My Life among the Deathworks by Philip Reiff

Philip Reiff, an American sociologist who passed away in 2006, wrote a fascinating book titled, My Life among the Deathworks. In the book, he discusses a concept, which he calls “anti-cultures.” “Anti-cultures,” Reiff stated, “translate no sacred order into social” (p. 6). Reiff elaborated, “[Anti-cultures] propose an unprecedented present age without moralities and religions” (p. 7). In other words, anti-cultures build society devoid of and antithetical to any religion or transcendent moral norms.

The Author’s Source of Truth

From the outset, I am writing from a Christian worldview. This means that the objective body of truth that shapes my thinking is the Bible, which is God’s special revelation of himself to humanity. Therefore, my writing serves as a means to teach a Christian audience–although the logic of the argument could be used to persuade anyone who does not hold to the same body of truth as I do.

The Respect for Marriage Act’s Definition of Marriage

The rejection of transcendent truth in the U.S. political system was further revealed in the latest passing of H.R.8404-Respect for Marriage Act by the U.S. Senate. Only time will tell if this bill will become law as it still awaits to be passed by the House and signed by the President of the United States of America. Yet, the passing of the bill would “legally” redefine marriage in America and continue to shape society about the concept of marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act states that “an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is between 2 individuals and is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into.” (see H.R. 8404 § 7. Marriage). The traditional definition of marriage asserts that marriage is between a man and a woman, but this new meaning from the contemporary mind declares that two individuals are to be considered married as long as the marriage is State approved–i.e., this law recognizes marriages between a man and a woman, a man and a man, and a woman and a woman.

Question 1: Can U.S. Law Truly Change the Definition of Marriage?

God defines marriage as one man and one woman in covenant together (cf. Gen 2:24). The Bible speaks against polygamy with the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14). From these passages, God asserts that marriage is one man and one woman until death. For the sake of intellectual fairness, H.R. 8404 does prohibit polygamy in this bill so we should commend them for that–although its hard to see how long that will last since the new law embraces secular thinking. In other words, logically the potential new law has to open the door to all possibilities for other types of “marriages” to be adopted in the future (perhaps a post for another day).

One should ask, “Can the U.S. Senate, the House, and the President redefine the meaning of marriage in God’s economy–assuming this bill becomes law? The answer is an emphatic, “No.” God has defined and set the parameters of marriage so no human law has the ability to usurp his authority. In other words, just because humans “think” they have the “right” to change the definition of marriage in the law, does not mean God will change his Word on the basis of the U.S. legislative process.

Question 2: How Should Christians Respond to this Potential Bill?

First, we need to respond with lament–I believe this word is sadly being erased from our Christian vocabulary. Many Christians will react with anger, and in one sense, perhaps they will declare this to be a righteous anger. Yet, we should be heartbroken and sad that this potential law will redefine what God has already declared to be true. Our lament is that many people are being given over to the futility of their minds (cf. Rom 1:21). We should be saddened that human laws like this have the ability to disrupt God’s created order, and when we go outside the bounds of God’s order–which all sin does, our rebellion tends to lead to both personal and societal disorder.

Second, we need to be ready to respond with the gospel. Brothers and sisters, as culture seems to be growing more and more to reflect Reiff’s anti-culture definition, we must hold up the light of the gospel. I believe that in cultures that are the darkest the gospel light shines the brightest. We need to be reminded that human laws have no bearing on our witness. As we lament and as people feel the weight of their brokenness, we need to stand ready to give them the only hope that we have in this life–Jesus Christ. We need to remember that God once pulled us out of our trespasses and sins, and saved us by his grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we have been given life and life abundantly (John 10:10). Therefore, share the light of the gospel even in the midst of lament so that God’s grace will abound even in a culture that seems to be growing darker by the day.

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