Of Jesus, The Woman Caught In Adultery, Public Morality, The Law – And The Consequences Of Ignoring Our Developing Social Crisis

I had an interesting discussion with an intelligent young libertarian that we didn’t have time to finish.  It involved the libertarian (and liberal) notion that morality shouldn’t be legislated.  An interesting fact about that view is that the very view itself amounts to legislating your morality as opposed to the person’s morality that holds that morality SHOULD be legislated.

It is simply a fact that every single law presupposes somebody’s view of morality.  Any law that says “X is wrong and the consequences are therefore Y” or “You must do X and the penalty for not doing X is Y” are invariably based on somebody’s view as to what is right and what is wrong.  You simply cannot avoid “legislating morality”; it is only a question as to whose morality ought to be legislated.

My friend believes that moral issues such as prostitution and narcotics offenses should not be crimes and should not be punished by the legal system.  He specifically said that people shouldn’t be put in federal prison for such non-violent crimes.  Why not?  After all, he says that he himself doesn’t believe in drugs and would never use a prostitute.  His answer: Because he doesn’t believe that it is right for him to hold other people accountable for his moral views.

Well, let me say a few things in addition to the aforementioned fact that EVERY law and for that matter every striking down of every law that has been on the books (e.g., “sodomy laws”) represent somebody’s morality.  The first emerges from Abraham Lincoln – and why he was the first Republican rather than the first libertarian.

In 1858, Democrat candidate for president Stephen Douglas, in arguing that slavery ought to be legal (more specifically, that slavery not be made ILLEGAL) assumed a view that the government could be completely neutral in regards to a moral issue like slavery (or abortion, or homosexuality, etc.) and allow each person the right to own a slave (or abort a baby or marry a same-sex partner) as he or she chose.  I’ve described the exchange Douglas had with Lincoln before:

Douglas said that, although he was “personally against” the institution of slavery, “popular sovereignty” ought to determine whether slavery was legal or not. Does that sound familiar? The state isn’t “for” slavery or “for” abortion or – in the case of prostitution – “for” prostitution; it ought to be completely “neutral” and allow people to decide for themselves. In their Sixth Debate at Quincy on October 13, 1858, Abraham Lincoln’s famous response to Douglas was:

“So I say again, that in regard to the arguments that are made, when Judge Douglas says he “don’t care whether slavery is voted up or voted down,” whether he means that as an individual expression of sentiment, or only as a sort of statement of his views on national policy, it is alike true to say that he can thus argue logically if he don’t see anything wrong in it; but he cannot say so logically if he admits that slavery is wrong. He cannot say that he would as soon see a wrong voted up as voted down. When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.”

The fact of the matter is that if government permitted blacks to be owned as slaves, it was not taking a neutral position. It was implicitly accepting the view that blacks were less than fully human, and therefore could be owned as property if someone chose to do so. And if the presuppositions justifying slavery were wrong, then as Lincoln said, one simply could not have “the right to do wrong” – even by popular vote. In the same way, by permitting unborn babies to be aborted, the government is not taking a neutral position. Rather, it is likewise implicitly accepting the view that the unborn are not fully human, and therefore can be regarded essentially as property rather than as persons (property that may be destroyed at will).

On issues such as abortion, or prostitution, or homosexual marriage, or narcotics crimes, I do not accept the argument that would be legislating my moral view and that doing so is somehow wrong for me to do.  That is because 1) the other side is equally legislating ITS moral view, and if the other side has a right to legislate its morality than I certainly have just as much right to legislate mine. 2) I further submit that in all of these issues, I am not merely legislating “my” morality; rather, I submit that God has made it plain that He is against these things the same way that I am, and I further submit that the entirety of Western civilization is similarly on my side on all of these issues. 3) there is no such thing as “neutrality” on a moral principle or issue.  You simply ultimately must take one position or the other.  When it comes to legalizing abortion, for example, the government cannot claim “neutrality” because they are affirming that ultimately abortion is permissible and it is not wrong for someone to have one.   And it therefore boils down to 4) as Lincoln argued: a person cannot have a right to do something that is wrong.

