Counterfactuals, Convulsion, and Conquest

A friend asks how the “mere Christendom” I envision would handle off-budget (i.e. private) gay “marriages.” Would they be illegal?

A related issue, given that this mere Christendom is a ways off, has to do with what we should be looking for in the mean time. Evangelical Christians in North America do not have their act together enough to ask for, still less to receive, any approximation of mere Christendom. There is a lot of evangelism to do yet. But that’s not the worst of it. We do have our act together enough to ask for, and receive, something. So in the interim, what should that something be? We would obviously ask for something better than what we have now, but the temptation would be to be misled by that interim arrangement. Makeshifts have morphed into something permanent more than once.

The short answer to the first question is that homosexual marriage would be a nullity, no more legal or illegal than circular triangles would be. I do not support the concept of same sex mirage. Acts of sodomy would of course be illegal, and what some people might privately call “marriage” would simply be their rationalization for committing those acts. Such labeling would not legitimize the acts. As far as other aspects of marriage go — shared property, ICU visitation, end of life decisions — I have no objection to those sorts of issues being addressed by means of contracts between any competent parties — as long as there are no marital connotations or approximations at all. No civil unions, in other words. The name of such agreements should be named things like “shared property agreement,” “power of attorney,” etc.

This obviously relates to the question about the interim — if illegal, what would the enforcement be like? An acceptable interim arrangement for me would be the way it was in the first two years of Eisenhower’s administration — hardly a human rights hellhole. But this is not really achievable as a practical matter, for the following reason.

Trajectories are always key, which means that we must always be wary of hypotheticals that run contrary to the way the world actually is. What would you say about a nation of industrious and highly productive lotus-eaters? Well, nothing, because it isn’t going to happen. I would say the same thing about a nation that allowed for homosexual marriage, but which also protected, in a robust fashion, the right of the Church to be the Church, and the right of individual believers to live according to their conscience. I would say nothing about it, one way or another, because it is not going to happen. If a gay activist (trying to be genuine libertarian) disputes this and says to me that gays should be allowed to marry, and Christian bakers should be allowed to refuse to bake the cake for them, I will simply observe mildly that the momentum is currently yours — show me how tolerant you are, and then we will talk about it. The early returns do not appear to be making your point.

In a similar way, a civilization with a robust faith in Jesus can drift downward into that interim of the Eisenhower years, but the cities of the plain would never have drifted upward into it. So the arrival of mere Christendom will therefore be convulsive — but it won’t be a legal revolution. It will be a great reformation and revival — it will happen the same way the early Christians conquered Rome. Their program of conquest consisted largely of two elements — gospel preaching and being eaten by lions — a strategy that has not yet captured the imagination of the the contemporary church.

So we should set a limit to our counterfactuals. If Hell were located on the beach, with palm trees and a pleasant breeze, and no fire, I suppose it could be okay . . .

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JonathanDavid REric StampherkatechoTim Nichols Recent comment authors

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John R.
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John R.

Well, if this doesn’t set certain quarters to loudly shrieking, then I guess I don’t understand how the Internet works.

Brian
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Brian

When we arrive at this Christendom, and if the rare act of Sodomy does occur, would the death sentence be appropriate? In others words, will Christendom usher in a more strick punishment for sins/crimes?

Jonathan
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Jonathan

This is at least the second, perhaps the third or fourth time I’ve seen you (Pastor WIlson) express your desire to eventually have sodomy made illegal by the State. Perhaps I’ve missed it, but would it be possible for you to detail a list of other sexual and relationship practices (premarital sex, adultery, underage sex, homosexual kissing, extramarital kissing, pornography, images designed for lust, lust itself, divorce, remarriage after divorce, marriage of relatives, sex during a woman’s menstration, nonconsensual marital sex, masturbation, polygamy, etc.) that would also be illegal in your Christendom? I would like to see this, and maybe… Read more »

Trent
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Trent

I second Jonathan’s request. Since all sexual sin falls under the same immorality umbrella, why the constant hammering of one particular sin that presumably is the most foreign to your readership?

Matt
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Matt

Maybe I’m dense, but the point about trajectories isn’t obvious to me. Are you saying that the question of gay marriage would never arise in a “mere christendom” setting, so there is no point to formulating a hypothetical response?

Robert
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Robert

Jonathan, all laws are enforced morality.

