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven." Let us manfully resist a design for our society that will turn its members, now and in the future, away from Heaven.