Zeal Without Knowledge?: Same-Sex Marriage And Religious Belief (Faith And Politics)

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The fundamental right to marry is a God-given right every person should experience. Former President Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “among these” God-given “inalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The pursuit of happiness, for those who may not know, includes the right to marriage, the freedom to marry the person of their choice, without exception.

There’s no exception to the marriage laws. Every American has the right to marry whomever they please, so long as it is a person (not an animal, car, building, or any other crazy thing that people can come up with to marry. In some cases, people have married their trees.). And so, with that said, it doesn’t matter whether or not the person has religious conviction or none at all. It doesn’t matter how sinful they may be or not be. What matters is that 1) they are an American citizen, and 2) they have the fundamental right to marry. That’s it.

What one’s personal conviction says about marriage as perhaps an ordained sacrament of God that should be between two people living under His Lordship, for example, isn’t a valid argument to prevent, say, two Satan worshippers from marriage. I realize the example is striking for Christians (to even mention Satan worshippers is a scary thought for me), but I do so for the sake of example. And yet, even two Satan worshippers who “have sold their souls to the devil” have a fundamental, God-given (yes, it’s still a God-given!) right to marry under the US Constitution.

Kim Davis and two same-sex couples

We begin our discussion with a case that received nationwide attention back in 2015. Kim Davis, a Rowan County Clerk for the state of Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses for two same-sex couples. Her reasons have everything to do with her faith conviction and what God’s Word says regarding same-sex marriage. For her, she doesn’t want to attach her name to a marriage certificate that is written for same-sex couples because it goes against God’s Word.

There’s nothing wrong with her personal, faith conviction. I too, believe that marriage is defined within Scripture as being between a man and a woman (I say, within Scripture). But, despite my religious conviction that stands with Kim Davis, I disagree with her response in the situation for a few reasons.

County building, not a church

Kim Davis took a stand for God in a county building. She served as Rowan County’s County Clerk and worked in the county courthouse. She wasn’t in her church where her Christian convictions and support for the Bible were shared among church members. She used her religious conviction to refuse to issue marriage licenses, and used it in the wrong context. In issuing marriage licenses in a county building on behalf of the state, county clerks don’t get to use the Bible to determine who can and can’t get married. Kim Davis was hired to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible. Religious conviction is the law of churches, denominations, and religious gatherings — not the county or state.

The Bible says that “there’s a time and a place for everything” (Ecclesiastes ). Kim Davis didn’t understand, in her zeal for God, that the county courthouse (note: the courthouse) is the wrong place to cry about what’s biblical. Gay taxpayers are American citizens, too, and they have a God-given right to marry like every heterosexual couple does. And according to the Constitution, they have a right to the same marriage license that every heterosexual couple does.

The law of the land is the US constitution, not the bible

This is going to upset some of my fellow believers (I’ve said it before), but it need be said again for reinforcement: the law of the Land is the Constitution, not the Bible. The Founding Fathers did not agree to make the Bible the law of the land because they wanted the State to not promote any religion. According to the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To use the Bible as a means to deprive taxpayers of their right to a marriage license is to make the law “respect the establishment of the Christian religion.”

The Christian faith uses Scripture, though Mormonism uses its own book (“The Book of Mormon”). Other religions, such as Buddhism, the Muslim faith, and minor religions, rely on other sources outside of the Bible for their wisdom. The Bible opposes same-sex marriage in the conservative view, and so, Kim Davis, whether she realized it or not, was exalting a conservative Protestant Christian perspective and religious book as if the law of the land was theocratic. It is not. The Bible and the US Constitution are not synonymous, nor are they interchangeable.

To dishonor the US Constitution as the law of the land to refuse marriage licenses is, in a sense, to commit treason. To declare another source as law over one’s own Constitution is to declare open rebellion on one’s own government. She was an insurrectionist in that moment by refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her biblical belief because she was, in effect, overthrowing US Law to institute a theocracy.

Christian, religious, or atheist?

Aside from the political, Kim Davis made a mistake: she assumed that the gay couples were Christian and believed the Bible. There’s no evidence they were, however.

In their discussions with her, the gay couples said she was guilty of discrimination. They mentioned nothing about Jesus, love of neighbor, sin and salvation, nothing that would even hint they were Christian. How could she use the Bible as a source of authority for these gay couples when she didn’t even know if they were Christian or not? And if they weren’t Christian, how could she expect them to adhere to the Bible?

Doesn’t the Word of God say that the natural man is without God and “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV)? If the ungodly man, the unsaved man, cannot accept or know spiritual things without the Spirit, how could she expect these unbelieving couples to accept the words of Scripture?

How can you expect someone to live godly without God? How do you expect someone to live by the Spirit if they don’t have the Spirit?

And at one point, even Christians “once walked according to the course of this world…conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:2-3). So at one point, we believers lived like them. How can we expect unbelievers to live as though they are saved? We didn’t live saved when we were unsaved. Isn’t this setting a double standard, expecting them to be in their unsaved state what we couldn’t be unsaved?

the world will be worldly, the ungodly ungodly: conclusion

For the sake of writing space, this seems to be a good place to leave the discussion for now.

What we’ve seen in this post is that Kim Davis acted with godly zeal denying the couples marriage licenses. As the county clerk, it was her job to issue a marriage license for every human couple that walked through the door of the courthouse. Instead of obeying the law of the land, she declared that her faith conviction wouldn’t let her issue marriage licenses to them because she believes it’s contrary to the Word of God to do so.

Well, she forgot a few things. First, the law of the land is the US Constitution, and despite what our faith says and what Scripture teaches, we are not only citizens of the kingdom of God but also the kingdom of this world. As such, we have to obey the laws of the US Constitution. Even Christians. And, contrary to Kim Davis’s belief, Scripture does teach us to obey our government (Romans 13:1-2). So her disobedience to her government, claiming she was doing it for God, was nothing short of civil disobedience and an utter disrespect for the laws of this country. She was rebellious against the laws of her state and country, but it wasn’t God’s Word that made her rebel.

Next, Davis didn’t know the religious or non-religious beliefs of the individuals requesting marriage licenses. There are Christian churches today that have full inclusion of LGBT persons into their churches, so the LGBT community isn’t just a “godless” community, as traditionalists might think. But even if those requesting marriage licenses were non-religious and without faith, that indicts Kim Davis even more. The reason? You can’t expect those without God to live godly. That expectation is unreasonable.

Kim Davis had zeal for God. She wanted to take a stand for God. There’s nothing wrong with taking a stand for God in the house of God. Conflict arises, however, when a Christian stands for God in a county courthouse (not a church) and, as a county clerk, refuses to do her job and issue marriage licenses on behalf of not herself, but the state of Kentucky.