By Wendell Cantrell
(This is the last of four articles examining the Christian response to civil disobedience.)
As Christians, we have a history of believing in the rule of law and respect for the authority of earthly rulers. We are especially privileged to live in a democratic society where all citizens have the right to participate in the political process. We are seeing, however, that even in a democracy, laws can be unjust. In our balanced study of scripture and lessons from church history, we see that our faith and forefathers have taught us that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust or immoral laws. Such laws claim no authority beyond that of sheer human will. We are going to look at three areas where we are or will be facing unjust laws. Finally, we will introduce you to a document for your consideration called the Manhattan Declaration.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 stripped the unborn of legal protection and continues to treat elective abortion as a fundamental, constitutional right, with limited restrictions. Public sentiment, especially among young adults, is certainly trending towards pro-life. We still, however, see a pro-abortion ideology prevailing today in our media and government. Did you notice the lack of coverage in mainstream media of the Washington D.C. March for Life, with 400,000 participants commemorating the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade? The commitment to the sanctity of life is certainly not a matter of partisan loyalty. We have seen elected officials and appointees of both major political parties giving legal sanction to “the culture of death”. This culture cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature, or inconvenient, may be discarded. We must call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination. What the Bible and the light of reason make clear, we must make clear. We must be willing to defend, even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions, the lives of our brothers and sisters at every stage of development and in every condition.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24).
In Scripture, the creation of man and woman, and their one-flesh union as husband and wife, is the crowning achievement of God’s creation. In the transmission of life and the nurturing of children, men and women joined as spouses are given the great honor of being partners with God Himself. Marriage then, is the first institution of human society—indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation. In the Bible, the Lord blesses and holds marriage in the highest esteem. We confess with sadness that Christians and our institutions have too often scandalously failed to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world the true meaning of marriage. Insofar as we have remained silent about social practices that undermine the dignity of marriage, we repent and call upon all Christians to do the same.
The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law, as well as the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. It is critical, however, that the impulse be resisted for we cannot abandon the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. In spousal communion and the rearing of children, we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21).
In recent decades we have seen a decline in respect for religious values in the media, the academy, and political leadership. This has led to restrictions on the free exercise of religion. The restrictions on the freedom of Christian campus groups to select leaders based on moral values is happening on numerous campuses. Anti-discrimination laws will soon be preventing religious institutions from hiring people based on their faith. In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice coming our way.
As we close out this series, I would encourage you to consider your three current options:
- Render unto Caesar, despite the cost (basically disagreeing with civil disobedience).
- Personally, or part of a smaller group, decide at what point rendering to Caesar is unjust. One of the reasons for choosing this option would be uneasiness with the ecumenical nature of the next option that buys into a broad- based coalition approach.
- Consider signing the Manhattan Declaration highlighted below. About 500,000 have done so at this point.
- Denton Bible is not recommending a position at this time.
Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.
Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.
Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.
We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.