A Tale of Two Kingdoms and Two Bathrooms

I currently live in North Carolina. If you pay attention to the news, you have been hearing a lot about our state. You may have heard that Bruce Springsteen recently cancelled his concert here and that some corporations have decided to curtain their business in our state. Even the NFL is having second thoughts. The reason? To use Shakespearean phraseology, It is all “much ado about” bathrooms.

The folks in Charlotte passed a local law that permitted trans-gender people to use the public restroom that they identified with. Our state legislature – horrified – responded by calling itself into session, annulling Charlotte’s new law, enacting “House-Law 2” that requires everyone to use the public restroom that corresponds to their birth-gender, and making it illegal for local governments to enact such anti-discrimination laws. Other southern states have since climbed onto the band-wagon.

I find all of this bewildering. I really don’t know that walking into the Men’s restroom and seeing a (birth-gender) male dressed as a woman is any less disconcerting that seeing a (birth-gender) female dressed as a man (which – frankly – I likely wouldn’t notice at all). An episode of Prairie Home Companion noted: when one is behind a toilet enclosure, who would know?

I won’t enter into a discussion about what the Bible says in this matter, since civil governments are to be ruled by reason (imagine that) rather than scripture. As Lutherans, we have taught for five hundred years that we are to distinguish between the Kingdom of God and the Political Order. We no longer live in the time when King Henry IV had to stand barefoot in the snow waiting for the blessing of the Pope. We believe in two kingdoms.

In the Book of Concord (the book that defines what Lutherans believe from the Bible), in a section called the “Apology (defense) of the Augsburg Confession,” Article 16: Political Order, we read the following good counsel:

“Christ’s kingdom is spiritual; it is the knowledge of God in the heart, the fear of God and faith, the beginning of eternal righteousness and eternal life. … The Gospel does not introduce any new laws about the civil estate, but commands us to obey the existing laws, whether they were formulated by heathen or by others, and in this obedience to practice love. It was mad of Carlstadt to try to impose on us the judicial laws of Moses. … For the Gospel does not destroy the state…and it commands us to obey them as divine ordinances not only from fear of punishment but also “for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:5). … God…would have them know their duty to teach that the spiritual kingdom does not change the civil government.” (Tappert edition, Fortress Press, pages 222-223)

As Christians, as believers in Christ, we understand that there is a difference between “the world” and “the church.” We do not expect the world to be governed by Christian values. It is a confusion to look to the government to uphold Christian standards, while asking for a more “enlightened” (worldly) church that is willing to erode its biblical ethics.

More serious still, by confusing these two kingdoms, people go to church for “prosperity” (or whatever else people want to get) rather than as a place for an encounter with God and his Word; to give God praise for his great mercies, poured out upon us despite our unworthiness.

Christ was not a new Moses and the world and its governments are not the church. Let government be ruled by reason for the benefit of all people; let Christ’s church be ruled by scripture; and let’s not impose the world’s values upon Christ’s kingdom.

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