"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 7, Number 12, December 2004
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;
Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
I will show partiality to no one. Nor will I flatter any man.”
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
Historic American Bibles
While such is mostly ignored in what passes for “education” in America today, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the pervasive influence of the Bible in the English colonies (later countries) in New World, especially in what became the United States of America. It was read, studied, set the pattern for laws, and was universally accepted as the indispensable textbook for reading and morals/ethics in government-controlled schools. Indeed, the very purpose of schooling was to enable people to read the Bible, the essential foundation for public morality and good citizenship. While a complete study of this influence is much beyond our limits here, nevertheless, some account of historic Bible milestones in America is of particular interest. Let us note some Bible “firsts” in America.
The First English Bible in America
Though there were earlier failed attempts at colonization, the first two successful permanent English colonies in the New World were Jamestown in present-day Virginia (founded 1607), and Plymouth in Massachusetts (1620). The first English Bible brought to the New World for use by colonists was no doubt one brought by the settlers at Jamestown. Those colonists, led by their pastor the Reverend Robert Hunt, celebrated Holy Communion immediately after landing in May 1607, and soon built a church (which was regularly used--some of the colony’s leaders were deeply religious) so we can readily assume that there was at least one Bible among them (Ahlstrom, p. 105; Morison, Oxford, pp. 50, 51; Noll, pp. 36-7). But which Bible would it have been? While some might assume the Bible in use at Jamestown at the beginning was the unpopular but officially sanctioned Bishops’ Bible (published originally in 1568), it was almost certainly the much more popular Geneva Bible (1560), the first Bible in use at Plymouth later on. Lloyd Berry, in the “Introduction” to a facsimile reprint of the Geneva Bible, informs us, “It is highly probable that the Geneva Bible was first brought to America in 1607 and used in the Jamestown settlement. William Strachey, secretary of the Virginia Company, used the Geneva Bible in writing his history of Virginia in 1609, and William Whitaker, who was one of the most influential ministers of the colony, used the Geneva Bible in his sermons.” (p. 22).
The Geneva Bible was the work of English exiles living in Geneva in the 1550s. It was the first English Bible to be translated entirely from the original language texts in Hebrew and Greek (all previous English Bibles had been in part translated in the OT from Latin or German versions). It was not produced under the authority of the Anglican Church, as the later Bishops’, King James, and English Revised Versions would be. Because it was superior to it predecessors, and because of its extensive marginal notes, the Geneva became immensely popular, and was the Bible of Shakespeare, of many of the KJV translators, and was even used by John Bunyan late in the 17th century. At any rate, the original English Bible of the Jamestown settlers was certainly not the King James Version, since it did not make its appearance until 1611, four years after Jamestown was founded (some zealous advocates of the exclusive use of the KJV make the demonstrably erroneous claim that the KJV was the first English Bible in the New World).
Furthermore, the Bible in use at Plymouth colony from its founding in 1620 was the Geneva, and for a time only the Geneva Bible. Let us hear Berry again: “The Pilgrims brought the Geneva Bible with them on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620. In fact, the religious writings and sermons published by the members of the Plymouth colony suggest that the Geneva Bible was used exclusively by them in the colony’s early days.” (p. 22)
Bringing the Bible to the New World was no afterthought. The Bible would be more influential, more pervasive in the lives of the British New World colonists than any other people in history. The early colonists in Virginia and Massachusetts set a pattern that would be followed by those who came after them.
The First Bible Printed in America
It may come as something of a surprise to the reader to learn that the earliest Bible printed in the English-speaking colonies in the New World was not in English or any other European language, but in the Massachusetts dialect of the Algonkian language of several native American tribes.
Not a few of the early settlers in New England were zealous to take the Gospel message to the native peoples. Among these was one John Eliot, born in 1602 (or 1604 according to some sources), educated at Cambridge University (B. A. 1622, studying both Latin and Greek and perhaps other ancient tongues), and immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631, where he soon became pastor of a congregation at Roxbury. Burdened to reach the Indians with the Gospel, he diligently labored to learn their language (beginning at nearly age 40--it can be done!), and within three years began to regularly preach to them in their own language. Resulting conversions came with a built-in demand for a vernacular Bible translation. On this he labored with intense devotion from about 1650 onward. The work of translation was done by 1658. While the work was in progress, Eliot had had printed up an Algonkian primer or catechism (which no doubt contained some Bible verses in translation), followed by editions of Genesis and Matthew (1655), and some Psalms in meter (before 1658). The work of printing the entire NT was begun in 1660 and within a year was completed; the whole Bible appeared in 1663. The printing was done in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Around 1,000 copies of the whole Bible were printed, and an additional 500 copies of the NT alone. Not since Ulfilas rendered the Bible into Gothic in the 4th century A.D. had a Christian missionary reduced a previously unwritten language to writing for the express purpose of translating the Bible into that language, then teaching the people how to read it.