During our conversation, my friend brought up a fascinating point as supporting his view that we should not be legislating morality: he brought up Jesus and the example of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Here’s the story (John 8:3-11 from the NIV):

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I should point out that this story – as famous as it is – is NOT in the earliest manuscripts of the Book of John and was quite possibly not in John’s Gospel as he wrote it.  It is also not found in any of the other Gospels.  I could therefore simply dismiss this account as a later addition to the Gospel and at the very least argue that one shouldn’t make sweeping conclusions on the basis of a story that may not even have been part of Jesus’ teaching.  I’m not going to take that path in the rest of my interpretation of this passage and in fact believe the passage is an authentic event in the life of Jesus, but you should realize that option is available.

My friend cited this story in John’s Gospel to support his view that Jesus was essentially a libertarian here and abrogated the notion of the law punishing someone for moral issues like adultery.  And the implicit assumption is that what applies to adultery would likewise therefore apply to prostitution, homosexual marriage and narcotics crimes (i.e., to all the so-called “victimless crimes”).  Is he right?

Take a moment before reading on to think about how you would respond to this and upon what grounds you would so respond before reading on.

Let me point out a few things that need to be understood.

1) Jesus is not abrogating the Law of Moses here.  In a passage that was unquestionably the words of Jesus, we have this: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

Interestingly, on John’s (Johannine) theology, it was the pre-incarnate Christ who gave Moses the Ten Commandments to begin with.  John 1:1-3 famously teaches that Jesus as the Word was God the Creator.  It teaches that “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  It was Christ who created the universe and created man in His image so that He could one day assume the image of man in the Incarnation.  And it was the pre-incarnate Christ who appeared to Moses in the burning bush.

It’s not like Christ as God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Creator, Yahweh the I Am, gave Moses the law and then later came to earth and decided that the stuff about punishing adultery was wrong.  There is a great deal more going on in this account of what Jesus did and why He did it.  And particularly, given that Jesus specifically taught that He had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, one simply does not have warrant to assume that contrary to what Jesus said He actually DID come to abolish the law.

2) Part of that “great deal more” that is going on is overtly stated in the account itself:

 “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

This was hardly a mere matter of asking Jesus whether the Laws of Moses were valid or whether the specific Law of Moses pertaining to punishment of adultery was valid.  The pharisees dragged this woman before Jesus to trap him.  The woman was merely a pawn in their game.  Basically, they were seeking to put Jesus in an impossible dilemma: if Jesus said that the woman should be stoned, then Jesus would be guilty of demanding the death penalty which was reserved for Rome and therefore Jesus would be guilty of insurrection against Rome.  And don’t think the Pharisees would not have immediately raced to Pontius Pilate and made sure that Pilate was aware that a dangerous insurrectionist was walking around inciting Jews to commit violence.  And if Jesus said the woman should not be stoned, then Jesus would be guilty of abolishing the Word of God and the Law and teachings of Moses and therefore a blasphemer and a heretic.  Jesus had to answer the Pharisees in a manner which did not invite either of these two above interpretations.  If the woman actually had been stoned to death, she would have died not as a result of her adultery but for being a political tool in the effort to entrap Jesus.  That must be seen as the proper background for Jesus’ answer.

3) There is also something very wrong with this picture:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.

How many does it take to tango?  Doesn’t it take TWO people to commit adultery?  Where’s the man?  Why isn’t he there?  Just how was it that “this woman was caught in the act of adultery” but they didn’t catch her partner?

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that I to this very day believe that people caught in the act of adultery should be stoned to death.  Does that therefore mean that I would or should agree that only the women should be stoned and the men should get off scott free?  Must I hold that stoning the women is better than not stoning anybody?  Because that’s the specific circumstance that Jesus was confronted with.

By this point in time, the Pharisees had actually long-since ceased following the “laws of Moses” and were instead following “a hedge around the law” of Moses in its place.  They had developed all sorts of laws in sources such as the Talmuds, the Mishnah and the Midrashim and had added levels upon levels and layers upon layers of laws to surround the law of Moses ostensibly to keep a person from breaking the law of Moses by making it such that he or she would have to first break a whole series of laws just to GET to the Law of Moses.

Jesus described these additional laws in Matthew 23:1-4 (NLT):

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.  So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Unfortunately, they had an uncanny way of providing loopholes for themselves.  The woman could and should be stoned to death for her crime of adultery, but the man who committed adultery with her and presumably informed the Pharisees of her crime was let off the hook.

And in condemning the woman to death, Jesus would have been providing His assent to this entire unjust system that had arisen around the Law of Moses in addition to being labeled as an  insurrectionist against Rome.

