This week, news broke that Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even in the face of a court order. A question was asked in my Apologetics group, “Did she do the right thing (for her gospel witness, the county, herself, etc) by refusing to give out marriage licenses, or would it have been better for her to resign? And does working for a government agency (rather than a private business like a bakery) have any bearing in matters like this?”
Now, knee-jerks on both side of the issue would consider the question an easy one to answer, but you know me — I’m bound to make a mountain out of a molehill 😉 So without further ado…
As a Christian, of course, I’d say that she was in the right to refuse to participate in anything that weighs against her conscience. But as someone with an eye toward the Constitution and what the Founders built this country to be, I’d say that she should have resigned rather than refuse to do her sworn duty. Here’s my reasoning…
Christianity, of course, is by nature a biased worldview. We are called to be partial to God’s Will, and opposed our own sinful nature (and by extension, the sins of others).
The American government, on the other hand, was created to be UNbiased, IMpartial — governing according to equality rather than to “right” and “wrong”. Though the majority of our Founding Fathers were either theists or outright Christians, they knew from first hand experience what happened when government was allowed to dictate terms to the private convictions of the individual. As such, they wrote the Constitution to PROTECT those convictions, whether they be Christian or not, whether they be theist or not, whether they be MORAL or not — establishing a buffer between one individual’s convictions and another’s. Even though this isn’t always the most Christian-friendly form of government, this is by far the most just form available to us — aside from our promised future theocracy with Christ Himself leading it.
Now BOTH of these worldviews — biased Christianity and unbiased government — have bearing on the institution of marriage. We Christians, of course, recognize marriage as a covenant, a profound and unconditional union of two people into “one flesh” under God’s authority and with God at the center. This is an unconditional relationship — not “I do if she will”, but “I do”, period, with divorce being antithetical to the institution, ONLY a reality “for the hardness of our hearts”.
The government, on the other hand, must be UNBIASED in all things, including marriage. Where Christianity recognizes marriage as a spiritual covenant, unbiased government can only see marriage as a contract, a legal construct with legal ramifications and restrictions. As such, government — and all its manifestations (which has bearing on the Kentucky case) — must approach marriage impartially, EQUALLY representing ALL, without exception or bias.
So all that to say… Kim Davis has conflicting duties due to her convictions. As a Christian, she stands opposed to this homosexual parody of our Godly institution, but as a representative of the government, she has a sworn duty to exercise her office WITHOUT bias. Just because she’s a Christian doesn’t mean that her convictions give her an excuse to be an oath-breaker. As such, the only route she could take that would BOTH honor God AND her promise to exercise her office impartially would be for her to vacate her office.
Just my thoughts on the matter, and I don’t even necessarily claim them to be RIGHT, however convinced I may be that they are. Ultimately, God ALONE is the final say, and not even the most learned saint on this side of eternity can claim to understand that say without error. All we can do is individually — and constantly — look to Him for our answers, and lean not to our own understanding.