Saturday, November 22, 2008

Who is Sovereign?

Richard Land has written a column criticizing gay marriage advocates who are petitioning the California Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage.


Land rests his argument on the alleged sovereignty of the people and even goes on to quote that great sage, St. Abraham. You know that whole “of the people, by the people, for the people” stuff. Here is a snippet of the essay:

A majority of Californians have exercised that right and have amended their constitution to define marriage with great specificity and precision as being only between a man and a woman -- no same-sex marriage and no polygamy. If the California Supreme Court were now to attempt to nullify what the people have chosen to do through an expression of their sovereign will, they will have attempted to usurp the sovereignty of government "of the people, by the people and for the people" and to replace it with government "of the judges, by the judges and for the judges."


If the California Supreme Court does not acknowledge its obligation to submit its collective judgment to a constitutional amendment passed by the people, then the democratic freedom reserved to the sovereignty of the people will have perished in California.

But what is sovereignty? According to Webster’s it is the "supreme power especially over a body politic." The word itself derives from the Latin super, meaning above. Thus the sovereign is one who is above all. Land is saying that the voice of the people is the highest authority. But ultimately the sovereign source of the law is the god of a nation. Vox populi vox deus, Dr. Land?


In a democracy people believe that supreme power comes through the people and is incarnated in the state. But sovereignty in fact belongs only to God and is delegated to man, who is given authority in various spheres. A Christian social order knows nothing of ultimate human sovereignty and the word itself is conspicuously missing from our founding documents. In Christendom the state is but one form of “government” among many. Indeed government should primarily mean self-government under God. Likewise the family, school, church and various associations are free to govern themselves.


The effect of “popular sovereignty” is the undermining of all these mediating institutions between the individual and the state. When power is centralized in “the people” the power and legitimate authority of the family and church are undermined. The result being that a democratic state ultimately wars on institutions and demands uniformity. As a consequence other entities such as businesses increase in size and scope leading to the further centralizing of other spheres as men seek to protect themselves from the state. Tacqueville puts it this way: “As private person become more powerless by becoming more equal, they can effect noting in manufactures without combination: but the government naturally seeks to place these combinations under its control.”


We shouldn’t oppose gay marriage because the people say so, for they may not be saying so for long. It is God who through His Word gives meaning and definition to all of life. It is He who is sovereign. And His Word defines marriage as a union between a man and woman (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:5) for the mutual support of husband and wife, to yield the gift of children and spread the dominion of his kingdom (Genesis 2:18; Genesis 1:28). Hence gay marriage is unnatural and a misnomer whatever the whims of “the people” or black-robed tyrants.

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