The Absence of a Moral Consensus

  In recent days, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that pitted the rights of parents against those of grandparents. In 1993, Brad Troxel committed suicide, leaving behind two daughters. His parents wanted to maintain their close relationship with the girls, especially after the mother told them she was going to remarry. But the mother felt her in-laws' demands interfered with her rights as parent. So the Troxels sued under a Washington statute that allows any non-parent visitation rights if the court deems it to be "in the best interest of the child." All fifty states have similar statutes. But Washington's Supreme Court overturned the law, ruling that it threatened the authority of the mother. So the grandparents appealed to the United States Supreme Court; but if the reaction of the justices during oral arguments is any indication, the Troxels are not likely to prevail there, either. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor called the Washington law "breathtakingly broad." And Time magazine noted that under this law even nannies and soccer coaches could win visitation rights. Ironically, this case comes to our attention just days after the Vermont Supreme Court, in order to extend benefits to same-sex couples, stripped traditional marriage of its special legal status. The court ruled, as you may recall, that any two people living together are entitled to the same legal protection as a man and woman joined together in holy matrimony. This startling decision effectively deconstructs the institution of marriage. The juxtaposition of these two cases indicates the moral schizophrenia we have succumbed to as a society. For years we have been told that autonomy is the ultimate goal of life. People can do as they please. But this mindset has led to a rise in divorce, remarriage, and so-called blended families. And more and more states have enacted domestic partner statutes. So now we see lesbian couples adopting children, and "Heather Has Two Mommies" is a text in many schools. But can't we see what we've done? By deconstructing the family and saying that any two adults can constitute a family, we have trivialized the very institution of marriage and destroyed the basis of society. Suddenly we're seeing all sorts of aberrations. People dissolve marriages at will, and grandparents are forced to sue for the right to see their grandchildren. But when the courts act in the place of what used to be settled by moral consensus, we end up with the tyranny of judges and lawyers telling us what to do. The courts begin to micromanage human affairs and the result is impossible moral dilemmas like we see in this case. Should parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit? Of course. Should grandparents be able to see their grandchildren? Again, of course. There was a time when Mom and Dad would take the kids to see Granny for Sunday dinner. Now they meet her in the courtroom. And this is why Christians have to make a better case to our neighbors for why the traditional family is so important. If you contact us at BreakPoint, we'll provide with important material you can use. If we fail to act, we put at risk the most essential institution of civil society and invite judicial chaos, or worse.


Chuck Colson


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