How was Jesus to render His judgment about a system which stoned a woman to death as an adulteress while the man who had committed the same act of adultery with her walked away whistling and able to do it again?

In answering the way that He did, Jesus on the one hand could not be called an insurrectionist against Rome; those who were about to stone the woman put their stones down because of his words.  On the other hand, He likewise could not be said to have abrogated the Law of Moses.  Because He didn’t tell them NOT to stone her; He merely called attention to the fact that those who were about to be executioners because this woman was a sinner were themselves sinners.  It was the perfect answer for the trap the Pharisees had set for Jesus; in fact it was the ONLY answer for the trap.

4) Jesus’ mission and ministry itself was also involved.

I’ve heard death penalty opponents ask the question, “Would Jesus sentence somebody to death?”  And of course, you’re supposed to read John 8:3-11 and conclude “Oh my gosh!  No, He wouldn’t have!  The death penalty is wrong!”  But let’s ask another question on the same view: “Would Jesus sentence somebody to life imprisonment?”  And of course, on the same view that you use above, the answer is, “No.  Jesus wouldn’t have done that, either.  He would have forgiven the criminal.”  On the view that is being taken of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, Jesus would have forgiven the criminal for his crime – regardless of what it was – and told him, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

You end up with a category fallacy, as I shall explain. 

We run into two problems in understanding the John 8 passage as Jesus teaching that adultery – and all the other aforementioned moral issues and “victimless crimes” – should no longer be punished.  One is everything I’ve said above, and the other was speaking in John 8 as One who did not come in the Incarnation to judge and condemn people for their sins, but rather to deliver and save people from their sins.  That’s the category fallacy I was talking about.  It doesn’t mean that Jesus was saying that all laws be set aside.  He wasn’t teaching that we can or should do away with the Law of Moses, or that public moral crimes such as adultery and homosexuality and prostitution, etc. etc. be allowed to flourish without any punishments.  Rather, he was saying to those who were merely trying to set a trap for Him by dragging a woman before Him in order to get Him to commit insurrection against Rome that if her accusers were going to demand she be punished for her sins, then her accusers should be punished for theirs, as well.

One day, for the record, Jesus will return as King of kings and as Lord of lords.  And He will very MUCH come to judge and render judgment.  And yes, people WILL be held accountable to the moral law and they will be punished for their crimes against men and against God.

There’s an increasingly popular view that liberals and libertarians share: public moral issues such as homosexual marriage and prostitution and the narcotics industry don’t hurt them as individuals and therefore we should simply step aside and allow those who want to “fundamentally transform” America to have at it.  My response is twofold: number one, if your argument is “It’s not hurting me” and that’s all you care about, you’re not a patriot because you only care about yourself.  Your marriage won’t implode so you don’t care if homosexual marriage and prostitution and widespread narcotics use become the law of the land to go along with adultery and abortion.

Well, that was the exact same attitude that the Germans had as they watched the Nazis take the Jews away.  They weren’t Jews so it didn’t affect them and they didn’t care.  Martin Niemöller summed up the reality that “It doesn’t affect me” is a rather morally idiotic way to live.  This idea that “it doesn’t affect me so I don’t care” is the essence of “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

The second thing is that these issues DO affect you.  Because they affect all of society all around you. 

George Washington said the following in his farewell address.  In his very last words to the nation, the father of our country issued us this warning:

“Of all the habits and dispositions which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars.”

Fellow founding father John Adams expressed a very similar warning this way:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We reject our religious tradition and degrade public morality at our peril.  I write about the constant liberal attempt to rip up the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution and take away our right to keep and bear arms and protect our homes and our properties from both private individual criminals and public sector bureaucrat tyrants alike.  They decry the violence they see around them, but will never realize that it was their “fundamental transformation of America” which they have pursued for the last sixty years that broke down our society and turned it into a violent place to begin with.  I write:

Liberals have worked hard for the last fifty years to take away our morality and our religion. In so doing, they have given us the very violence that is now spiralling out of control. Liberals are the kind of people who have taken away prayer. Liberals are the kind of people who have refused to allow the posting of the Ten Commandments because “If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey, the Commandments,” and God-as-Government forbid that children be allowed to do something like that. Liberals are the kind of people who have imposed godless abortion upon society to the tune of 54 MILLION innocent human beings butchered since 1973. Liberals are the kind of people who have destroyed fatherhood, because according to liberals fathers did not father children, but strictly non-human lumps of biological goop such that they should not be allowed to have any influence whatsoever as to whether their own babies be allowed to even live. Liberals are the kind of people who have imposed pornography on us because liberal justices are moral idiots who are morally incapable of differentiating between art and XXX-rated sex movies. Liberals are the kind of people who imposed no-fault divorce without limit or condition upon us because breaking up families is more important than asking couples who took a vow to one another under God to work to resolve their differences. Liberals are the kind of people who turned marriage itself into a perverted mockery by saying that the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman be adulterated to include whatever the hell politically correct understanding depraves the minds of the left next.

