Why I’m Voting “Meh” to Amendment One

I have long debated with myself as to whether or not I was going to throw in my thoughts with the rest of the masses regarding the vote for Amendment One of the North Carolina State Constitution, and that debate has hinged chiefly in my own indecision rather than upon any fear of backlash from whomever. For the issue as it regards Christians and the Church is far from black and white, and the very fact that this is a state issue through and through further muddies the issue.

For though it is more than evident that the institution of marriage is far older than any secular government and was instituted by no one other than God himself, the fact remains that as a society today, marriage is chiefly a secular institution. While others have said that marriage is an institution created by God and recognized by the state, it is not that simple. For if that were true, no one could bypass the church and be married in a courthouse by a magistrate, and there would be no secular ramifications for being married, except for perhaps the changing of one’s legal name. Yet, these things do exist and so demonstrate that the once religious institution of marriage has evolved into something that can elude religion entirely.

Therefore, when we go to the ballot box to cast our lot with others regarding “marriage” in the state of North Carolina, we are doing so in the efforts of preserving or changing a state-based institution not a religious one. And as such, the outcome has little to no consequences for the Church, for the state has no power over her. Christ alone is her Lord, and no vote consisting of the righteous and the wicked will ever sway his decree.

As for the state itself, I have long put aside the vision of the Separatists who longed to establish Christ’s government in the New World, and have accepted the Christ-given role for the Church to be light in the darkness of the world (including wicked governments and their citizens). As for that role, no piece of legislation can ever remove it, nor will any piece of legislation ever promote it. It is our duty to be that city on the hill, and only we ourselves can deter or uphold that role. In fact, the light that we are called to be shines all the more brighter when the world around us makes itself darker, and we should see these times as opportunities to shine, not through moral legislation and law-based, prescriptive righteousness, but through love, peace, and acceptance knowing that God alone can change the heart of the homosexual, et al, not Christian political activism.

That said, what should the Christian’s role be in the Amendment One vote? Some would say that you are not doing your Christian duty by not voting for it. I beg to differ with that assertion, for whether you vote or not, nowhere is it prescribed by Christ to take active duty in the governance of a country. Yes, we should cry out against gross injustices (e.g. abortion), but chiming in on the definitions of terms of a secular institution is hardly a gross injustice. It may be sinful to grant the benefits / costs of state-sanctioned marriage to the union between same-sex couples, but God will judge those matters not the Church. For whether or not the amendment passes, homosexuality and homosexual practices will continue to exist, and, if the current trend persists, will continue to grow. Our duty should chiefly be as it has ever been, to love each other as Christ loved the Church, and to do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (cf. Gal. 6:10).

Perhaps if we were to do our duty as the Church, these things would not be an issue. Perhaps if we were the light we were called to be, Christ would draw more to himself. Yet we as the Church have become more legislators of morality than we have practicers of it. We have, as many outside the Church, looked to government and the law as our salvation, rather than to the righteousness and the power of Christ. As Paul so clearly put it, the law has no power to save, and its adherence alone only leads to condemnation. And while we might prevail to “circumcise” the homosexuals of this land, we have only given ourselves reason to boast in their “flesh” (cf. Gal. 6:13). If, perhaps, we were to hone the energy that we put into secular law-making and divert it toward the sanctity of marriage within the Church itself, our divorce rates would not mirror those of the world.

Categories: Miscellanies

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28 replies

  1. Some questions I'm genuinely curious about, if your view of government were to be made real.

    What is the Christian magistrate to do when a pair of sodomites comes to him for a marriage license?

    Or, If marriages or civil unions were reduced only to the realm of private contracts with no state restrictions, would a Christian magistrate be right to, say, enforce a contract penalty against an 'unfaithful' sodomite who didn't keep his agreement only to sodomize one person? Could he arbitrate such a 'divorce' or abandonment and thus legally castigate the sodomite for not keeping his evil contract?

    What about a Christian social worker who is tasked, by law, with handing over an abused child into a sodomite's home for 'adoption'? What should that Christian do?

    Or what about a Christian sheriff's deputy, who is sent to ensure that the loser of a homosexual child-custody case gets his time with a child?

    The permutations are endless. Are these Christians able to serve in any function of government?