A revised edition was called for after the first printing was exhausted. For this revision, Eliot had the able assistance of Pastor John Cotton, whose knowledge of the Algonkian language was even better than his own. The revised NT was completed and in print by 1681, followed by the revised metrical Psalms in 1882. The complete OT was in print by autumn 1685. Some 2,000 copies of this edition were made.
A further revision in the form of a bilingual Algonkian-English edition of Psalms and the Gospel of John was printed in 1709 and an “Indian Primer” with numerous Bible passages in Algonkian and English was issued in 1720, but a proposal to issue a new edition of Eliot’s Bible in 1710 was rejected, since demand for it was dwindling. The tribe for whom Eliot’s version was prepared declined in numbers over the years and was ultimately absorbed into other tribes, with the last use of Eliot’s Bible by native speakers dating to perhaps the early 1800s.
Eliot’s Bible, a monument to the sustaining grace of God and the missionary zeal of New England puritans, was instrumental in the conversion of many hundreds, even thousands, of native American peoples from the darkness of paganism to the light of the Gospel. Eliot led the way in translating the Bible into modern tongues for evangelistic use; later Christian missionaries have wisely followed him in seeking to make the Gospel available to people of every nation and language, a work still continuing. (For the details of Eliot’s Bibles, see Darlow and Moule, vol. II, part II, pp. 1092-1095; for accounts of Eliot’s life and labors along with his Bible version, see Morison, Founders, pp. 289-319; Mather, vol. I, pp. 563-569; Thomas, pp. 59-65)
The First Bible in European Language Printed in America
The first modern European language to have a Bible printed in that tongue in North America is not, as one might guess, English. No, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of settlers and inhabitants in the English colonies in North America were English speakers, the first Bible in a modern European language to be printed here was in German (legal constraints prevented the printing of the Bible in English; more about that shortly).
There was a sizeable emigration of German-speaking people to the New World in the century before the American Revolution, particularly to the Pennsylvania colony. Many were devoutly religious, including some German Baptists (Dunkers). There was demand for religious literature in German and a printing press was purchased and sent to Germantown, Pennsylvania to meet this demand. Eventually one Christopher Sauer (born in Germany in 1694) took over operation of the press.
In 1743, he issued, after nearly three years’ labor, a complete German Bible of quarto size, with a press run of about a thousand copies (one source says twelve hundred). A second edition numbering some 3,000 copies was issued by Christopher Sauer, Junior, in 1763. A third edition was printed off by 1776. The unbound printed sheets of this last edition were confiscated, along with all the rest of Sauer, Jr.’s property for his failure to openly side with the colonists against the British. These sheets were sold as waste paper and largely used to make cartridges for guns. Some of the sheets were re-purchased by friends and after the reprinting of some now missing sheets, bound Bible copies were produced from what remained, thereby rescuing at least a small part of the printing from complete destruction.
Besides these three whole Bible editions, the Sauer family of printers also is reported to have printed German NT editions in 1745, 1755, 1760, 1763, 1764, 1769, and 1775. (On these German Bibles printed in America, see Thomas, pp. 406-421; Darlow and Moule, vol. II, part I, pp. 507).
The German-speaking populace, then, though a small minority in America, was well-supplied with domestically printed Bibles in the decades before the American Revolution. There were no legal constraints to the wide diffusion of the Scriptures in German translation. Such was not the case with the English Bible.
The First English Bible Printed in America
No edition of the King James Version is known to have been printed in the colonial period in North America. The reason for this was simple: it was prohibited by English law. The KJV, like other English Bibles of its era, was published “cum privilegio,” that is, under copyright, and only such printers as had express license from the British monarch could publish the KJV. Margaret Hills informs us--
“Prior to the [American] War of the Revolution, there had been no publication of the English Bible in the Colonies. All demands for Scriptures had to be met by importation from England and the Continent. It is true, of course, that there was a scarcity of the type and paper necessary for the successful publication of a book as large as the Bible. Most of the presses were used for the impression of documents, proclamations, pamphlets and papers. But there was a far more serious consideration that kept it from being printed by an American printer. It was in fact illegal for any printer in the Colonies to produce the English Bible.
