Some laws don't evolve or change, some laws are just objectively wrong to begin with. Laws and court rulings providing for abortion, same sex 'marriage' and no fault divorce are laws that require immediate action and can never be followed by any Christian if it forces them to violate their conscience. We should prefer martyrdom. – Comment

I can understand the concept of civil disobedience to laws you disagree with (and such civil disobedience appeared to be the context of this discussion), but in what sense can that apply here? You can express your disapproval of marriage equality by the act of civil disobedience of ... not marrying someone of the same sex? I'm confused.

To make a serious question out of my genuine bemusement, I'll ask, What should a Christian do when the state permits something the church does not?

When the state prohibits something the church permits, the answer seems to be, Don't do it.

When the state prohibits something the church mandates (such as proselytism), there's probably a clear case for civil disobedience.

Ditto when the church prohibits something the state mandates (such as serving in the armed forces).

But when the church prohibits something the state permits, it's less obvious to me. My answer when I was religious would have been the same as above (though for different reasons): Don't do it. But others seem to recommend civil disobedience in this area. I'm not sure what form such civil disobedience is imagined to take. How can one civilly disobey being allowed to do something? By stopping other people doing it? By force?

Note: This question is similar to, but not the same as the question which triggered it. That question was assuming that all action would be within the democratic process (political campaigning, pressure groups, and, ultimately, voting at the ballot box). However, the comment which sparked this question arose within a context of civil disobedience, and I simply can't understand how civil disobedience is supposed to apply in this case.

  • It isn't entirely clear to me that the comment in question related to civil disobedience as such. But I see the point you are trying to make. Sep 24, 2011 at 21:45
  • 2
    Negative civil disobedience is civil obedience...
    – stoicfury
    Sep 24, 2011 at 22:20
  • Many choose the course of "civil disobedience" in the case of abortion, for instance, by illegally picketing abortion clinics, or in extreme cases, murdering abortion doctors. I've also heard of illegally picketing/protesting same-sex marriage ceremonies, too. I suppose these would be examples of civil disobedience, no? I'm not sure how you'd exercise civil disobedience for a no-fault divorce--illegally protest the court hearing?
    – Flimzy
    Sep 25, 2011 at 4:44
  • I've changed the question title based on text from the question itself. Feel free to change / roll back if desirable. Sep 29, 2011 at 10:22
  • 1
    OK, then I have removed the old reference to the title from the question. Sep 29, 2011 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


I agree with your assessment. You really answered your own question - don't do it. That's as far as the civil disobedience can go in that case - not participating yourself.

Anything else (speaking out against the activity, protesting, etc) isn't civil disobedience, it's merely exercising your first amendment rights.

The only way that I can see such activity turning into civil disobedience is if the police show up and demand you stop protesting. If you continue to speak out or protest at that point, you're exercising civil disobedience, not to the original law you're protesting, but to the attack on your first amendment rights.

That's not the same as exercising civil disobedience by refusing to partake in an unjust law, so it really doesn't apply to your question and we're back to just "don't partake" as the only possible act of civil disobedience, which isn't civil disobedience at all.

Example: Drinking is legal in the U.S. as long as you're over 21 years old. However, some Christians view drinking as sinful (or at least not profitable). Not drinking isn't civil disobedience.

As I ramble on here, I can only come to the conclusion that the answer to this question isn't so much based on logic or Christianity, but on the proper use of the English language, and the definition of the term "disobedience".

Put simply, to refuse to partake in something isn't disobedience unless an authority is attempting to force you to partake. Therefore, when the law allows something, but does not require it, then refusing to take part is not disobedience, civil or otherwise.

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