Andrew W
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Andrew W

(1) From a Christian perspective, sexual immorality (adultery, fornication, sodomy, …) isn’t “just” about sacramental purity – the claim is that such things are actively destructive to both persons and society. (Don’t get me started on administrations that want to legislate on basic foodstuffs but leave drugs and sexual license (and abortion!) to personal judgement.) (2) Historical privilege for marriage contracts centres around their role in raising the next generation and ensuring longevity of civilisation. A “marriage” that isn’t in some sense “about children” has no particular social value over and above any other sort of contract or friendship. Tangent:… Read more »

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

No, Robert, all laws are not enforced morality. The law against running red lights is entirely utilitarian; it’s more efficient for traffic to flow smoothly than it would be to have it tied up in knots so that nobody can get from one end of town to another. And please note that people traveling across town for what you would consider immoral purposes benefit just as much as those traveling for what you would consider moral purposes.

Jane
Member

“The law against running red lights is entirely utilitarian; it’s more efficient for traffic to flow smoothly than it would be to have it tied up in knots so that nobody can get from one end of town to another. ”

“Efficiency is a good” is a kind of morality.

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red light is still speaking from his naturalistic and utilitarian worldview presupposition. However, in the world he actually lives in, Eric is incorrect. The decision to employ stop lights, or stop signs, or directional lanes, is largely utilitarian, but establishing rules around those devices, and the principle of the law against running the red light, is moral. If this law were simply about utilitarian efficiency of traffic flow (as Eric suggests) then why can’t drivers run red lights in low traffic? Wouldn’t that be more efficient than sitting to wait for a stop light to cycle around? Clearly… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: “you seem to be bringing up homosexuality over and over again on a blog that I would hazard to guess is not read by very many people who practice it. I would be more interested to know how you would treat the sexual sins actually practiced by members of your own churches.” Doug has probably given attention to the homosexuality issue because it is currently an area where legal and financial privileges are being lobbied for (and won), and where Christians are being asked to surrender their moral convictions to accommodate the homosexual’s practices. This isn’t the case… Read more »

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

Katecho, if traffic laws were about “lives at issue”, then it would be legal to run red lights if you’re on your way to do something life-affirming, but illegal to run red lights if you’re on your way to commit a murder. But this is not the case. It is illegal to run red lights regardless of where you are going and what you plan to do when you get there. And it’s for the very same reason that the law doesn’t say that you can run red lights in low traffic areas either: Pure, utilitarian efficiency. The law simply… Read more »

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

By the way, here’s a question for katecho, Jane, or anyone else who wants to run with it: As katecho and Jane are defining morality, animals act in ways that are clearly moral. Animals sacrifice themselves for the good of their social unit and to protect their young. They do things that are efficient, which in turn benefits their social unit. So, if we are using katecho’s and Jane’s approach to morality, doesn’t their conduct put them in the category of moral agents, meaning maybe humans aren’t so special? (And, since I assume katecho and Jane are Calvinists, they can’t… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Homosexual sex has been legal for a long time just about everywhere, was effectively legal long before that, and is not part of any serious legal debate right now. And no one is trying to get any special rights to practice homosexual sex. (sorry, but marriage and sex are not synonymous) So no, I don’t by the argument that banning sodomy is anything special right now. Nor do I buy the argument that it makes sense for a pastor to devote his time to speaking about something just because there’s some distant relationship between that and something else the government… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

(Sorry if that came off a little strong at the end there. I meant just to redirect the focus to the question I asked and Trent seconded. I didn’t mean to imply that you were avoiding the question – you haven’t had much time to respond yet.)

Matthias
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Matthias

Eric the Red,

First, nice to see you :)

Second, you asked, “So, if we are using katecho’s and Jane’s approach to morality, doesn’t their conduct put them in the category of moral agents, meaning maybe humans aren’t so special?”

Not if their “approach to morality” is one drawn from the Bible. Which at this point, Eric, should be quite plain to you. It’s been stated quite explicitly, to you, multiple times.

Iohannes
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Iohannes

Eric the Red,

Even a “malum prohibitum” implies “malum,” taken simpliciter. It may only be evil because it is forbidden, but the force of law is based on the idea that it can be punished because actually an evil of some type, therefore there is morality encoded in even so apparently innocuous of a law.

Cordially,
Iohannes

Matthias
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Matthias

Jonathan,

Out of sheer curiosity, what is your alignment/religion/non-religion? (Christian, non-Christian, atheist, agnostic, etc)

Matt Robison
Guest

Eric,

But it IS legal for some to run red lights when taking care of some life-affirming issue. This happens all the time with ambulances, firefighters, police, etc. And of course, in simpler times, there are stories of police escorts through traffic when there is a woman in urgent labor.