Publication of the Scriptures in any lands under the British Crown was restricted, in order to insure accuracy in printing, to the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses and to one other printer licensed by the king. In Scotland, special licenses were required. . . .
While the Royal License applied only to the publication of the text of the King James Bible, without comment, there seems to have been no restriction on annotated editions. But these publications were usually large and elaborate, filled with engravings. They were, consequently, expensive and had to be financed by subscription. Several such projects had been proposed in the Colonies but had foundered for lack of support.” (The Bible as Printed by Robert Aitken, third unnumbered page of “historical preface”; cf. Herbert, p. 273. One such unsuccessful proposal for an annotated, and therefore legal, edition, was made by William Bradford, the first printer in the colony of Pennsylvania, in 1688. Thomas, p. 452, note 2).
As we will note shortly, the first known complete English Bible printed in North America appeared only so late as 1782. However, there were some scattered portions of the Bible in English translation which are known to have been printed on this side of the Atlantic before that date, and further unconfirmed reports of a complete Testament and Bible.
The first book printed in the English colonies in America was the famous Bay Psalm Book (first edition, 1640), which bore the title, The Whole Booke of Psalms Faithfully Translated into English Metre; it was a metrical rendering or paraphrase of the canonical Psalms, making them suitable for singing. In those early colonial days, it was widely held that only the Biblical Psalms were proper matter for singing in churches. The writing of hymns and choruses for church use would become a blazing controversy toward the end of the 17th century. The Bay Psalm Book, in part an original work by colonists, was prepared by John Eliot, the missionary to the Indians, in co-operation with Thomas Welde and Richard Mather, beginning in 1636. A second edition of this work issued from the press in 1647. A revision, carried out by H. Dunster and R. Lyon, was issued in 1651 and printed twice more between then and 1664 or 1665. The revision was titled, The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testaments, Faithfully Translated into English Metre. This title clearly indicates that the psalms, etc. included were not limited to those in the OT book of Psalms, but included others, likely the “Magnificat” of Luke 1 and the “Nunc Dimittis” of Luke 2, and others as well. (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 1, p. 977; Thomas, p. 65; Jackson, vol. 2, p. 17; Darlow and Moule, vol. II, part II, pp. 1092-3).
This metrical paraphrase of course was not the KJV and therefore its publication did not bring the printer/publisher into conflict with English copyright laws.
Numerous catechisms were also published and used in English colonies before 1776, and no doubt many if not all of them contained some portions of the Bible in English translation--the ten commandments and the Lord’s prayer were commonly included as passages to be memorized. But without access to these catechism books, it is impossible to know if the English version(s) employed was the KJV, some other historic version, or a new translation made in the colonies.
In 1709, as noted above in discussing Eliot’s Algonkian version, a bilingual Psalter/Gospel of John in Algonkian and English was published. The Algonkian part of this work is described by Darlow and Moule as a revision of Eliot’s translation, but the English column is not further described (vol. II, Part II, p. 1095; Thomas, p. 93, incorrectly identifies this printing as only a Psalter).
Was the English Psalter in this 1709 printing the Bay Psalm Book metrical version? This seems probable since the Algonkian version was based on it originally, though that it was the KJV or some other English version cannot be ruled out without an inspection of this edition. As for the English version of John’s Gospel, in our present state of knowledge, we simply cannot say. At any rate, whatever version it was, it was the first American printing in English of any complete book of the NT. I have found no book or article that expressly takes note of this fact. Apparently printing this limited portion of NT, if it was in the KJV, did not raise any concerns in matters of copyright.
The English colonies, barred from printing the common English Bible for themselves, were compelled by law to import from Europe all copies of the English Bible, a situation that continued until and even after the outbreak of the American Revolution. There are however, some reports of illegally printed American editions about a quarter century before the Revolution.
