Mike and Karen Pence, photo by Gage Skidmore
“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their conscience are defiled,” Titus 1:15 ESV. The polluted conscience of an unbelieving mind defiles even what is innocent and pure. On the low end of that scale lies the horror of child abuse; somewhere higher, the ugly corrupting of innocent children’s stories. Maybe in between, the attacks on the happy gift of marriage.
I used the Titus verse above in a recent post that addressed the question, Why do people in the West seem surprised to discover Judeo-Christian morality? The post featured a video of Ryan Anderson, in a hostile context, defending the notion that marriage by definition requires a man and a woman.
Here’s another example of a twisted reaction in a similar vein: the response to Vice-President Mike Pence explaining his commitment to a faithful, covenant marriage. To avoid taking his marriage over the cliff he has built a couple of guardrails—don’t eat alone with a woman and don’t attend an alcohol-furnished party without your wife right beside you.
That such commonsense practices would be met with anything other than affirmation shows how far we have drifted from a healthy marriage ethic. Imagine the effect of millions of spouses observing the same rules. At such a prospect, only a thoroughly secularized society would balk.
But balkers abound. Responses to Pence’s pronouncement have included indignation: anybody who says such a thing demeans women. Others complain that Pence’s practice sexualizes relationships.
“To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.”
We should stand up and cheer Mike Pence
In such moral fog, too many people lose sight of the truth: faithful marriages are healthy for spouses, vital for children, and a boon to the community and society. When the VP of the US gives public witness like this, we should stand up and cheer that such a prominent figure would provide so powerful a model of virtue.
And not only Christians can applaud. Yes, Mike Pence identifies himself as a Christian. He believes the Bible and seeks to obey it. But not only Christians get married, and not only Christians want a healthy marriage. Nor is a healthy marriage the exclusive property of Christians or Jews. Like all that is true and good and beautiful, faithfulness in marriage does not benefit only the people of the Book. It’s good for all. Such care and discipline would enhance every marriage, favor every family, bless every community and nation.
For a long time, everybody knew this. As Darrow often points out, for a couple of generations at least we’ve been living off the memory of a biblical worldview here in the West. The actual lifestyle implications, once honored by most citizens, faded at the national level decades ago. But the influence continued in the memories and mores of many people. Now, not so much. In 2004, Robert Louis Wilken, an American historian of early Christianity, observed that in Germany, “even the memory of once having been Christian was fading.” Maybe his reflection is true over much of the West. Maybe it’s true in the US. Have we lost even the recall, the unspoken consensus about the common good? Apparently. Has the ability to distinguish virtue and vice vanished? Looks like it. We are seeing what happens to a society after decades of indoctrination in materialism.
On May 2 a stranger asked to sit at our café table to enjoy a musical performance. In the ensuing conversation, reflecting on the May Day violence the day before, she turned plaintive. What has gone wrong in our society? When I suggested that the generations who were taught materialism and evolutionism could hardly be expected to behave any differently, she pushed back. “I don’t see it that way at all.” She professed Christian faith, but did not agree with my “skewed” analysis. “We need more balance [than my assessment offered].” Translated: “It’s all good and well to go to church on Sunday; I do that myself. But blaming violence on evolution is not a balanced view.”
And yet, don’t ideas, and the practices that flow from those ideas, bear consequences? Can you pollute a river and expect pure water downstream?
Having dishonored marriage for so long, we can’t muster a fitting salute to a worthy example.
For too long, the collective conscience in the West has been defiled and unbelieving. As Christ followers, let us, by behavior and speech, commend to the world a better way. Mr. Pence has set the pace. May his tribe increase.
- Gary Brumbelow