By Michael Berry
The following, written by new to “The Edge” blogger, Michael Berry, is part two of a two-part essay that examines the roots and modern out-workings of religious liberty in the United States military. Part one can was published on Tuesday, October 8.
Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, a 19-year Air Force veteran, loves the Air Force. He believes in the Air Force mission and its core values. Sergeant Monk is also a devout Christian. Accordingly, he believes God called him to a life of service and selfless sacrifice. To that end, Sergeant Monk deployed on dangerous combat missions multiple times, risking his life in submission to a cause greater than himself.
Upon his return from his latest combat deployment in the summer of 2013, Sergeant Monk’s commander, who is an open homosexual, confronted him about his position on same-sex marriage. Sergeant Monk believes marriage is defined as between one man and one woman.
This upset his commander so much that she no longer considered him fit to serve in her unit. As a result, she relieved him of his duties and expelled him from her unit. Her actions not only violated Department of Defense policy, but also violated an Air Force regulation stating that:
All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own.
Sergeant Monk now faces the daunting task of challenging the very Air Force that he loves and to which he devoted nineteen years his life.
The irony is that the reason Sergeant Monk is willing to fight the Air Force is because of his belief in a cause greater than both himself and the Air Force. Sergeant Monk’s willingness to defy the Air Force and his commander is the direct result of his Christian faith and his submission to God as the ultimate authority of his life.
As Christians, we all believe in and submit to an authority greater than any human or government. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that man, while in submission to earthly authorities, must realize that it is God—who emplaced those authorities—is the only true sovereign. That is why in Acts 5, after they were arrested for teaching others about Jesus, Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Although some consider Peter’s words at odds with Paul’s teaching in Romans 13, quite the opposite is true.
In verse 3 Paul explains, “rulers are not a cause of fear for good conduct, but for evil.” The implication here is that we can, and must, submit to authority in good conduct. But we have no cause for fear in disobeying authority in evil.
If authorities only praised what is good and punished what is evil, then our only duty would be to obey those authorities at all times. But, as Sergeant Monk’s case illustrates, authorities often do evil. When that occurs, our Christian duty is to obey God rather than man. There is no greater example of this than Jesus himself, who defiantly proclaimed to Pilate—an authority given by God to be sure—that Pilate had no authority over Him unless God first gave it to him.
The implications of this are twofold. First, Christians must recognize that submission to human authority is not absolute. Our first obedience must be to God because He is the one who puts human authorities in power. Second, because our first obedience is to God, when human authorities fail or refuse to do good, Christians must disobey.
Sergeant Monk is therefore following Christ’s model of civil disobedience. We should commend him and support him for fighting in a cause greater than himself, the cause of willful disobedience to man that is rooted in obedience to God.
Michael Berry is an attorney for Liberty Institute, a nationwide religious liberty law firm dedicated to restoring religious liberty in America. Michael joined Liberty Institute in 2013 after seven years serving as a JAG officer in the United States Marine Corps. He is a 1999 graduate of Texas A&M University and a 2005 graduate of The Ohio State University School of Law
 Air Force Instruction 1-1.
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