Many conservative Christians believe that “God’s values” should be imposed through our political and legal systems. They believe these values always ultimately bring good because they believe that God’s principles are universal (and can therefore be safely applied universally to Christians and non-Christians alike). They often want policies that support traditional gender roles, abstinence-only education, and biblically-guided public schools and policies that oppose sex outside of marriage, marriage equality, abortion, no-fault divorce, and feminism.
Because they believe that “God’s values” always bring good, they feel it is safe—even imperative—to make society conform to these values. They view this imposition of values as the loving response to a lost, hurting world.
Despite believing that God does have the answers for a lost, hurting world, I have several problems with their solution:
*Who determines what constitutes “God’s values”? Christians have NEVER agreed on what these are; this is one reason we have so many denominations. Is alcohol okay? Contraceptives for married people? Public schooling? Female pastors? Pants for women? Don’t laugh. Once we start legislating “God’s values” pretty much anything could be made into law because almost everything under the sun is disapproved of by some group of Christians. (And it isn’t helpful to voice the “What about murder? Theft? Pedophilia?” argument. Even non-Christians believe these things are wrong. Opposing those who harm and oppress people is not uniquely Christian even if this is certainly something God values.)
*There are people who would be harmed. What some people believe are “God’s values” DO NOT ultimately bring good for every person. For example, some Christians believe that divorce is never okay—not under any circumstance. Where does this leave the family of an abusive man? Oh, well then perhaps we would allow divorce in cases of physical abuse. But what if a man isn’t physically abusive—so there are no marks to show the people who would arbitrate these matters to determine “God-approved divorce”? Enormous damage is done through financial, emotional, and psychological abuse. In these cases, family members might be kept in the abuser’s sphere of influence in the name of “God’s value” of the sanctity of marriage. Once you begin making black-and-white rules for grey, nuanced situations, you fail people and do harm.
*Making people look and act like Christ-followers does not make them Christ-followers. And, in my experience, the last people to see that they need Christ are those whose lives look pretty and Christian-like. White-washing tombs does nothing about the rotting corpses inside them. Washing the outside of the cup might make it look nice, but the dirty interior will still make you sick.
*Legislating our beliefs through our judicial system puts our right to worship and live as we wish in danger. We cannot codify our religious beliefs without running the risk of another religion’s beliefs eventually being codified and imposed. This is the objection that is the hardest for me to reconcile: because the people I hear being the most vocal about turning our country back to its “Christian roots” are also the people who talk the most about our country being overrun with foreigners and non-Christians. Can you see the contradiction there? If you’re afraid of eventually being the minority group, why wouldn’t you do everything in your power while you’re “on top” to create an atmosphere of individual autonomy, tolerance, and religious freedom?
Eliminating individual autonomy by increasing judicial control over private lives would not bring us closer to God as individuals or as a nation. In my denomination, we recognize God as the ultimate giver of liberty. God created us, God loves us, God allows us to sin, God provides means of salvation through Christ, but he never makes us do his will. He always gives us a choice. Our omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God allows us to choose our way. Can I do any less for my neighbors?