These are the people that George Washington said, “These people are NOT patriots.” These are the people that the founding fathers said we needed to be armed to protect ourselves against as they take away the God-given rights of “the people” to protect ourselves against the very tyranny they continually seek to impose upon us.

Abortion has been the death of fatherhood.  When a man and a woman have sexual relations, does a man father a child?  No!  Not on the liberal abortion view!  No child was born; only a lifeless inanimate lump of goo arose.  That man is NOT a father and should have NONE of the rights of a father.  And therefore if he wants his child, he is compelled to stand aside and do nothing while his child is murdered at the “choice” of his child’s mother with absolutely ZERO say in the subject.

In the black community you’ve got two out of every three babies conceived being murdered in their mothers’ wombs.  What ought to be the safest place in the world for a baby is the most dangerous place.  And you wonder why 71% of all black children are raised without fathers?  Those “non-father fathers” are merely living according to the Democrat/liberal reality that fathers do not matter and that they should have no choice and no rights as fathers.  They didn’t “father” anything and they have no rights and no “choice” even if they think they DID “father” something; so they should therefore have no responsibility and there’s the door right over there.

You say, “It doesn’t affect me so I don’t care.”  But your poor kid or grand kid has to go to school and then walk home from school surrounded by increasingly psychotic little thugs who never had fathers to teach them right from wrong and discipline them when they chose the latter over the former.  More and more boys are growing up having no idea what it means to be a “man” apart from what their mothers who have become embittered against men tell them.  With the clear result being that boys are growing up to be far worse than the “non-father fathers” who abandoned them.  Morally intelligent people are watching their society become more toxic by the day all around them.  And they damn well know that this decay is hurting them.

Meanwhile the number of workers who support each retiree continues to plummet every single year. Seventeen workers contributed to every retiree’s benefits when the Social Security program began. Now it’s down to 2.3. By 2035 it will be down to 2-1. Meanwhile we have murdered more than 54.5 million future workers since 1973. Any fool ought to know that the trend isn’t good. And yet we keep piling on more and more and more idiocy because “it doesn’t affect me so I don’t care.” One day we’re going to wake up to find ourselves in a collapsing banana republic and then we’ll wish we’d cared.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t affect you.  Because I’ll know from that moment that I’m talking to a moral idiot.

The same applies to prostitution.  Do you really think that’s a ‘victimless crime’?  You don’t think the wives and the fiances and the girlfriends of men who use prostitutes aren’t hurt by this public moral depravity?  You don’t think the children of these men aren’t hurt by it?  You don’t think that the women who prostitute themselves aren’t victimized by an action in which they literally sell their bodies to be used like sex dolls?  You don’t think that life hurts their children and hurts their family members?  You don’t think that when women prostitute themselves it in fact hurts ALL women as men develop an increasingly widespread attitude that women are merely objects to be used and discarded when you’re finished using them?  You don’t think that ANY location where prostitutes gather to further poison society doesn’t become a toxic cesspool that won’t lose its value, thus directly hurting that community?  Yes, prostitution hurts society.  Prostitution hurts society at every single level.

Let me cite an article that was in the Los Angeles Times on a different subject that creates the same sort of problems for a community: the different subject was panhandling.  Liberal cities like Arcata – known as “the Berkley of the North” – has tried to ban the panhandlers they once encouraged to flood into their city.  In addition to the trash, the drug needles, the human feces all over, these “tolerant” liberals discovered that they were killing their city’s businesses as shoppers increasingly avoided areas where they would get repeatedly and aggressively hit up for money.  You don’t think prostitution doesn’t create an even BIGGER drag on businesses?  You don’t think that prostitution – which brings in gangs and pimps and turf wars along with many other things that make decent people avoid those areas like it had the plague – doesn’t do the same things to the unfortunate businesses that find themselves next to a hell hole?  You don’t think that as businesses fail, jobs leave the area, tax dollars leave the area, the area itself suffers decline and blight, and people aren’t HURT?