Isaiah Thomas, in The History of Printing in America, originally published in 1810, relates reports he heard as an apprentice printer of some American editions of the KJV illegally printed around 1750, but with the name of London printers on the title page, to conceal their illegal status--
“The booksellers of this time [ca. 1752] were enterprising. Kneeland and Green [of Boston] printed, principally for Daniel Henchman, an edition of the Bible in small quarto. This was the first Bible printed in America in the English language. It was carried through the press as privately as possible, and had the London imprint of the copy from which it was reprinted, viz: ‘London: Printed by Mark Baskett, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty,’ in order to prevent prosecution from those in England and Scotland, who published the Bible by a patent from the crown; or, Cum privilegio, as did the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge. When I was an apprentice, I often heard those who had assisted at the case and press in printing this Bible, make mention of the fact. The late Governor [John] Hancock was related to Henchman, and knew the particulars of the transaction. He possessed a copy of this impression. As it has a London imprint, at this day it can be distinguished from an English edition, of the same date, only by those who are acquainted with the niceties of typography. This Bible issued from the press about the time that the partnership of Kneeland and Green expired. The edition was not large; I have been informed that it did not exceed seven or eight hundred copies.
An edition of the New Testament, in duodecimo, was printed by Rogers and Fowle, not long before the time when this impression of the Bible came from the press, for those at whose expense it was issued. Both the Bible and the Testament were well executed. These were heavy undertakings for that day, but Henchman was a man of property; and it is said that several other principal booksellers in Boston were concerned with him in this business. The credit of this edition of the Testament was, for the reason I have mentioned, transferred to the king’s printer, in London, by the insertion of his imprint.” (Thomas, pp. 103-4).
“During the partnership of Rogers and Fowle, they printed an edition of about two thousand copies of the New Testament, duodecimo, for D. Henchman and two of three other principal booksellers, as has been already observed. This impression of the Testament, the first in the English language printed in this county, was, as I have been informed, completed before Kneeland and Green began the edition of the Bible which has been mentioned. Zechariah Fowle, with whom I served my apprenticeship, as well as several others, repeatedly mentioned to me this edition of the Testament. He was, at the time, a journeyman with Rogers and Fowle, and worked at the press. He informed me that, on account of the weakness of his constitution, he greatly injured his health by the performance. Privacy in the business was necessary; and as few hands were intrusted with the secret, the press work was, as he thought, very laborious. I mention these minute circumstances in proof that an edition of the Testament did issue from the
office of Rogers and Fowle, because I have heard that the fact has been disputed.” (Thomas, pp. 120-1; these two passages from Thomas are also quoted in full in Darlow and Moule, vol. I, pp. 285-6)
While Thomas’ remarks strike me as having the earmarks of credibility (due to close and extended association with individuals who claim to have actually taken part in the work, and the great detail included in his account), nevertheless, some historians have strongly disputed Thomas’ claims, and no copy of either reported edition has been proven to exist (se Thomas, p. 289, n. 14; Darlow and Moule, vol. I, p. 286; Herbert, pp. 272-3; The Bible as Printed by Robert Aitken, “Historical Preface,” p. )
When the war with England broke out in 1776 (really 1775), the importation of Bibles was interrupted and a shortage of Bibles quickly developed. So severe was it that in July 1777, three clergymen formally petitioned the Continental Congress to procure the publication of a Bible edition in a substantial number of copies to meet the need (The Bible as Printed by Robert Aitken, “Historical Preface,” pp. [1-2]). When it became evident to a committee of the Congress appointed to address the matter that supplies of paper and type for such a sizeable undertaking were lacking due to wartime shortages, it was recommended instead that the committee on commerce import some 20,000 Bibles from Scotland, Holland or elsewhere. Whether any action was taken to carry out this recommendation is doubtful (Ibid., pp. [2-3]).
In the meantime, Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken took it upon himself to print a 353-page English NT, measuring 5-1/2 by 3-1/8 inches, at his own expense in 1777, and again in 1778, 1779, and 1781 (Ibid., p. ; Herbert, p. 293). He exposed himself to some considerable risk financially. Not only might his work been destroyed by the war while the printing was still in progress or his stock destroyed when complete (since Philadelphia was a scene of conflict and British occupation during the war), but had the British been victorious, Aitken could have been heavily fined for having printed an edition of the KJV NT in violation of British copyright law.
Aitken’s boldness in printing without authorization the KJV NT in the midst of war seems to have encouraged other printers to do the same. Other editions of the KJV NT were printed in the 1779 (New Jersey), 1780 (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and 1781 (Delaware) (The Bible as Printed by Robert Aitken, “Historical Preface,” p. )
In early 1781, Aitken petitioned Congress for financial aid in order to print the entire Bible. Congress took more than a year to act on the request, approving it, but Aitken seems never to have applied for the funds. Instead, as the war waned, he undertook the expense himself of setting up in print and printing off the entire Bible (Ibid., p. ).
