Thousands gathered at the Kentucky state capital on August 22 to rally behind three Rowan County clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Even after receiving instruction from Governor Steve Beshear to “do your job or resign,” the clerks remained steadfast in their beliefs and continued to turn away same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses. Additionally, the clerks decided that in order to avoid discrimination of any particular group of people, they would simply not issue any marriage licenses, whether it be a heterosexual or homosexual couple.
I elected to not attend the rally. Here’s why:
First, and by far most important, is that I had a date with three children and one wife at Monkey Joe’s for a birthday party celebration. Deciding whether to attend a rally or keep a promise to my family to attend an awesome birthday party is simply not a decision. It’s a no-brainer.
But even if my schedule had been clear, I still would not have attended. To be certain, I stand with these clerks on the nature of their convictions. Marriage and sexuality is decisively a gospel issue, a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church. I would never recommend a Christian capitulate on biblical authority as it pertains to any issue, nor would I espouse cowering away from cultural engagement with gospel truth. I commend and agree with these clerks on the meaning of marriage.
And yet, there are appropriate and inappropriate methods for cultural engagement based on personal convictions. The many benefits of living in a democratic society are of course met with various areas of tension. One of the oldest and most difficult of these tensions is the rub between personal liberty and the greater good. The United States of America has a Constitution and series of Amendments that demonstrate great concern for both the individual and the corporate body of citizens. Extremists, either on the conservative right or progressive left, tend to emphasize one over the other. For example…
The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed an order on August 13 requiring a bakery to accept orders for creating wedding cakes for same-sex couples. Business owners such as bakers and photographers are expressing how these orders are violations to their religious liberty and free speech. I couldn’t agree more. What we have here is a creative gift being used in an expressive manner to engage and celebrate the union of a same-sex couple. In my opinion, even if your sympathies lie with the customers being denied service, this example should cause all of us great concern as a breach of First Amendment protections. Most progressive left thinkers are quick to condemn the business owners and celebrate the Court of Appeals order, but they do so, I believe, in error. For these Christians who are being forced to use their gifts against their consciences, I would most certainly attend a rally.
But the Rowan County Clerk office isn’t that.
Instead, in Rowan County we have a government agent whose very job is to uphold and discharge the laws of our society as they have been handed down through the democratic process. Those who are employed by the state for the explicit purpose of administering the laws of the state are certainly not bound to agree with those laws, but are also not free to select which laws they will and will not perform. Even for those of us who believe in and hold strongest to the necessity of religious liberty, there is nevertheless a balance between those liberties and a state’s obligation to the law. Thus, in the case of Rowan County, the conservative right are quick to support the actions of the county clerks, but do so, I believe, in error.
Additionally, from a biblical worldview, the actions of these clerks to deny heterosexual marriage licenses should be appalling to Christians, but has gone virtually unnoticed. In taking the opportunity away from heterosexual couples, the picture of the gospel through marriage as found in Ephesians 5 and Genesis 2 is being put on hold, which is concerning on multiple levels.
The weight of the cross does not always provide for us a route to boldly keep what is ours, but might lead to a route of losing everything and starting over. In refusing to lose the gospel, we may very well lose our jobs.
I do not like the new marriage law. I hate it. I believe it will cause untold harm to individuals, to couples, and to our country. Nor would I ever suggest these county clerks stay in their position and perform a duty contrary to their biblical convictions. I believe their best course would be to resign their position as county clerk, and then lobby for their discontent with the law as a U.S. citizen, but more importantly, as a follower of Jesus Christ.
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