A “Word” on Why America and the Church Are So Divided

Mar 25, 2022 by David Fowler

A “Word” on Why America and the Church Are So Divided
To George Bernard Shaw has been attributed the statement, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”  Funny, but true. True, but not funny is that America is now a country divided by the same language, as demonstrated by two events this week involving a single word—the testimony U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and the response of an opponent to legislation that moved forward in the legislature. This week's events portend trouble for our nation. 

Judge Jackson and the Word ‘Woman”

This week, Senator Marsha Blackburn asked Judge Jackson what, until the last nanosecond in human history, would have been a simple question, “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman?’”
Judge Jackson’s answer, "Can I provide a definition? No, I can’t. Not in this context, I'm not a biologist.”
National correspondent Philip Bump wrote in the Washington Post that the question was “unanswerable.”
In sum, while all of us use the word “woman,” it apparently no longer has any given or fixed meaning by which we can communicate among ourselves a commonly held idea about the essence of what a woman is. Consequently, we cannot have a commonly held idea about what we mean by the word “man” as distinct from a woman. Herein lies the basis for transexual and non-binary thinking.

Tennessee Legislation and the Word “Marriage”

Tuesday, the Tennessee Senate’s Judiciary Committee referred the Marital Contract Recording Act (Senate Bill 562) to the full Senate for reconsideration by a vote of 6 to 3, and a House subcommittee referred the bill to the Civil Justice Committee by a vote of 4 to 2.
The bill does not change in any manner the state’s marriage licensing statutes, which all state officials now interpret as authorizing the issuance of a marriage license to two people of the same sex or the opposite sex. 
However, the bill provides a way by which a man and woman can continue to make a commitment as husband and wife and prove they did so without first getting permission from state government to do so. It rests on the idea that throughout history men and women made commitments to each other before there were any enacted civil laws, not as business partners, but as “husband and wife,” which commitment constituted a marriage. 
The response of opponents was that legislation would “give a man/woman couple a bonus option in marriage that others don't have.” (emphasis supplied)

Evaluating The Meaning of These Responses.

Opponents of the marriage bill, Judge Jackson, and Mr. Bump do not believe the words “woman” and “man” contain or represent any truth about what it means to be human. Consequently, none of them, as a logical matter, can believe the word “marriage” contains or represents any truth about a particular kind of human relationship distinct from all others.[i]
That is why opponents of the Marital Contract Recording Act view it as a state-provided “bonus option” for opposite-sex couples. For them, the word “marriage” is merely a legal construct having only such meaning as that word is given by civil government. Civil government is giving opposite-sex couples two ways to marry while same-sex couples only have one.
In other words, for opponents of the bill, the word marriage does not convey the same conception of marriage that I mean to convey when I use that word. 
But that is not the only difference between us or even the most fundamental one. The words have different meanings because we have two entirely different, incompatible, and unreconcilable worldviews. Mine rests on the assumption that there is a God who has created all things and given His own fixed and invariable meaning to all things. That of the others says there is no such God, assuming such even exists.
For opponents of the bill there is no longer a category by which anyone can rationally speak of marriage as an institution existing prior to and independent from any act of civil government, which is precisely what I mean by that word. That is why a witness against the bill called it "silly."

God’s “Word” of Judgment

The story of the tower being built to the heavens in the city of Babel (Genesis 11) is the story of human beings who then all shared the same language and thought they could ascend to the place of God and, in essence, supplant Him, take His place.
By analogy to our present situation, the residents of Babel all knew what the other meant by the words they used for man, woman, and marriage. And, by analogy, they were going to build their own universe (city) of meaning by themselves, as we are now trying to do with civil laws.
God noted that with a common language the people could work together to make progress toward whatever they set their minds to do. So, as His judgment on them, God decided to “confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (v. 7).  Consequently, they “ceased building” (v. 8).

Application to America

Everyone in America wants to make progress.
Some want to make progress toward making America great again by restoring certain things, though I’m not altogether clear what they are. Whatever it is, though, it is not grounded in a clarion call to recall to our minds God as Creator of all things and a belief that civil government must operate under and be subject to the eternal law God has ordained and established for the flourishing of all things, including His law pertaining to human nature.
Others want America to become great. They want to replace what exists in our society, developed over centuries, and that they think is not great, by the quick fix of enacting a set of humanistically conceived civil laws.
How will either side make progress when our language is confused, and we communicate past each other?  I don’t think we can. Therefore, one worldview with its language must prevail over the other. We are in a “word war” in which only one purveyor of ideas can win.
[i] Moreover, as a matter of logic, none of them will be able to withstand or resist an argument that state laws prohibiting polygamy and polyandry are unconstitutional.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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