By early September 1782, Aitken’s Bible was almost ready for publication. Congress, learning of the advanced state of the undertaking, appointed its two chaplains to inspect the edition for accuracy in printing. They, after inspection, declared it well done. Congress accordingly on September 12, 1782, issued a formal recommendation of the edition, and authorized Aitken to publish their recommendation as he saw fit (Ibid., p. ).
That recommendation, along with other Congressional documents relevant to his Bible edition, was placed by Aitken just after the title page of his edition, and read as follows--
“Whereupon, RESOLVED, THAT the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorise him to publish this Recommendation in the manner he shall think proper. Chas. Thomson, Sec’ry”
Be it noted that while Congress did recommend this edition of the Bible to the American people, they did not “authorise” it as some have claimed. The edition was set up and virtually complete before Congress issued its recommendation. What Congress did authorise was the granting to Aitken of permission to publish their formal recommendation of his edition, which could not but help toward sales and the recovery of his costs.
The edition, in something over 10,000 copies--a very large press run for those times,--had some 1,452 unnumbered pages in the same 5-1/2 by 3-1/8 inch size as the 1777 NT. The “epistle dedicatory” to King James was omitted, as were “The translators to the readers” and the Apocrypha. Around 50 copies are known to still exist (Ibid., pp. [8, 9]).
With the war effectively over (fighting had ended in October 1781, and a treaty was signed in 1783), the importation of Bibles from England, Scotland and elsewhere was resumed, and since editions from those places were often of better quality and lower price than Aitken’s Bible, his sales were slow, and he in fact lost some 4,000 pounds on the Bible printing project (Ibid., pp. [9, 10]).
In 1789, Aitken petitioned Congress for the exclusive right to print the Bible in the United States for a period of 14 years, in essence resurrecting and re-imposing the old British copyright on Bibles, but in an American form. But the genie was already out of the bottle, with multiple printers already engaged in publishing Bibles and Testaments. The request was denied, and there has ever since been unlimited freedom in the U.S. (but not elsewhere in the English-speaking world) to reprint the KJV without restriction (Ibid., p. )
(As a footnote, it might be added that Aitken’s daughter Jane succeeded him as proprietor of the printing business and in 1808 published in 4 vols. an edition of the Bible in English that included the first English translation of the Greek OT version the Septuagint. The translator was Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1789, who had signed Congress’ recommendation of the Aitken’s Bible in 1782).
Ahlstrom, Sydney E., A Religious History of the American People. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1972.
Berry, Lloyd E., ed., The Geneva Bible: a Facsimile of the 1560 Edition. University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
Darlow, T. H., and Moule, H. F., Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of the Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Mansfield Centre, Connecticut: n.d. 2 vols. in 4 parts.
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1992. 15th edition.
Herbert, A. S., Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525-1961. London: The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1968.
The Holy Bible, as Printed by Robert Aitken and Approved & Recommended by the Congress of the United States of America in 1782. New York: Arno Press, 1968. “An Historical Preface” by Margaret T. Hills.
Jackson, Samuel M., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1963 reprint. “Bay Psalm Book,” vol. 2, p. 17.
Mather, Cotton, Magnalia Christi Americana, or, The Ecclesiastical History of New-England. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1979 reprint of 3rd edition, 1853. 2 vols.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, Builders of the Bay Colony. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962. Chapter X, “John Eliot, Apostle to the Indians,” pp. 289-319.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England. New York: New York University Press, 1970. 4th ed.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, ed., Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 by William Bradford. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953.
Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.
Noll, Mark A., A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.
Thomas, Isaiah, The History of Printing in America. New York: Weathervane Books, 1970.
[A special word of thanks to Pastor Rick Shrader for graciously giving me his copy of the 1968 facsimile reprint of Aitken Bible. Without access to this copy, this article could not have been completed--editor]
The Highway of Life:
Thoughts About Life Drawn Forth
by the Prospect of a 35th High School Reunion
When you’re in your 20s, you still have that severe near-sightedness that makes you think the interstate highway of your life will go on forever, and there is no day of reckoning.
By the time your reach your 30s, no one cares what you did in high school. And life has begun to take on the solid hues of reality and responsibility. And routine. You are in it for the long haul.
By age 40, if you haven’t begun to fulfill all that “great potential” people said you had when you were a teen-ager, it may just be time to get with the program.
By your 50s, if you are still trying to “find yourself,” maybe the reality is that you have found yourself and there just wasn’t much there to find. And by now, if you haven’t begun to put away a little something (or better, a lot of something) for retirement, you may be looking at eating canned dog food by the case in your “sunset years.”