Jane
Member

” (And, since I assume katecho and Jane are Calvinists, they can’t even claim a distinction between free will and instinct, since under a Calvinist worldview humans lack free will.)”

Calvinism holds that humans lack free will, in the sense that we lack a will that is free. It does not hold that we lack any sort of deliberative will whatsoever, as distinct from instinct.

As for the rest, others have made any point that I might have.

Jane
Member

” That still leaves a huge difference between laws that are intended to protect a victim, laws that are intended to improve society, and laws that simply cast a judgment on the immorality of the perpetrator. ”

I’d be interested in an example of the last that is not actually also an example of one or both of the other categories.

Tim Nichols
Guest

Jonathan, I’ll let Rev. Wilson answer for himself as he cares to, but here’s my $0.02 on your original question, which Trent seconded. I’ve been reading Wilson for some years now off and on. I’ve listened to maybe 150 of his sermons over the past 5 years, along with a variety of conferences, lectures, and debates. Wilson has made a point of speaking sharply against all forms of sexual sin, and he has done so repeatedly — and he’s done it here on the blog, too. The pastoral job you’re concerned about is getting done, never fear. But pastors live… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Tim – I think that premarital sex, extramarital sex, divorce, lust, etc. (masturbation?) are far more society’s “favorite sins” than homosexual sex, considering that a far higher proportion of all of society (not just Christians or even Reformed Christians) celebrates, practices, allows, or even tolerates them. And I’m also guessing that you could track the blog back in time and find 3 posts attacking anyone who practices homosexual sex for every post attacking any specific sin practiced by those practicing heterosexual sex. Even though the latter is probably occurring five times more often than the former in our nation, and… Read more »

Matthias
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Matthias

Jonathan,

I hadn’t noticed before. My apologies. Thanks for answering my question.

Katecho
Member

The list of things that Jonathan doesn’t want Doug talking about continues to swell. Economics, science, evolution, homosexuality, etc, etc, etc. I’m beginning to detect a theme. Perhaps it would be easier for Jonathan to provide a list of the things that Doug is allowed to talk about? Doug proclaims the gospel which is public and reaches into everything — the Christ who is public Lord and public King. Such truths are highly offensive to many, including many Christians, who prefer relativistic and subjective and private religion. The public gospel is the kind that makes a certain type of person… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: “As katecho and Jane are defining morality, animals act in ways that are clearly moral. Animals sacrifice themselves for the good of their social unit and to protect their young.” Firstly, I’m not aware of anything in Scripture that requires us to view all animals as amoral. That seems like an Eric the Red Herring. The uniqueness of mankind is in our being created to grow from glory to glory to be image bearers of God. That is, to mature to act like God would act in the world. This looks like dominion, and judging/discerning good… Read more »

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

Matthias, yes, I understand that the Bible declares humans to be different, but that is simply an appeal to authority. When, as here, the Bible proclaims something that is so completely at variance with the observable way the world actually operates, you have to do better than simply say, “It’s in the Bible.” If there were a verse in the Bible that says that 2+2=6, would you simply declare all mathematicians to be wrong, or would you at least try to come up with some plausible explanation for the apparent discrepancy? Iohannes, there are utilitarian reasons for forbidding some acts… Read more »

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

Katecho, the thing in Scripture that precludes animals from having a moral nature is that (1) they aren’t image bearers and (2) that was what made them suitable for use as sin offerings in the Old Testament. If animals were moral agents, then the lamb on the altar would be dying for its own sins, and not for the sins of the human on whose behalf it was slain. But since a lamb hasn’t got a moral nature, it is sinless, and therefore an appropriate sacrifice.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

“Eric wants to ascribe such a noble and poetic notion as “sacrifice” to what his own naturalistic dogma asserts is but a mere act of genetic propagation and pre-programmed survival instinct. How ironic.”

Since Katecho posted that without having the benefit of my 2:22 p.m. comment and I assume my comments there clear up the confusion in his (her?) mind that I ascribe moral agency to animals.

