Saturday, September 5, 2015

Government Clerks and Religious Freedom

By now I'm sure you've all heard of the issue of Kentucky's Rowan county clerk, Kim Davis. Based on her religious beliefs that gay marriage is sinful, she feels it violates her conscience to issue marriage licenses. However, she has been court-ordered that she cannot discriminate and, as such, she simply is not issuing any marriage licenses.

She wants to keep her job, keep her paycheck, but not do this part of the roles and responsibilities. For this she has been vilified by liberals and protected by conservatives.


There is nothing ethical, moral, or commendable about wanting someone to pay you and then refusing to do the job.

Fun thought experiment: imagine Kim Davis was refusing to issue gun background checks or concealed-carry licenses due to religious beliefs. Or imagine she was giving extra benefits to immigrants due to religious beliefs.

How quickly would the roles reverse! Now liberals would be happy and conservatives furious.

Doesn't it bother you if your position is so illogical that you 100% change positions if the person in question is from another political party?

Put bluntly: as a Christian, my take is clearly that it is basically stealing to accept money for a job and then expect to be able to not do the job. If you have a moral problem with the job, fine...quit.


As a Protestant, I'm all about what the Bible says. The Bible says directly that remarriage after divorce is adultery and sinful (Matt 19:7-9).

I have argued (many times before, just search the blog) that Scripture is also pretty clear on the sinfulness of homosexuality. However, at no point does the Bible make any statement about gay marriage which is even close to as clear as Jesus' statement on divorce.

So how in the world can you feel okay issuing marriage licenses to divorcees but not to gay couples? The Scriptural case is infinitely more direct on divorcees.

Be consistent. If you want to take a moral stand on marriage, I'm fine with that. But I'm only fine with it if we are not let's take a moral stand on every way that American marriage is anti-Biblical:  it allows marriage between different religions, it allows remarriage after divorce, it allows marriage for those who aren't virgins, it allows marriage from the state only without a minister of God. It is true that gay marriage is a redefinition...just as the four redefinitions that America did before to go away from Biblical marriage.

So let's not be hypocrites...either stand up against it all, or not at all.

Postscript. More food for thought...the Early Church

The early Christian church actually fought this exact same issue, often.

In the first and second century Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire (which, by the way, was far more godless than America is). Frequently soldiers, judges, and administrators were saved. And now they found themselves in a tough position: paid by the government, but asked to do things which they now found immoral.

What to do?

It is obvious--they should quit, the Church fathers said.

Athenagorus (175 AD) said that Christians pray for and hope the empire succeeds in its ventures, even those which we through our morality cannot partake in, because God has given them authority for a reason.

Tertullian (195 AD) said that Christians should quit public office (including military service) because it was impossible to keep pure from idolatry. Perhaps in our much-better-society that is not the case any more, but certainly the principle holds that if your job requires you to do something immoral you should quit.

Tertullian (200 AD) said that Christians should not be in the military either as the taking of life was not an option for the Christians, either directly or indirectly (through

Origen (248 AD) said that the early Christians almost never took public office (they were criticized by Romans for being so "separation of church and state" based). They refused to participate in civil things because, Origen said, their gifts were meant to be used for the Church...administrators should serve the church, not the state.

The early church fathers expected, given the nature of the State in their day, that there would be significant moral dilemmas working for the state. As often as possible, they recommended simply not working for the government at all.

This seems strange to us: how can we make the government better if we aren't in it?

The early church fathers said...well duh. You follow what the Bible says. What does the Bible say about how we should interact with government? We should follow its laws and pray for its success (Rom 13:1-7, 1 Pet 2:13-17).

The idea that Christians should promote justice by being civil servants is a medieval political idea, not an ancient and Biblical one.

This is an idea coming from when the Holy Roman Empire was founded--Christians could best serve God by making the government a Christian government.

But this is not the Biblical approach, which is that we are separated from the state and cover the state in prayers and support.

Make no mistake--if you take another position that is fine, but you do so against Biblical wisdom, not with it. And you do so against the wisdom of the Fathers, not with them.

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