In your 60s, you begin to wonder where all the people you’ve known all your life have gone to. And I don’t mean “move aways” but those who have died, one by one by one. And stray thoughts of actual regret about a lot of things seep into you consciousness unsolicited. Yikes!
By the 70s, you’ve returned to that blunt candor you had at age 7, when you told people exactly what you thought, even if it was embarrassing, insulting, or down right tacky. Ain’t honesty without pretense wonderful?
By the 80s--should you make it so far--your first, and last, conscious thoughts each day: where does it hurt today? Is that a new pain or an old one? And, did I take my medicine?
By the 90s, as we stoop and shuffle along, the haze grows thicker in sight, in hearing, in mind. The highway unmistakably does end, there is an exit ramp and no avoiding it. When you look back then, what road will trail out behind you?
Marriage Under Fire by James Dobson. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2004. 123 pp, hardback. $11.00.
The divinely-established institution of marriage, as described and prescribed in Scripture, and which has been at the foundation of all civilization for millennia, is under all-out assault. So-called “no-fault” divorce, a creation of the libertine 1960s, did much to subvert marriage as it has long existed, leaving in its wake a legacy of sky-rocketing divorce rates, a massive increase in the number of single parent families (and all the accompanying harmful results--poverty, rising juvenile delinquency, teen promiscuity, child neglect and abuse, and more). An abundance of scientific studies in recent years has demonstrated beyond question that the healthiest environment, mentally, socially and physically, for a child to grow and develop in is that of a two parent, heterosexual married couple. All other arrangements are seriously deficient.
Now, the latest assault on marriage which indeed threatens to topple the institution entirely is the push for so-called “gay marriage,” a dramatic redefinition of what constitutes marriage--from the historic one man-one woman pattern, into one of two men or two woman. And if that pattern is legalized, there are no grounds for placing any other barrier to bizarre and perverted “marriage” arrangements--polygamy, group marriage, adult-child marriage, trans-species marriage. The slope is slippery, and there is no bottom to the degeneration it promises.
In countries where sodomy marriage has been legalized (several in northern Europe), the affect on traditional marriage has been devastating--incidents of co-habitation without marriage, of illegitimate births, and related phenomena has grown astronomically to previously unprecedented and unimagined levels.
And let it be understood--the homosexual agenda does NOT seek to gain for them equal standing with traditional married couples, but to destroy marriage itself. The typical “committed” homosexual arrangement has a lifespan of a mere 18 months, during which time the “committed” couple will have 8 to 12 sexual partners outside of the ‘committed relationship. Homosexuals do not want legal obstacles such as marriage to hinder this constant rush from relationship to relationship. Indeed, in those countries with legalized homosexual marriage, the number of such marriages is exceedingly small. In contrast to the continued promiscuity of “committed” homosexual couples, heterosexual married couples demonstrate a much higher level of commitment, with about 75% remaining faithful within the marriage relationship, and remaining together for a much longer period of time.
Practical consequences of legalized homosexual marriage are many, not the least being access to employer-provided health insurance. It is easy to imagine a scenario that will be repeated hundreds of times--a homosexual with AIDS or hepatitis (and homosexual men have the highest incidence of both diseases) enters a legal marriage of convenience, thereby gaining full right to health care coverage of the most expensive kind, resulting in higher premiums for all employees, and ultimately cancellation of health care coverage altogether due to crushing unfundable costs.
Then, too, legal status for homosexual marriage (and the accompanying lifestyle) will result in law suits against preachers and churches who speak out against it, as well as lawsuits against employers--including Christian schools and churches--which refuse on moral grounds to hire such people. Canada has already arrived at this stage.
How can this abomination be prevented? Not by trusting the courts. They have usurped the authority of the legislature to make law, and are creating rights that the Founding Fathers never imagined--the right to abortion, and in a 2003 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the constitutional right to live the homosexual lifestyle. Only a Constitutional amendment which defines marriage in a traditional way is adequate, according to Dobson. And he is right. We need to push and pressure and press for the Federal Marriage Amendment though even with such a direct, plain definition embodied in the Constitution, some judge, some court somewhere, will likely figure out a way to legalize “civil union” for homosexuals in spite of what the Constitution says and in spite of the overwhelming public opinion against.
Above all, we need national repentance and a deep spiritual awakening. Laws, even Constitutional Amendments, can be changed, or ignored by the courts. Millions of spiritually transformed hearts will alter society.