What impact does your faith have on the rest of your life? That is essentially the question posed by Tim Ryan of Fox 4 News (DFW) to Dallas County Clerk John Warren. On June 24, Ryan asked Warren if there is a different John Warren on Monday through Friday than there is on Sunday. Warren replied that he is not the same person when he is County Clerk as when he serves as a deacon in his church or resides at his home.
For Mr. Warren, the question presents a particular difficulty because he is the Dallas County Clerk, and his office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses to people getting married in Dallas County, Texas. In anticipation of the Supreme Court issuing a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, his office is prepared to start issuing marriage licenses immediately. He is also a deacon in a Baptist church that has articulated a very clear position in its statement of faith regarding same-sex marriage. The church states:
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE – We believe that marriage is defined as being the legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. We also believe that only marriages between male and female, as ordained by God, is essential for the procreation of mankind (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24; Matthew 4:5-6). The Mount Olive Baptist Church does not ordain nor recognize same-sex unions.
In the video (beginning at the 2:50 mark), Mr. Warren seems to give his approval (or at least non-opposition) to same-sex marriage and distinguishes his personal faith from his public responsibilities.
Is Mr. Warren correct in making such a distinction? For those who hold firmly to the traditional definition of marriage that limits marriage to one man and one woman, can you hold a public office that requires you to issue such licenses? What if your private sector job makes demands to affirm same-sex marriage? What should you do if your job requires that you violate your religious beliefs in any area? What should a believer do in such circumstances?
These are some of the questions that must be asked in light of the impending Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges expected in the next several days. Christians who work in county clerks’ offices are not the only ones needing to ask such questions. Elected officials, attorneys, insurers, teachers, and many other professions will be impacted if the Supreme Court rules that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
What should believers do if their jobs suddenly require them to affirm or promote a position on marriage that is inconsistent with their faith? Here are a few ideas:
- Work to secure conscientious objector rights in the workplace.
Historically, there have been professions which have secured protections against participating in an activity in the workplace that violates their religious beliefs. For example, pharmacists have the right not to fill prescriptions for abortion-inducing drugs if it violates their consciences. Some workplaces may be able to offer such protections regarding same-sex marriage.
- Seek a new role within your company or workplace.
While this option may not always be possible, you may want to pursue a transfer of roles within your company to avoid directly dealing with the issue that violates your conscience. In some cases, your employer may be more than willing to accommodate your request. Unfortunately, other employers may see this as an opportunity to speed up your departure to another place of business. In order to be most effective in this approach, clearly communicate your desire in a respectful way to those who make such decisions.
- Seek a new place of employment.
This is probably the most difficult and extreme option. Some of you may have been working in your company for years, if not decades. Starting your career over at a new company may be both frightening and intimidating. However, a clear conscience and an enjoyable workplace may well be worth the transition. Consult with business owners and professionals in your church in order to seek advice before initiating the change. Hopefully, this will make your transition smoother.
At the end of the day, we have to recognize that Sunday and Monday are on a collision course. Our faith impacts the way we work. Our faith influences our business practices and decisions. In fact, our faith should inform what we do Monday through Friday. There should be no division between the sacred and the secular in our lives. Who we are on Sunday should be exactly who we are Monday through Friday.
When God first created mankind, he placed him in the garden to work. In Genesis 2:15 we read, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” We were created to work. But we were also created to worship. Every aspect of what we do is influenced by our relationship with God. Paul writes, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul was not simply talking about Sunday morning worship. “Whatever you do” includes our jobs. Therefore, we need to seek to bring God glory seven days a week.