During the Tianenmen Square protests in China in the 1980's, I noticed that one young lady had made a replica of the Statue of Liberty and labelled it, "The Goddess of Democracy." Yes, to some extent that has to be ascribed to translation and cultural issues. Still, I think she caught onto something about American society, whether or not she fully knew it.
When the Statue of Liberty was reopened after its extensive overhaul for structural and safety reasons, New York City had an enormous celebration with fireworks, colored spotlights, et cetera. I had recently read about a celebration in an Asian country where a massive Buddha was draped with flowers and garlands, anointed with scented oils and spices, presented with sacrifices, and so forth.
Those people were under no illusion that this statue was actually the Buddha, the historical person. It merely represented the principles that they worshipped. Likewise, the people of New York City and the rest of the United States were under no illusion that the Statue of Liberty had any supernatural powers. It merely represented a principle that many of us have come to worship.
It is already prohibited in Canada for the clergy to preach against homosexuality from the pulpit even though the Bible makes it clear how much God disapproves. Many would like to make this the case in the United States as well. Any opposition to the practice is labelled "bgotry" and "hate" and whatever similar pejorative terms can be thought of. It has become such a "lightning rod" issue among Christians and Catholics and Mormons - and yes, even Orthodox Jews have expressed reservations about same-sex marriage - that the actual message of the Bible, especially the end of the first chapter of Paul's letter to Rome, may be fading out of view.
The actual message at the end of Romans chapter 1 appears to me to say that homosexuality is more of a symptom than a cause of our country's spiritual ills. While there are certain physical diseases which are treated by dealing with the symptoms - I believe dysentery is one of those - the premise is that the body's defenses will eliminate the attacker if it does not dehydrate itself in the process. If the bacteria remain in the system, treating the symptoms becomes a treadmill.
Romans chapter 1 makes it very clear that, as much as God has stated elsewhere in Scripture how much He opposes homosexuality, (although He also expressed through Paul to the Corinthians that it is forgiveable, saying, "...and such were some of you..."), it is actually something that is always around for people to fall into and that God actually "gives them over" to it in a certain situation: idolatry. It doesn't say that God causes it to spring up or creates it, just that He "gives them over" to something already there. Parents with children with drug or alcohol problems are sometimes told that they have to stop sheltering and feeding them and let them experience the full consequences of their addiction if they are to realize they need to change.
Has liberty become an idol in America? Do we worship the idea of freedom to do whatsoever we wish, regardless of cultural or moral objections or physical consequences to ourselves and others? Listen to the arguments that are being presented in favor of same-sex marriage, "marriage equality," whatever the phrases that are used. Do we argue for Bernie Madoff to have the "freedom" to encourage people to send him money to misuse for personal gain? In the beginning, like most Ponzi schemes, his investment company paid good returns to people, resulting in ringing endorsements and more investors. But we know (and the investors know in hindsight) that it couldn't last. Are the people who argue for "marriage equality" arguing for freedom to film and distribute child pornography? Not all of them, certainly.
Most of us will admit, (some of us only if backed into a corner), that "liberty" has to be practiced within some boundaries. On the whole, though, we seem to be hearing a rising chorus praising Liberty and Freedom as ends in themselves, as ultimate Good, which must be pursued to the farthest extent that they possibly can. Is this a foundational glitch in our country's principles? Has it been so instilled in our national psyche that we cannot bring it back down to a reasonable level? Unless we admit that at some point we must stop exalting Liberty and tell Liberty she is subject to Law, then we will not only have removed from our Pledge of Allegiance the phrase "one nation under God," we will also have rendered hollow and meaningless the closing phrase, "with Liberty and Justice for all."
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