    • Jeremy, while I understand your sympathies with such Christian persons in government positions, the question can apply to those outside those situations where Christians in other secular positions are confronted with things that go against conscience. If such a situation did present itself, the person in question could appeal to his superiors and remove himself from such duties for religious reasons, or, if that's not allowed, remove himself from that position. Nevertheless, the Amendment, as I'm sure you're aware, does not make homosexual unions legal in the state.


    • I agree with Matt. If a person employed by the state has a clash of conscience, he or she should appeal to their immediate supervisors. Also, on giving a child up for adoption to a homosexual couple, a) that is not the purpose of the amendment, b) there is no legitimate data available that shows that a child adopted by a homosexual couple will himself become gay or lesbian. These are "permutations" outside the scope of the current or suggested law.____The key issue is for us to shine Christ's light, to give a cup of cold water. What we have started doing is becoming acid rain on a thirsty world.


  2. While the church and state are two institutions, from where should the government seek to derive its philosophy of laws? Must they assume a God-less universe? Do not all laws derive from some kind of metaphysical base? And, if so, why should the US government not appeal to the Judeo-Christian tradition? Is that not what the US Constitution first drew from?

    The church is to be salt and light in the community. They should have spoken up for the oppressed African-American or American Indian, even when it came to informing fair and just legislation. A system of laws hermetically sealed off from any metaphysical reasoning is impossible!


    • In a free society, laws must be based upon an individual's right to live their lives in such a manner that does not hurt or destroy the lives of others in that society. If we do not honor this as Christians, what will happen if, say, the country becomes predominantly Muslim and our philosophy of adopting the laws of the majority religion persists? Will you be willing to subject yourself to Islamic law? A libertarian view of governance is the only sure means to insure that free, Christian practice will continue despite the inclinations of the majority.


  3. I'm glad to hear you'd affirm a Christian could not do such things. But it strikes me as terribly odd that you are arguing for a government to exist such that a Christian could not work in many of its most important roles.

    Romans 13 does not include "rewarding evil" as a duty of the civil sphere. To process, uphold, or arbitrate a relational contract for a homosexual couple (made privately without government definitions, or publicly with government definitions) is, by definition, rewarding evil. Inescapably, those contracts will have impacts on the placement of children, ownership of assets, etc. Even if there is argument over what behavior should be prosecuted, outright rewarding evil should be off the table.

    I also think you miss the inescapability of theocracy. There always has been, and always will be, theocracy in every nation – an unquestionable authority, devotion to which is religious in nature, that will be the source of law.
    It all just depends on who the Theos is. There is no neutrality, and libertarianism has its own gods, and that is the individual will combined with an anti-Biblical notion of 'harm.' The individual is God.

    Take prostitution – it is a direct, hateful, society-destroying arrow of harm pointed directly at every marriage where it is legal. The offer IS the harm as much as the act itself. The legality of it sends a message to every man, woman, and child in society. The law preaches morality, whether one likes that or not. But the libertarian instead sacrifices the integrity of marriages, male-female relations in general, the formation of young minds, and God's image in man and woman, on the altar of freedom of association. The individual will and voluntarism is that which shall not be questioned.

    That is just one example. There are dozens of others.


    • Well, my brother, I doubt that we'll come to much of an agreement on the subject. As for your reference to Romans 13, I think that you read much into it. I don't think that Paul was exhorting the Church to make sure to make sure that government bears the sword rightly, but rather he was warning them that 1) all governments are established by God, and 2) to fear wrong-doing, for the government does not bear the sword in vain.

      And, no, I do see it is as necessary that Christians must be involved in government. I doubt that Christians had little say in the Roman institution in Paul's day, being that it was dictatorship. Sure, I believe that some Christians are called to civic duty just as some are called to play in orchestras, some to coach football, and some to work in banks. However, I can't see in Scripture where secular reform is a Christ-given mandate. In fact, the opposite seems to be true (cf. 2Tim. 2:1-7).

      And, yes, moral decay may very well be the demise of America, if the economy does not destroy it first. However, Christ reigns on, and his church will endure in righteousness despite the morality around it.


  4. So are you denying that allowing for same sex unions (by private or public definition) is rewarding evil? Or are you saying that Christians should not object to governments rewarding evil?

    Does Romans 13 have any commands regarding what government should do?

    I still have the same question from our FB interaction a while ago – can you find anyone in the entirety of Church history suggesting anything close to your view of government from a period more than 10 years ago?