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: “Katecho, the thing in Scripture that precludes animals from having a moral nature is that (1) they aren’t image bearers and (2) that was what made them suitable for use as sin offerings in the Old Testament. If animals were moral agents, then the lamb on the altar would be dying for its own sins, and not for the sins of the human on whose behalf it was slain. But since a lamb hasn’t got a moral nature, it is sinless, and therefore an appropriate sacrifice.” I guess Eric is an authority on Scripture now, but… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: “Since Katecho posted that without having the benefit of my 2:22 p.m. comment and I assume my comments there clear up the confusion in his (her?) mind that I ascribe moral agency to animals.” I am not confused THAT Eric ascribes moral agency to animals. I’m just observing the irony of it, given his naturalism and his stated commitment to materialistic determinism: “I believe you major life decisions are largely controlled by your biochemistry.” I’m curious which of Eric’s decisions AREN’T controlled by his biochemistry? How is Eric able to suspend the biochemistry of even one… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: “For example, it’s not immoral in and of itself to mail explosives, but I can think of a great many utilitarian reasons why the Postal Service may not wish to handle them, and may make a rule about it. (Not sure without looking it up if there’s actually a federal statute against mailing explosives; my suspicion without looking it up is that there is.) And the fact that someone here may be able to make a strained argument that it’s about loving your neighbor doesn’t change the fact that that rule is primarily utilitarian.” Where does… Read more »

Iohannes
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Iohannes

Eric the Red,

Your assumption is that morality only deals with “malum in se,” things evil in and of themselves, whereas the category of “malum prohibitum,” or things that are evil because they are forbidden, falls under something called utilitarianism and not morality. The assumption can be quite easily undermined by this question: do we have an obligation not to do things that are only malum prohibitum, not malum in se? If so, we are still dealing with the inescapable morality of law, whether the justifications for those laws are deontological or utilitarian in nature.

Cordially,
Iohannes

bethyada
Member

Eric the Red If there were a verse in the Bible that says that 2+2=6, would you simply declare all mathematicians to be wrong, or would you at least try to come up with some plausible explanation for the apparent discrepancy? There are many verses in the Bible like this—deductive mathematical and logical problems. God gave us the ability to reason and know the difference between that which is necessarily true and that which is claimed or observed to be true. Plausible explanations are the rule of the day; though this is usually after establishing exactly what is said which… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Katecho says: “The list of things that Jonathan doesn’t want Doug talking about continues to swell. Economics, science, evolution, homosexuality, etc, etc, etc. I’m beginning to detect a theme. Perhaps it would be easier for Jonathan to provide a list of the things that Doug is allowed to talk about?” Katecho, I will ask you kindly to please address comments to me, instead of the audience. It would help me feel better and would not take anything away from you. Your declaration that I do not want Doug talking about those things is completely false. I said that philosophers and… Read more »

Tim Nichols
Guest

Jonathan, I think we may operating with two different definitions of “society’s favorite sins.” Your angle speaks to which sins are being committed most, and of course you’re completely right — in terms of sheer volume, fornication, adultery, pornography and lust have definitely cornered the market. Homosexuality doesn’t even come close. As I said, I believe Wilson is addressing all these things, and doing it pretty well. His critique of those sins runs from his fiction (Evangellyfish) through his preaching and conference speaking, and right on into his nonfiction writing, where whole books have been devoted to being faithful to… Read more »

Willis
Guest
Willis

Would a Christian future need more civil laws? The bible seems to say the opposite. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Katecho, for the third time now, I don’t ascribe moral agency to animals, and if your reading comprehension skills are so bad that you’re still claiming I do, then we have little to talk about. I think they act on the basis of their deterministic instincts, and the only major difference between a cat defending her kittens and a human mother defending her young is that the human has a bigger brain and therefore a better grasp of why she’d doing what she’s doing. Iohannes, if you’re defining “obligation” as I think you are, then you have no obligation to… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Tim Nichols – which is the greater sin, to have sex with another man, or to openly deny Christ and refuse to follow him? I have never expected society at large to follow my Christ-given morality. Heck, I expect society to protect other people’s rights to worship Krishna, to follow Mohammed, to pledge allegiance to Jehovah yet rebuke and deny Christ, and to claim that Christ came to America and to write another holy book about it. I expect people throughout the society to lie in certain ways, to hate in other ways, to lust after whoever they are sexually… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: “I especially don’t believe that Christ’s moral law can be enforced by a civic law in lieu of a heart change.” Wilson has consistently expressed a bottom up Gospel approach to legal reform for years. Yet somehow Jonathan still wants to paint Wilson’s recent blog posts as some sort of top-down anti-homosexual campaign. That’s rich. I would have expected that distortion tactic from the unbelievers though, not from Jonathan. Jonathan seems to have completely lost touch with what Wilson has been saying. Doug wrote: “So the arrival of mere Christendom will therefore be convulsive — but it won’t… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: “Katecho, for the third time now, I don’t ascribe moral agency to animals, and if your reading comprehension skills are so bad that you’re still claiming I do, then we have little to talk about.” I’ll accept some of the blame, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to assign the bulk of the failure to communicate to Eric this time. Eric wrote: “Animals sacrifice themselves for the good of their social unit and to protect their young.” This was Eric’s original claim, not mine. Ascribing moral awareness of the abstract concept of sacrifice to an… Read more »

Iohannes
Guest
Iohannes

Eric the Red,

So, I don’t have any obligation to obey a malum prohibitum, but society can still impose its morality on me? Sounds pretty fascist, dude.