You cannot have a right to do wrong, Lincoln said.  What kind of person would actually say, “There’s nothing wrong with prostitution, and I hope my little girl sells herself for hundreds of anonymous men to sexually use her?”  What kind of people would encourage their wives or their mothers to become prostitutes?  If you think that prostitution is a good thing that will help civilization flourish, if you truly believe that women are the sort of dumb farm animals who won’t mind if their men use women for money that rightfully belongs to their households and to their children, then you are a particular kind of sick idiot.  But please have the basic decency NOT to say that while you personally believe it’s wrong and you would never do it yourself that people ought to have the “right” to do this obviously very wrong thing.  The wisdom of Lincoln refutes you right along with the results of the fruits of your attitude on society.

Marriage is under direct attack from so many different liberal policies it is beyond unreal.  Defining marriage as a mere societal convention that has no divine value or transcendent significance, such that it can be redefined according to whatever is the politically correct attitude that happens to be in vogue, is hardly the way to support the institution of marriage.  If marriage means everything, than marriage means absolutely nothing.  It is either a union of one man and one woman under the sight of God or it isn’t.  People are increasingly asking, “Why should we bother to get married?”  Because marriage means less and less, and there is less and less stigma for those who simply don’t bother to marry because there is no longer any value in marriage.  And therefore there is less and less permanence and stability and more and more fracturing of more and more families.

Liberals want to say race is the leading indicator as to poverty.  They are WRONG.  The leading indicator of poverty is single parent households.  There is absolutely no question that regardless of your race or any other factor, that marriage is the place where children thrive and abandoning marriage results in abandoning children to impoverished lives. 

Let us return again to adultery.  What should we do?  Re-legislate the Law of Moses and stone them?  That would be something, wouldn’t it?  Imagine how many despicable people wouldn’t be around to plague society any longer?  That being said, obviously we’re not going to stone adulterers any time soon whether it’s a good thing to do or not.

Tragically, it is very difficult to put the immoral cat back in the bag and embrace public morality once that love of and pursuit of national public morality has been lost.  Once a nation begins to decline, it is very difficult to turn the ship around.  Degenerating from bad to worse to collapse is the pattern that we have observed over and over and over again.

The first thing that we can do as we realize the enormous hole we have dug ourselves in is for the love of God to STOP DIGGING.  Quit attacking marriage, the family, religion, religious values and morality while assuring the people that doing so will do no harm.  Quit saying “it doesn’t affect me so I don’t care.”

The second thing to do is to try to undergird marriage and fight as a society to keep families together.  No-fault divorce and easy convenient divorce have got to go.  And of course, there is no point fighting to preserve marriages and keep couples together unless “marriage” means something that is truly worth fighting for to begin with.

The third thing to do is to find a way to punish public immorality and make acts of public immorality shameful the way it used to be.  We don’t have to resort in jails or even in a return to the stocks.  There are more ways than ever today to publicly shame those who engage in shameful behaviors to go with community service and fines.  But of course, here’s the conundrum: no perpetrator of a shameful act will never truly feel shame if the people that become aware of his or her shameful act are not offended and outraged by the behavior.  The more immorality there is that comes to characterize society at large, the more apathy there will be, and vice versa.  The more tolerant we are as a society toward adultery and divorce, the less stigma there is to commit adultery and to have divorces, the more adultery and divorce you’re going to see.

There was a time when a person possessing common sense could consider the consequences of having an adulterous affair and conclude that the consequences were simply not worth the “rewards” of the act.  As there are fewer and fewer consequences, we have inevitably seen an increase in the number of Americans who have said, “the hell with it.”

And that’s precisely why we’re going to hell.

No one is more victimized by these things than children.  Children of these tragedies perform more poorly academically, have less social competence, have worse health, and have far more behavioral problems than children of mothers and fathers (note: NOT homosexual couples!).  And of course these dysfunctional, scarred children grow up, and the vicious cycle spirals more and more out of control.

Is there a way out?  There is, but America won’t take it.

Which is why the beast is coming.  We’re living in the last days and the devil is panting with eagerness to introduce his Antichrist to the world that will be looking for a messiah of its own choosing after our depraved world collapses under the weight of its wickedness.

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