    • I must admit that I'm not as learned as your are when it comes to historical theology. I cannot name anyone in church history more than 10 years ago, neither can I name anyone within the past ten years. I draw my convictions from the New Testament, and I am willing to change my position if I am convinced from it. So, if you'd be willing to demonstrate from Christ, Paul, etc. why I should be more active in the legislation of the United States of America, I'm all ears.


    • Apart from Calvin, who ran a city in Austria like a tyrannt and the Roman Popes in Italy, most key religious figures agreed with Paul in Romans 13 to let the government have its sphere understanding that God is powerful enough to handle it all. At the same time Paul admonishes us to actually pray for these official, especially the tyrannts, so the the Gospel may be spread. It is our light as Christians that can change the attitudes of government officials to pass laws that reflect Jesus. You cannot find one place in the Scripture where Jesus tells us to get involved directly with government, save paying taxes and obeying the laws of the land unless they interfere with the Gospel and the law of Christ. It is also interesting that the Law of Christ, to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, is not being considered in this debate. How are we showing love in this instance? Why aren't we also railing against gossippers (found in number in every church), liars, women beaters (often overlooked, but a big scandal in many churches), and those who steal (like "fudging" on your taxes, or bringing home pens, etc. from work)? Sin is sin, isn't it?


  5. You seriously overstate my knowledge of church history.

    I think one way I could begin answering your question is to know the answer to my third question: Does Romans 13 have any prescriptions regarding what the civil sphere should do, or is it merely a statement of fact about what government IS and why God made it, rather than what it ought to be?


  6. I believe that it is a statement of what it is. Obviously, no government has ever fulfilled what it ought to be perfectly, neither will it ever in this age. I believe that what Paul is saying is that there is common grace in government so that in general it rewards good and punishes evil. And I believe that Paul was indirectly referencing the Roman state (for that was the context in which he wrote), and few would argue against its wickedness, for it was under that institution that Christ was murdered.


  7. Reading this thread made me thing of the Schleitheim Confession, particularly Articl VI: points 3 and 4. http://www.anabaptists.org/history/the-schleithei


  8. Let the old man weigh in on this one. My understanding of the Romans 13 passage is that God established government as a grace to maintain some semblance of stability in a sinful, fallen world. Even lost, secular "authorities" are in some sense "ministers" for His purposes. Historically the church and government have had a love-hate relationship, each constantly vying to dominate the other. And, while we do indeed look to Scripture as the final authority on the subject, historical context can aid in discerning the correct interpretation of a passage.

    Our form of government is unique historically. It is the first government formed by free men for free men. In keeping with Jesus' admonition to "be wise as serpents, harmless as doves," Christians do have the right to try to influence government for good. And the more morally upright the government and its laws, the more stable the society will be overall, TO THE EXTENT that society accepts those laws. (Strong traditional families, for instance, do indeed make for a healthier, more prosperous nation.)

    Nevertheless, Christians will not win over the world to Christ or even to basic morality simply by passing the right laws. That task can only be accomplished one heart at a time. The pro-life movement affords an excellent example. While feverishly pushing early on for a pro-life amendment, the whole movement lost ground in public opinion. But in the nineties they began to take a softer approach and win over troubled young ladies and even abortion clinic workers with love and aid and understanding. The result is a nation that is significantly more pro-life at heart than it was, with some noticeable political gains as well, such as parental consent laws.

    The upshot of all this is: if I lived in NC, I would vote Tuesday FOR the amendment and do not fault believers for supporting it. But anyone who really thinks that the amendment by itself is going to improve or even preserve the moral climate of our society might as well believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus too. On marriage and sexual issues Christ's followers must win them over as the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." So I guess "meh" is not too far from my own position in this time of rapidly declining morals.


    • I have to agree, old man.;) Our type of government certainly does complicate the issue. However, since I am going to vote for Ron Paul on that day, I'll also vote for Amendment One while I'm there.


  9. The short and simple point is that when conservative Christians legislate morality they turn real people away from Christ. This is exactly what is happening here. If you truly believe that people need to come to Christ in order to gain salvation why would you ever do something that so hinders their decision? Conservative attempts to shape culture have turned millions away from the Lord in shear disgust. You should repent and reject this atrocious and misguided practice.


  10. Steven, do you vote? if so, you are legislating morality. Why are murder, cannabolism and nudty among other "conservative" ideas illegal?


