The Republican Presidential Primary debates may be over, but some of the discourse from those debates continue to reverberate across the country. In one of the debates between the GOP Presidential hopefuls, former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey asserted that to be consistent on parental rights, Republicans should allow for parent-initiated gender transition surgeries for minors. He proclaimed:
“I stood up every single time for parents, to be able to make the decision for their minor children… every once in a while, parents are going to make decisions that we disagree with. But the minute you start to take those rights away from parents you don’t know that slippery slope… what rights are going to be taken away next.”
Meanwhile Governor Ron Desantis of Florida maintained, “You do not as a parent have the right to abuse your kids…. This is cutting off their genitals! This is mutilating these minors. This is irreversible procedures!”
How did we know what is the appropriate jurisdiction of parental authority? The “law of nature’s God” makes it clear. Since the Founding Fathers believed all rights come from God, it makes sense that the limitations of those rights are also set by God.
Different Spheres of Authority
The Bible teaches that Civil Government and the Family each represent a jurisdiction of authority that is separate and carries distinct responsibilities. Both are legitimate and instituted by God himself (see Gen. 2:24, Gen 9:6) Both include specific, defined responsibilities (Ephesians 6:4, Prov 8:15, et al).
The authority delegated to the family is much broader than the limited scope of authority delegated to civil government. Remember that the institution of the family predates civil government by at least a thousand years.
However, both spheres of jurisdiction carry the potential for abuse of power and therefore they provide something of a check to each other. It is problematic when either parental authority or government goes entirely unchecked. When the authority of the family becomes dominant to the exclusion of others you end up with tribalism similar to an Islamic social order where the family authority extends so far as to include even execution in so called “honor killings.”
When the authority of civil government becomes dominant to the exclusion of family government you end up with statism and statist encroachments upon the family are so familiar they hardly need mentioning. Policies such as: mandatory vaccinations for children, compulsory government education, the “one child policy” enforced in China, bans against consumption of raw milk, etc., just to name a few.
The Bible limits the authority of the family in several key ways, such as preventing incest and sexual abuse.
“Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.” – Leviticus 19:29
Similarly, parents do not have a right to abuse or kill their children (see Deuteronomy 21:19). Verses like these teach emphatically that parental rights are not absolute and there is a place in extreme cases for civil government to step in and protect children from their parents, especially as it relates to the child’s sexuality and future reproduction.
Conservative Principles Must Not Ignore Legitimate Jurisdiction
It has been said that a principle is a rule that applies to everyone all the time. The left has no principles, only slogans which they call principles. Their slogans such as “My body, my choice” for instance apply to expectant mothers wanting abortions, but not to people refusing an experimental vaccination, or drinking raw milk.
Conservatives are generally far more consistent in applying their principles equally across the board to everyone, in every situation which leads conservatives to becoming highly frustrated when elected Republicans violate these principles.
Consistency to these principles, however, could have disastrous consequences if, in the name of consistency, we ignored God-ordained systems of jurisdiction.
For instance, most conservatives adhere to the principle of “personal responsibility”. This means, if you take out a loan for education, your student loan debt is your responsibility.
Does civil government have legitimate authority to force you to pay for the food, clothing, and shelter of your fellow citizens? Any true conservative would readily, and emphaticaly say “no, that is socialistic welfarism.” But what about when we are talking about your biological offspring?
Should the civil government allow a father to abandon his stay-at-home wife and five school-aged children, ignoring any financial obligation to them in the name of “individual responsibility?”
Should parents who refuse to feed their children be prosecuted for neglect?
As a general rule it is appropriate to say civil government ought to never coerce a citizen to do charity. This is one application of personal responsibility, but it would be foolish to apply it and ignore the natural responsibilities that exist resulting from one’s familial relationship to their dependant. Much of the rise of welfarism and leftist ideology can be traced back to a shift in American thinking that we are a nation of individuals rather than a nation of families.
Someone who understands the proper jurisdiction of the family is far more prepared for these kinds of public policy questions and “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” continue to illuminate our understanding of modern societal controversies.