Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Kim Davis, the Courts, and Homosexuality

If you've been following the news lately, you'll see that Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, has been at the center of it. She has repeatedly refused to issue any marriage licenses in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision which affirms the rights of same-sex couples to marry. She has cited her Christian beliefs, and stated that "God's law is higher than man's laws."

Now, if you've read my other posts, you'll see that I am a Christian too. But I completely disagree with her on this issue, both on theological and legal grounds. Below is a link to the New York Times article concerning her position, and my thoughts on the issue as a whole.

Regardless of her personal convictions, she is an elected official of a secular government which has affirmed same-sex marriage. If she cannot in good conscience do her job, then she should resign. But by refusing to issue licenses, she is breaking the law, and therefore should be punished by the law.

She is claiming God's authority in this issue, while ignoring both Romans 13 (that we should obey earthly authority) and the fact that many Christians (including me) would disagree with her interpretation of what exactly God's law entails. The last time I checked, it entailed loving God with everything I am, and loving others as much as I love myself.

I don't know about her, but I'm pretty busy just trying to do those two things. Even if her interpretation of God's law were correct (and I don't think it is), she has no legal or biblical right to press her interpretation of that law on others.

The Question of Biblical Homosexuality
In response to the above NYT article and requests for clarification on my position, I am focusing more about the applicability of God's law than its substance. What I mean is that, we need to be careful when we apply Levitical laws to Christians (or to the rest of the world) today (in this case, Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13). While many of the laws dealt with moral issues, which one can make a universal case for, many did not. Many were designed to separate Israel from its neighbors, others were designed to create a more liberating form of government (again, compared to Israel's neighbors), and still others were designed to establish Israel as God's chosen people.

While the people of Israel still exist, the theocratic state of Israel no longer does and neither do the institutions which support the kingship, temple priesthood, or state prophetic office. I would argue that this nullifies the laws which deal with these specific areas. Additionally, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah deal as much with hospitality and violence toward guests (cf. Judges 19) as sexual immorality (which, cited in Jude 1:7, is ill-defined).

To take it a step further, the Talmud states the only laws which apply to Non-Jews are the laws of Noah, based on his conduct and covenant in Genesis. Keep in mind, even that can be up for debate, since I believe the Christian community establishes its own understanding of this concept. But at least the basics of this understanding was upheld in the Jerusalem Council among the apostles, which is described in Acts 15. Their final decision on the issue (to which we are still bound, in my opinion) is best summarized in v. 29, and which includes “sexual immorality” or “fornication,” Whether this includes homosexual behavior or homosexual acts is debatable.

Now, in the NT, the relevant passages come from Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:-9-10, and 1 Tim. 1:10. I have heard many various interpretations of these. Some have related the same-sex acts between men to the ancient practice of adult men sleeping with boys, or in the context of temple prostitute (in which case, it's as much an issue of idolatry as anything). Whether this is really the author's intent, I'm not sure. I think it's open to interpretation, which is why we're having this discussion. My understanding is that these passages deal with the sex acts themselves, and not with a person's feelings. The whole idea of a person being either a homosexual or a heterosexual is a rather modern cultural invention. Most scientific research agrees that sexual orientation has a strong genetic factor. If this is true, then people cannot be judged for this predisposition.

And if God really does see homosexual acts as a sin, then this only finds relevance in the context of the grace of Christ. Obedience only comes through grace, and as an expression of our love for God and others. One cannot expect non-Christians to apply the Christian ethos outside of grace and love. In fact, to insist on such an approach undermines the Gospel.

Thoughts on Secular Government and the Falacy of a "Christian Nation"
A friend of mine recently tried to argue that this nation was started by Christians attempting to escape religious persecution and therefore start a Christian nation, that the founding fathers were Christian, and that at its heart this has always been a Christian nation. Below is my response to his claims:

Technically the Pilgrims, while escaping religious persecution, also came here to set up a British colony. They were loyal to the king and would probably have found the actions of their descendants 150 years later shocking, if not reprehensible.

Interestingly enough, the founding fathers envisioned our nation as a republic first, and a democracy second. This means that even if the people vote in a law which is in contradiction to the Constitution, it can be struck down. This doesn't stem from the LGBT community, but from Marbury v Madison in 1803, which was still during the time of our Founding Fathers.

And on a final note regarding the “Christian values” of the Founding Fathers. Perhaps the greatest philosophical foundation for democratic and secular government came from Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Both of whom were Deists, meaning they believed God created the world, but stepped back and hasn't intervened since.

In fact, Paine wrote a pamphlet called “The Age of Reason,” in which he vehemently attacked Christianity. Jefferson cut all the miracle stories of Jesus out of his New Testament, so that he could just focus on the teaching as he believed the rest was superstition and was generally against much organized religion. Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were also avowed Deists. There is also debate as to whether John Adams, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton held a middle ground between Christianity and Deism.

So to claim that this nation was founded as a Christian nation is highly debatable. But what is not debatable, is that Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Roman Catholics, and Deists all came together to found a nation where religious liberty is perhaps the most essential underlying principle. Christian ideals did indeed influence the Constitution, but that is a far cry from declaring the United States a Christian nation. Even in the “golden age” of the 1950's that so many desire to return to, we had the CIA working covert operations all around the globe which arguably directly contradicted these ideals. We still had drugs, prostitution, corrupt officials, betrayal, and hate in every city of the country. Simply tacking on the label, “Christian” doesn't undo that history.

Finally, Texas can vote whatever it likes into law. However, Article VI guarantees the Constitution as the law of the land, superseding any other law, whether among the states or by the federal government. This means that whatever Texas, or any other state, decides is law must conform to the Constitution, its articles, and its amendments (including those which establish the Judicial Review powers of the Supreme Court).

 Final Analysis and Additional Thoughts
To clarify my thoughts a bit more, I guess I'm not really sure if monogamous homosexual acts are in and of themselves, sin.

A straight forward reading of many translations of the NT seems to suggest this, as do traditional interpretations through the
ages. However, the Greek is less clear than we'd like to admit, and the cultural assumptions surrounding these passages (which have arguably changed) are also less clear.

For me, this means I should err on the side of grace, after all I am nobody's judge in the end. I should show the love of Christ to everybody, try to live in a way that pleases Him, and trust that He's got me along the way. And that's the message I want to share with others.

But as far as Constitutional law goes, I think I have been clear, monogamous homosexual marriage is and should be legal for any and all citizens.
#KimDavis #ChurchandState #ConstitutionalLaw #homosexuality 

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