Before You Quit Your State Job Over Gay Marriage, Read This

Three County Clerk employees in Tennessee recently quit their jobs over the Supreme Court’s majority opinion that states have no compelling interest in denying gay couples marriage licenses—something the Supreme Court has long recognized to be a fundamental right. A County Clerk here in Arkansas did the same. Obviously, if these employees felt that in the name of their Christian faith, they had to quit, I say more power to them and wish them well.

But, before you feel in your heart that you must follow their example, I want you to consider something from the same Bible they read.

In the Old Testament book of Daniel, Babylon conquers the Jewish people—a people accustomed to a Jewish theocracy—and King Nebuchadnezzar forces various individuals into government service with his pagan government. Many readers familiar with Daniel know that he was among those conscripted into the civil service. Fewer pay attention what his specific job was.

“Chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.”

You read that right. See Daniel 5:11.

Yet, I’m willing to bet all the money I’ll ever make that Daniel knew the Law of Moses where it stated explicitly, “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” Exodus 22:18.

So what gives? Did Daniel leave his faith outside the courthouse?

Outside of Israel under the law of Moses, God never seems to have intended civil government to be his instrument of morality in the world. In fact, none of the Bible’s New Testament authors seem to care very much about the observance of Christians morality outside the church.* See 1 Corinthians 5:12 and Revelation 3:15. Instead, when you read the Bible, the role of government that comes much more naturally out of the text is simply to promote general order and justice. See, e.g. Romans 13.

So before you consider resigning your state job, perhaps you should be less concerned with the morality of others and more concerned with your own diligence. If you want a model for working in government, let it be this:

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

*My purpose here isn’t to argue that gay marriage is wrong or right. For a good discussion of that topic, I recommend this article and this one.

UPDATE: Mark Ohrenberger, former assistant attorney general, wrote these words to me in a Facebook message, and I thought I’d pass them on:

I realize that this note is pedantry and completely outside the purpose of your article, but it impacts your title – deputy county clerk jobs are county jobs, not state jobs. The only state jobs in the courthouse are those of the judges. Even judicial law clerks are county employees (and yet they are supervised by the state-employed judge).

So, replace each instance of “state” with “county” and read on.


One thought on “Before You Quit Your State Job Over Gay Marriage, Read This

  1. I like your train of thought on this, Chris. However, I think we should be careful about our use of the Old Testament as an example for our behavior. I agree that God never intended civil government to be His instrument of morality (of judgment perhaps, but not morality). But I would argue that New Testament operates under the assumption that Christians (who in Jesus’ day and shortly thereafter were almost entirely made up of the oppressed and/or the powerless) are not part of the civil authority. That, it seems to me, to be the best way to reconcile Romans 12’s prohibition against repaying evil with evil with Romans 13’s statement that the government bears the sword. All that’s to say that the question of how involved a Christian should even be in government should be an important discussion related to/preceding this one.

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