We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

The Virginia legislature recently adjourned and its accomplishments were published in the newspapers. Though nothing surprises me in politics these days, I was dismayed to learn of blatantly inconsistent votes on two separate bills--legislative decisions that underscore the dramatic erosion of the rule of law in American culture. The first bill, which passed, imposed significant restrictions on underage smoking. The second bill would have required parental consent for those same minors to have an abortion. This bill, however, was voted down by the legislature--even after repeated efforts of the governor. Think of it. The lawmakers were eager to protect young people from the evils of smoking, which--as everyone agrees--is clearly hazardous to their health. But the very same legislature refused to require that a 17-year-old girl inform her parents before undergoing a major medical procedure to kill her unborn child. The Virginia legislative debacle highlights the way the movement for political correctness has subverted the process of law-making in our country. The tobacco industry is portrayed as evil incarnate. Abortionists, on the other hand, are cast as heroes, simply enabling women to make their own choices and control their own bodies. Our founding fathers would be mortified to see such inequities enshrined into law. They were profoundly influenced by works such as Lex Rex--meaning "the Law is King"--written by Scottish cleric Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford argued that a nation's laws must be based not on what in today's terms is called political correctness. Rather, our laws should be derived from the customs and traditions of a culture grounded in Christian revelation. As eighteenth-century English jurist William Blackstone put it, the genius of the American legal system was that it reflected the behavior of a people infused with the spirit of Christ. Such a system, which was intended to reflect a people's own moral convictions, commands broad-based respect. The law becomes an instrument of self-governance to which citizens gladly submit because of its adherence to their own accepted moral standards. In the late nineteenth century, American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes began the movement to overturn this covenant between the people and their government. Holmes argued that lawmakers should not be bound by morality or tradition. Instead, laws should be passed in order to achieve certain desired social and political results. This seismic shift is what has led directly to the absurdity of what we've seen in The Virginia legislature where, instead of objective standards, political correctness or expediency is the rule of the day. The lawmakers themselves may not realize the flagrant inconsistency of the laws they enact--but the public does, and it is one of the reasons we have a real crisis of law today. Here's a great opportunity for you to share with your neighbor why confidence in our lawmakers has fallen to an all-time low. It is because we have abandoned the Christian understanding of law based squarely upon God's unchanging standards of justice. If we do not govern ourselves according to an objective rule of law, we will surely be ruled by the capricious whims of political correctness--by laws like those restricting cigarettes to minors while allowing those same teenagers to have abortions without their parents' consent.  


Chuck Colson


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