Cordially,
Iohannes

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

“Yet somehow Jonathan still wants to paint Wilson’s recent blog posts as some sort of top-down anti-homosexual campaign. That’s rich. I would have expected that distortion tactic from the unbelievers though, not from Jonathan.” Since that’s the third time you’ve made that exact statement about me in a blog comment, and since you have compared me to an unbeliever in several other ways on this blog, it would seem that you actually do expect that from me. It also is a little silly to say, since, as many other great Christians have testified, being a believer doesn’t actually prove that… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Katecho says; “Does Jonathan also think that those who speak in defense of the unborn are just part of an anti-abortionist campaign? Does Jonathan think that, even in a Christian culture, we should never employ civic laws to defend the unborn from those who don’t hold our moral views?” You notice how you just said, “In defense of the unborn”? Now try to complete the sentence, “Those who speak in defense of the ______ are just part of an anti-homosexual campaign.” The problem is, they are rarely speaking “in defense” of anyone. That’s the critical distinction here. There are anti-abortion… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Katecho, you continue to frequently claim I say things that I have never said. I’ve already had to ask you several times to only makes claims about me that you can quote. In fact, I made that request, not for the first time, quite recently. I’m going to ask you again. Don’t say things like “Jonathan has prepared” or “Jonathan portrays” or “Jonathan seems to be supposing” unless you have actual quotes that match the claims you are making about me. I ask this because you have made false claims about me over and over and over again. I don’t… Read more »

David R
Guest
David R

” Anti-sodomy laws didn’t make those who desired to practice homosexuality holy” And… – Anti-abortion laws didn’t make those who desired to practice abortion holy – Anti-theft laws didn’t make those who desired to practice theft holy – Anti-murder laws didn’t make those who desired to murder holy So where do you stand on the law in general and where should it be applied? I dont think you will find anyone here who believes that the law will bring anyone to Christ, yet you are OK misrepresenting them and falsely accusing them of such things. “I also don’t believe that… Read more »

Tim Nichols
Guest

Jonathan,

I repeat, speaking to the sins of the society, and speaking of them as sins, is part of the central calling of the gospel ministry. Ask Amos (of “cows of Bahshan” fame).

Refusal to do this is one of the besetting sins of our own kind. Granting that Wilson has pitched his voice so that it can be heard in the CBA exhibitor’s hall as well as at the local Pride parade, what’s your point? This is just a matter of leading by example.

Katecho
Member

David R has very nicely captured the point I was attempting to make. Also, Doug has consistently stated that he isn’t trying to lead with a bunch of new laws, but that in Christendom (as God’s will is progressively being done on earth as in heaven), the civic law will look like it is being redeemed also, and that means homosexual acts and abortion, etc, would not be permitted. Jonathan has falsely accused Wilson of hatred, and of being involved in the “Big Lie” of an anti-homosexual campaign. When Wilson says that homosexuality would be illegal, Jonathan apparently assumes the… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: “Katecho, I will ask you kindly to please address comments to me, instead of the audience. It would help me feel better and would not take anything away from you.” Jonathan sets himself up as Doug’s opponent at every turn and tries to paint Wilson with as foul a brush as he can, yet it is still about Jonathan’s feelings? It would make me feel better if Jonathan would stick to the content of the issues instead of the form. So should I start behaving like a wounded puppy now? It’s juvenile. Use of third person is common… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

“” Anti-sodomy laws didn’t make those who desired to practice homosexuality holy” And… – Anti-abortion laws didn’t make those who desired to practice abortion holy – Anti-theft laws didn’t make those who desired to practice theft holy – Anti-murder laws didn’t make those who desired to murder holy” David, don’t you see the point there? Anti-abortion laws would be made to protect the babies, the victims of abortion. Anti-theft laws would be made to protect the targets, the victims of theft. Anti-murder laws would be made to protect the potential dead, the victims of murder. Anti-homosexuality laws are made to… Read more »