Monday, January 27, 2014

What a difference a couple of generations makes. . .

Recently a federal court struck down Virginia's anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional.  I was actually surprised that any states still had anti-sodomy laws on their books since a decade ago (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003) the US Supreme Court ruled that such laws were not constitutional.  When I looked it up I discovered  Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana still had anti-sodomy laws on their books and Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas had laws outlawing sodomy for homosexuals only.  It seems Virginia's Attorney General is asking the court to reconsider.  Illinois was the first state to throw out its anti-sodomy law in 1961.  By the end of the next decade, 19 other states joined Illinois. 

California was the first U.S. State to adopt what we now call 'no-fault' divorce; it happened in 1969.  That bill was signed by none other than then Governor Ronald Reagan.  Since 1985, no-fault divorce has been available in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.  This eliminates the need for one party to be cited for wrongdoing in order to get a divorce and has eased the general restrictions, availability for, and access to divorce.  By all accounts it is not only easier but cheaper to get a divorce under the no-fault laws existing in every state.  It did not take long after the elimination of the ban on attorney advertising to open the way to firms which specialize in obtaining a cheap and easy divorce.  Here in Clarksville we have Divorce Incorporated, a franchise of lawyers specializing in divorce and other family law.  Now we routinely (even Christians) presume that a parent's happiness is a higher priority than a child's welfare.

Of course, it is no secret that on January 22, 1973, with a 7-to-2 majority vote, the US Supreme Court threw down nearly all constitutional barriers to abortion.  More than this, it established abortion laws tied to the medical technology of the time by deciding when fetal viability wrote the fine line between abortion and legally protected life.  This has remained a hotbed of discontent and division among Americans ever since.

In October of 1989 Denmark became the first nation to recognize same sex marriage.  Eleven years later Vermont Governor Howard Dean signed into law the first civil union law in the nation. In 2004 the Supreme Court of  Massachusetts acted to recognize the right of same sex couples to wed and the legislature failed to oppose the court's decision thus making same sex marriage legal.  Massachusetts was the first state to do so.  By the end of December, seventeen other states and the District of Columbia will have also issued marriage licenses to same sex couples. 

In December, a Utah court found the prohibitions against polygamy were also unconstitutional.

My point in this?  The pace of change is hastening and the boundaries that once seemed unchangeable have been moved with surprising ease both here in the US and throughout the world.  What will happen next?  Who could have predicted where we would be today if you were alive in 1960?  The pace of this change as well as the radical nature of such changes have tested the fabric of our national identity and created serious and deep division among the people.  We are more divided than ever before on the state of the family, the nature of our community, the shape of our society, and what is moral or immoral.

In other words, this rapid pace of change is not merely an issue for Christians and for religion.  What else will suffer because we have broken down barriers at such speed?  How much change can we as a community and a nation endure before the threads of our national and local unity are shredded? Something to think about during this month in which we ponder some of this change....


Anonymous said...

Seems to me that traditional marriage was rooted in Scripture which produced a particular type of fruit (not saying there was ever perfection), the idea of self sacrifice. A husband sacrificing himself for his wife and children. A wife sacrificing herself for her husband and her children.
We have done our level best to cut that tree down and root marriage in sex and self gratification. It has yielded a different fruit. Marriage has suffered. Children have suffered. Society has suffered.
The irony to me is that we want the fruit of the first tree, rooted in self sacrifice from the second tree, rooted in self. I saw an article where counseling is now mandated for individuals who have had multiple marriages and divorces. Tend to doubt it will work.

Janis Williams said...

@ Anonymous: Insightful words. The desire for apples from pear trees, so to speak. Could be applied to most our sins.

Anonymous said...

One point of correction, New York only recently passed a no-fault divorce law in 2010.

Some cynics note that the abundance of lawyers in New York accounts for the lag. No fault divorce is much cheaper. This cynic thinks that it was a step towards gays gaming marriage. Gays treat marriage more like going steady. Could you imagine divorce proceedings for a gay couple without a no fault option? Imagine the sordid details in the case. Even liberal judges don't want to hear that stuff.