  11. My point is that when Christians exert political power to prevent gays from marrying it turns people against us. This is not the case with murder. No one hates Christianity because Christians are against murder. In this sense, gay marriage is not the same as other sins.
    I have two questions. First, is it worth it? Is it worth potentially alienating people from the Gospel and losing them to establish short-term political gains? Second, can you actually construct an argument for this using scripture? I've not heard anything that is scripturally sound on this point.


    • Well, perhaps abortion is an instance where Christians are hated because of murder?

      Also, I don't think our motivation should ever be whether or not we think we might alienate people to the Gospel. The Gospel alienates by itself. While it is debatable as to whether or not voting for Amendment One is a Christian responsibility, what is not debatable is that a homosexual must repent of his homosexuality in order to follow Christ. Though it may be a lifelong struggle for him/her, that person cannot remain in that lifestyle and claim salvation in Christ. Now that will alienate.


      • Lets keep it simple and stick with the gay marriage issue. I didn't say anything about homosexuals specifically so that is a moot point. What you need to do is give a sound, Biblical argument for why it is OK to push this issue when you know that non-believers are turned off to the Gospel because of it. I spend a lot of time reaching out to people and there are many who cling to and love the Gospel when they hear it. Many times, they were blinded to it because their conception of Christianity was formed in large part by their experiences with Conservative Christians' political advocacy (And this led them to believe a lot of really bad things about Christians).
        I'll ask again. Is it worth it to score a short-term political gain when you know that it will put up blocks between real human beings and the Gospel?
        Also, Matt, what is your experience with reaching the lost? Have you seen people with negative views of Christianity based on this issue? Perhaps it is just my experience because I live in a urban area. I suspect that it is a larger issue nationwide though.


      • 1 Cor. 5 9-13a–What does Paul say?

        9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
        12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.

        This has been an excellent guide for me as I work with those within and without the church. What do you think?


      • My point was (and it's my fault for not making it clear) is that I don't think we should be concerned about alienating people to the Gospel if we are convinced that Scripture would have us act / live in a certain way. So, my comment may be moot.


      • If you get a second I would love to hear your responses to the other issues/questions I raised. I am interested it this and willing to change my mind. But, as of yet, I have not come across anything that justifies this type of political involvement (in the narrow sense outlined above). Thanks!


  12. I was in a fb conversation the other day, when a woman that I don't know started chiming in on the conversation, condemning gays to hell, and spouting the usual hateful-sounding things that Christians say. She had no argument … she literally typed "This has nothing to do with the Law! This is about God's Law!!!" We were obviously talking about the law … duh. She started inboxing me and trying to give me Bible lessons, and I kept explaining to her that I was raised in church and know very well what the Bible says. I kept asking her a series of questions to explain her position, and she kept responding with Bible lessons and telling me to read the federalist papers. Today, she sent me a link to the Summit Church's blog on the amendment. From that blog, I followed a link which lead me to here. I'd love to ask you the same questions that I've been asking her for the past week, and have yet to get an answer to.

    1. Steven, I completely agree with you regarding the Christian image and the repercussions of Christians seeming to be so judgmental and hateful toward a certain group of people.

    2. Dan, Seriously?? You're comparing me having a gay neighbor with me having a neighbor who practices cannibalism or is a murderer? The obvious difference in homosexuality, murder, and cannibalism (obvious to people that don't have hatred in their hearts for gays, apparently) is that murder and cannibalism are doing harm to others. Please tell me how it harms YOU for your neighbor to be gay, or to marry their partner? In my view, the only things the government should be legislating and making laws about, are the things that protect us from harm or affect EVERYone.
    This brings me to the question that I've asked my fb stalker at least 5 times … and she keeps ignoring my questions. Maybe one of you guys can answer me.
    If the government should make laws based on the Bible, and what the Bible says is a sin … why aren't you carrying signs and protesting the fact that divorce is legal? I listed numerous scriptures for her, but I'm sure you are well aware of what the Bible has to say about divorce. If you divorce your wife, you have turned her into an adulterer. If you marry a divorced woman, you are an adulterer. Last time I looked, Adultery is actually one of the Ten Commandments. Why is that so much less important to the Christian? So much less important, that about half of "Christians" are in fact divorced…. adulterers.

    I've been asked to split the comment and shorten…. so … .


