Should Christians Pledge Civil Disobedience?

Derek Ouellette —  January 22, 2010

Welcome to Opposing Views Friday. This is the place where I post a question that invites your comments and views on various subjects. The floor is open to you with only three simple requests: 1. Keep your comments short (one thought at a time is helpful) 2. Be respectful and 3. Stay on topic!


The January edition of Christianity Today reports:

Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox leaders in November publicly pledged civil disobedience if necessary to live out convictions on abortion, gay marriage, and religious freedom. CT, 01, 2010, p.10

So here is the question: at what point do we as Christians cross that line between living out our convictions in protest, and being proactively disobedient to the state? Should Christians pledge civil disobedience?

See The Manhattan Declaration

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Geneinne

    I think I would want more clarity on what they mean by ‘civil disobedience”. Jesus through the money changers out of the temple in his day, healed the sick on the sabbath, etc… and many times in history God’s laws took precedence over the government laws. Christians hiding Jews in their homes and/or helping them escape against what the government at their time and place demanded.
    So I think for me it would depend on how I lived out my ‘ civil disobedience’ and if I felt that the government was activily violating my rights as a Christian. Many say Jesus was a revolutionary!

  • Derek Ouellette

    Good thoughts Geneinne,

    In response I would suggest that the Apostle in Romans 13 instructs believers to submit to governing authority because “there is no authority except which God has established” [Rom 13:1] (what about Hitler or Nero? Paul says God is the one who established their authority).

    There are Christians today who have a conviction against paying taxes. A famous example is Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino) who claimed (while being hauled off to jail), that “he and his employees are workers of God and therefore exempt from paying taxes”. Jesus said in discussing taxes, “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is Gods” [Luke 20:25]. Some would argue since all things belong to God it is to God that we render our money – not Caesar.

    Yet the Apostle says plainly, “”This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are Gods servants” [Rom 13:6].

    I don’t want to make this about taxes, my point is that here is a man who believed his convictions as a Christian was in conflict with the rules of the civil authority. Jesus turned over tables, yes, but when his disciples’ rights as Christians were being violated (book of Acts) they did not “pledge civil disobedience” (actively protest the governing rules), but their protest was to continue to do what God called them to do and then face the civil consequences of those actions.

  • Geneinne

    AGain, depending on what they call ‘ civil disobedience’, I would say that if our rights, as Christians, or when we see the oppression of other’s rights who are being violated then I beleive we are commanded to take a stand. I mean whether or not Hitler was in government I think the actions of those who actively stood up againist his evil, including those who took actions to stop the evil he pressed upon people, should be applauded for their efforts.
    What about Rahab? Or what would happen should the government passed laws to stop pastors from preaching certain things….or the rights of the unborn,etc..?

  • Derek Ouellette

    Just last night this conversation came up between my brother-in-law, myself and others, it is an interesting discussion.

    Geneinne you are certainly right when you say “it depends on what they call ‘civil disobedience'”. There is a lot of vagueness to this discussion.

    My fear is that by making such a public declaration Christians are going to be perceived as being Jihad like.

    What if the government steps in to prevent pastors from preaching against active homosexuality, abortion and the such from the pulpit? Such talk is not illegal in the home which, ironically enough, is where the Church had it’s start.

    Some would argue – and I’m inclined to sit on the fence on this for the time being – that rather then defy the government by antagonistically preaching on those things resulting in prison, that we should move to homes and out from underneath the governments control.

    I suppose maybe I just don’t like the term “civil disobedience” though, in the end I may agree.

  • geneinne

    lol….yea, the question is a little vague. Perhaps it’s the rebel coming out in me also. Personally, I would not hestitate to preach the Word of God, even if it did mean trangressing the law as I beleive that I follow a higher law. However, I also don’t find anything wrong with home churches. It worked for the early Christians, works for countries where persecution is great… it would work for me too. If all Christians were militant, and I don’t mean judgemental, but rather, if all Christians took an active and vocal stand for God we’d be quite a force to come against!

  • geneinne

    … and the New Testement does state that some of us will be put in prison for what we beleive and that we would be brought up courts for our stand…so I guess I say. ‘ let the games begin!’ Just means the return of Jesus is closer than we may think!

  • Jay Weygandt

    Absolutely yes! It is our moral responsibility. We honor those who did so in the past but are afraid to stand today.

  • Derek Ouellette

    Hey Jay, thanks for commenting.

    I like your resoluteness. Yours too Geneinne.

  • Obedient to Him

    In the US, states and the federal government make laws and take action on a variety of matters which citizens must adhere to so long as such do not violate the constitution. We say the constitution is the “supreme law of the land” and thus all laws have authority so long as they do not violate the constitution. Some might call fighting against an unconstitutional mandate “civil disobedience” while others see it as obedience – just obedience to a higher, more important law. In a much more significant but similar way, God’s word constitutes the supreme law governing all — while a few might run around claiming that they should violate tax laws and the like, God’s word suggests man’s laws should be obeyed so long as they do not violate God’s law.

    I tell this to my kids when I lay down some house rule: you must obey me even if you disagree unless I tell you to do something that God says you must not do. In that case, I hope they will obey God and disobey me. In the same way, I think we must obey laws, even inconvenient or disagreeable ones (be it filing taxes or applying for a permit or whatever) unless they violate God’s law. If a minister is asked to bless what Scriptures declare to be sinful, man’s law asks him to violate Gods and he must (politely, with love) disobey. If a physician is ordered by man’s law to destroy life God says she must protect, she must disobey.

    Recently a small group of Christians looked @ Romans 13 and questioned what this really means. When do we submit? When do we resist? were among the questions we pondered. Looking @ Scripture, it seems that a consistent pattern is to speak out when others are being oppressed while taking abuse when it is directed towards ourselves individually. (so if someone wants to take your wallet, give it up but if you see the same person grabbing another’s wallet, stop him)

    It seems to me that the Manhattan Declaration simply declares alliegance to God’s law and says that where man’s law requires something in direct conflict, God’s law reigns.

  • Derek Ouellette

    Obedient to Him,

    Well articulated. Two points of your I want to commend:

    1. The analogy with your kids shows great prudence and wisdom. As a friend of mine might say, God is not “number 1” – that spot is reserved for other things (parents, spouse etc.) On the contrary God is your very life! This makes him supreme in all things – even at the expense of disobeying your “number 1” to submit to God.

    2. I just want to highlight the pattern you’ve brought out because I think it is an important principle to keep in mind:

    “It seems that a consistent pattern is to speak out when others are being oppressed while taking abuse when it is directed towards ourselves individually”

    AMEN. This is a humility I really want to strive for.

    Thank for sharing.