Monday, February 05, 2007

Legislating morality

I had the honor and opportunity to address the Georgia House of Representatives last week as the "chaplain of the day," at the invitation of my representative, Buddy Carter. I gave an 8-minute devotional, and led them in prayer, at the opening of the session on Monday, January 29. The video is now online. You can view it by clicking here and then clicking on January 29. Unfortunately, the camera was not turned on until after I had finished more than half of my talk, but you can still catch the last 3 minutes or so, and you still see the key statement I wanted to make about how we can and should legislate morality.

You can read the full text of my speech in the first comment below. Again, you can view the video online by clicking here and then clicking on January 29.

4 comments:

Brother Bob said...

Chaplain’s Address to the Georgia House of Representatives
By Dr. Bob Rogers, pastor, First Baptist Church of Rincon, Georgia
January 29, 2007

Mr. Speaker, and honorable members of the House of Representatives,

I bring you greetings from Effingham County, the fastest-growing county in south Georgia. I live in Rincon, a town in Effingham County that is 20 miles north of Savannah. Rincon is situated on Highway 21, which at times is one of the longest parking lots in South Georgia.
Some of you may have known a member of my church, Tom Triplett, who served in this legislative body. Mr. Tom passed away last year, and is very much missed.
Rincon is a Spanish word that means “small corner.” Although we’re in the corner of Georgia on the map, we are between two great symbols of our state’s heritage. Rincon is 10 miles north of the plantation where Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, and 10 miles south of the oldest standing church building in Georgia, Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Ebenezer, founded in 1734 by Protestants who fled persecution for their religious faith in Austria and came to Georgia for religious freedom.
I appreciate a Methodist like Buddy Carter inviting a Baptist like me to speak to you today! Talk about bipartisanship! I’m told that I only have 10-15 minutes to speak. That may be hard for a Baptist, but since Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount lasted 15 minutes, I guess I have a precedent from the best for getting right to the point.
So listen fast, because I only have one point to make, and my message is less than 10 minutes.
And here’s my one point: there is an old adage that says, “You can’t legislate morality.” I submit to you today that this old adage deserves to be discarded. Not only is it possible to legislate morality, but we do it all the time.
Why is murder and rape and robbery against the law? It is immoral.
A hot issue right now is child abuse. To protect children, laws are passed putting heavy restrictions on convicted sex offenders and child predators. Why is that? Because we hold certain moral values.
Our heritage is built upon these values. We often call them “rights.” Our Declaration of Independence refers to the right of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. But where did we get the idea that we had these rights? The same declaration says that “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”
So we’re saying we get our rights and our values from God.
Many of the great legislative reforms of history were attempts to legislate morality. William Wilberforce led the charge in England to abolish the slave trade, because of the influence of a pastor named John Newton. Before he was a pastor, John Newton was a slave trader himself. But after he was wonderfully saved from sin by faith in Jesus Christ, he wrote one of the greatest songs in the English language, “Amazing Grace.” It was upon faith like this that William Wilberforce and the abolitionists in America relentlessly fought to abolish slavery. William Wilberforce spent his whole political life attempting to legislate morality.
The Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s, and the leaders of the pro-life movement of today, are motivated in their crusade by their faith in God. If we tell one group that they should not legislate morality, then to be consistent we would have to say the same to the other.
Thus I submit to you that the question is not whether we should legislate morality. The question is rather, upon what moral values shall we legislate?
Our nation’s founding document speaks openly of “Nature’s God.” Our forefathers did not think it out of place at all to sculpt an image of Moses with the Ten Commandments over the entrance to the Supreme Court. The preamble to the constitutions of all 50 states recognize God. The Georgia Constitution, adopted in 1777, begins with these words: “We, the people of Georgia, relying upon protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution ...”
I encourage you to take an inventory of what are your values. Search your heart and life and your faith for a consistent set of values, and legislate from that worldview. And if you do not have a faith to give you values, may I suggest the words of the One I follow? I mentioned his Sermon on the Mount at the beginning, so I will close with His words from that Sermon. May such values guide your legislative session:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
May you be so blessed.

Let us pray. “Almighty God, would you bless this legislative body today, that their actions might be a blessing to the people of Georgia. Lord, their task is great and their burden is often heavy. Give them the legal mind of Moses, the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of David, and the love of Jesus Christ as they craft those laws which would be pleasing to You. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen

Bloodiest of Ladies said...

I think I messed up posting this before, and should likely leave it be. But I think the idea of legislating morality is a dangerously slippery slope. You're right that any legislation is the legislation of morality, but I think that should be kept to the absolute minimum, like legislation against things that directly infringe on the rights of others. If you aprove of the legislation of your stripe of morality, one would have to ask themselves who else might also choose to legislate. The US is largely christian influenced, not only by honest religious beliefs, but also by the ingraining of christian morals through it's history of having been a largely christian country. Who's to say that it will always be that way? And would you be as happy to have morality legislated if it were being dictated by a group with views opposite your own?

Brother Bob said...

Trudy,
I like your new picture better than the old one!
I think you are confusing legislating morality with legislating religion.
I am not advocating the legislation of a particular religion, but I am advocating legislation from a set of values that have their ground in religious faith. Everybody has a set of values, and whoever is in charge of the government is going to legislate from their values. I am advocating that those values be founded in faith.
Watch the new movie Amazing Grace, about William Wilberforce, that opens this weekend, and see if you still feel the same way after seeing how his faith impacted his political efforts to end the slave trade 200 years ago.

Bloodiest of Ladies said...

Thank you!
Of course, I will watch the movie (when it gets around to us), and that certainly sounds like a very good outcome of someone mixing politics and personal values, but a much less intrusive legal value system would have been sufficient to correct that problem.
I suppose the idea of anyone legislating anymore than absolutely needed scares me.