  13. My other question is … are all Christians so arrogant as to believe that the way THEY interpret the Bible, is THE way the government should interpret the Bible and base laws on that interpretation? I was raised in a strict, Pentecostal church. Based on scripture, we weren't allowed to wear jewelry or make-up, the women couldn't wear pants, shorts, sleeveless tops, swimsuits, etc. We weren't allowed to 'be a part of the world' by going to movies, theme parks, skating rinks, etc. The women weren't allowed to cut their hair, because the Bible clearly states that a woman's LONG hair is her glory (and is her cover, which is required for her to pray and go to church.) How would YOU feel if the government made laws based on the beliefs of the Pentecostal's interpretation of the scripture??
    Why is it, that nearly EVERY Christian seems to be a hypocritical, 'cafeteria' Christian? Why do you pick and choose scriptures that YOU deem to be taken at face value, yet others (that would make your life inconvenient) seem to be open to interpretation??
    Another "Christian" that was arguing on fb a few months ago, and saying ugly things… damning all gays to hell, etc. "it's an abomination" "it's a sin" …. ummm…… yet there she is … after having lived with her boyfriend for 7 years, and having a child with him 5 years ago …. they finally decided to get married 4 months ago.
    THAT'S the hypocritical kind of message that most "Christians" are spouting to the world.
    To Mr. Horner's point …. if All Christians (or at least the majority of them, please) would adhere to God's most important law …. to LOVE your neighbor as you love yourself …. the world would be in a much better place.

    With all that being said …. if I take religion out of it …. I firmly believe, that if you (or I) vote today to give the government the right to put their nose into MY NEIGHBOR'S business in such a way …. tomorrow … it'll be your business and my business that they have their nose in (even more than they already do). I'm as rightwing as they come, but I'm a true conservative, that doesn't want the government in ANY one's business, not just my own.
    That quote that conservatives like to quote …. I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Why does that only apply to speech? Why can't I disagree with the way you live, but defend to the death your right to live the way YOU want to live? Didn't GOD give us free will? God isn't forcing homosexuals to do anything they don't want to do …. why should you or I???


    • Pam, obviously whoever spoke with you on facebook gave you a lot grief regarding this issue. The problem is, I believe, that a lot of Christians (or those who call themselves Christians) really believe that America is a Christian nation and therefore should be legislated upon laws in the Bible. Some people have good, solid reasons for believing this, at least to an extent (like my friend, Jeremy, who commented above) and others just believe it because, to reference "O Brother Where art Thou?," that's their "culture and heritige." There's poor teaching (as in your Pentecostal example) and poor tradition every where, and it's hard (for me, at least) not to be sympathetic with such persons, because I have personally encountered much more poor teaching than good teaching, and I've always lived 10 miles away from a seminary. Nevertheless, bigoted statements shouldn't be excused, and those in the church should be the first to reprimand such statements.

      That said, I don't think anyone here would argue with the statement that, according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. If someone who claims the Bible says otherwise, they clearly have never read it or simply reject it. And, yes, it is true that the New Testament does say that if homosexuals persist unrepentant in their homosexuality till the day they die, they will be condemned.

      However, our discussion here is whether or not America should be governed based upon Christian morality. Personally, I do think it would be in the best interest of the country as a whole to be governed by Christian morality, however, in a free society, it's kinda hard to argue that (at least I can't). The problem is that the separation of church and state didn't happen with marriage. Marriage is a religious issue that has been usurped and defined by the state. If marriage were a ceremony, like baptism, and there were no secular benefits for it, this wouldn't even be a discussion. Yet here we are, and it's just a difficult issue.


  14. With my religious upbringing, I also fully understand why people think that our nation was founded on biblical principals (I believe that as well.), and should be legislated upon the laws int he Bible. MY issue with the people that are screaming about his, is … why is THIS particular law more important than the others? Why aren't those same people upset that divorce is legal, and in fact … getting divorces themselves, every day?
    If someone believes the nation should be governed according to God's laws, I'm fine with that. Picking and choosing laws is where it falls apart for me. I have yet to have anyone answer that for me.


    • To be fair, there are already legal repercussions for divorce, which is why one has to hire lawyers and file for divorce. And divorce really doesn't fall into the same category, for while, Christianly speaking, there are times when divorce is permissable, homosexuality is never permissable.


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