Yesterday, the name “Kim Davis” generated the following on Google search: About 196,000,000 results (0.48 seconds) .
I started putting together this blog post last night. I went to bed without really formulating what I wanted to address about this Kim Davis situation. Yesterday, there was a Facebook update from a Christian on my friends list, asking the “Body of Christ to pray for #KIMDAVIS” and to “stand with her”. I did not know all that much of the particulars so I checked out the situation and checked my regular news feeds as well as a detailed Google Search.
The short summary of what is going on
The bottom line on this situation is that you have a town clerk, an elected official in Kentucky that has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples since the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriages, and the refusal of this clerk, Kim Davis, to issue the marriage licence due to fact that doing so puts her in the position of consenting to the marriage even though it is against her faith, beliefs and religious convictions. So now there is a hullabaloo over this across the USA, and it has made the news streams all over the world. It is a hot button issue from the most progressive to the most conservative people in society. There is a clash, a clash of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, civil rights, the interpretation and application of the laws of the land. Kim Davis does not seem to understand the difference between doing your job, and an actual crisis of conscience.
Religious opinions are people’s opinions, and don’t speak for God
When I commented on the Facebook thread, the backlash I experienced was mind boggling to say the least. I knew there would be extremists on both sides of the issues who have a hard time divorcing themselves from the issues at hand who are emotionally enmeshed and involved. My views and opinions were not even discussed, or countered with any legitimate response to my comments. The rebuttals I endured were words that are used to judge and cut people down and put them in their place, even using accusatory language such as, “Sam, are you a Christian?” implying that any person who would confess Christ, would obviously be on their side of this debate. I became sick to my stomach, not at being accused but rather sick to my stomach that Christians, who live in democracies like the USA and Canada, do not comprehend the rights and freedoms they have, and the rule of law in the land, and how civil rights and the restrictions and abuses of rights affects all citizens, and not just the ones they happen to think deserve those rights.
When we pit people into categories of “us” versus “them”, we are creating a division that the law does not recognize, but more important a division where God does not see, or allow to be validated or defended. With God there is no separation.
There is a difference between doing your job, and being forced to officiate a marriage ceremony
As I said I am baffled by the response of the Christian community to this issue. It is really fundamentally not about “religious freedom” or “freedom of conscience.”
In Canada, when gay marriage was deemed a civil right and inclusive of all to the right of marriage under the law of the land over a decade ago, there were Justices of the Peace and Marriage Commissioners who opposed officiating at the civil marriages of gay couples. There were court challenges, and notably in Ontario and Saskatchewan, the law of the land prevailed, and the Justices of the Peace and Marriage Commissioners were ordered to comply with the law and officiate the civilian marriages or resign. Many people of faith resigned rather than comply. They were exercising their freedom of conscience and the courts viewed that their jobs required them to treat all Canadians equally under the law regardless of religion, creed, race, gender. So the official’s religious belief system could not discriminate against citizen’s right to equal treatment under the law.
The Marriage Act in Canada protects the rights and privileges of clergy members and officials to determine which marriages they will officiate and those which they will not officiate. This reinforces the guarantees under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the religious rights of organizations to practice their faith according to its beliefs, traditions, church constitution and bylaws. As an ordained clergyman I have officiated marriages, traditional marriages between a man and a woman. I have declined to officiate the marriage of a couple on spiritual grounds, which is the prerogative of a clergyman.
As a clergyman, based on the bylaws of the church, as well as the biblical mandate and guidelines for marriage, and the guiding of my conscience, I have the responsibility before God and my denomination to act responsibly and ethically when making these kinds of decisions.
In my making my decisions, I have officiated marriages of divorced people, which has caused division and strife in relationships that I had with some people. My own conscience and my own understand of grace and restoration had a role in my decision to officiate. The bottom line for me was while interviewing the people, they were forthright in explaining their previous marital situation and the divorce and getting a sense of their own relationship with God and their commitment to each other to work through the situations they will face as a couple and endeavor to make the marriage work and get help if they need it when they need it. These couples were honest and forthright with me, and so I supported them in their marriage request, and officiated these marriage with a willing and loving heart and compassion towards them. I had a clear conscience and did what I did bearing witness to God and the witnesses assembled.
It is of note to consider that when a clergyman officiates a wedding, that act of the clergyman is acting on behalf of God and the church in blessing a union between a man and a woman. The clergyman is simply blessing the union in God’s name, before the people of God, and asking the congregation gathered together to bless that union, and to be a support to the newly married couple. This is a religious activity that is done for the benefit of the church and the larger community. Interestingly, in Canada, when a clergyman officiates the marriage, he pronounces the people newly married, being married “according the laws and statutes of the Province of Ontario” (or whatever other province or territory where the wedding is officiated). If the clergyman does NOT do this, the wedding is not officially recognized. It is through the authority of the state, and the clergyman acting on behalf of the state in this act of marriage, that the marriage in fact is declared to be a “legal union”. This is why “religious liberty” in Canada is so important. It allows for the guaranteed rights of religious societies and associations to function within the bounds of law, and to act on the part of the state for officiating the marriages of the members of these same religious bodies and societies.
But, there is a big difference between being a Justice of the Peace, a Marriage Commissioner, or in the case of Kim Davis, a county clerk, and actually being a clergyman officiating a marriage. Being a clerk does not give the clerk a right to subvert the law of the land, and justifying it as holding up the “law of God” over the “law of the state”.
Why Kim Davis is wrong in her understanding and why it matters
Kim Davis works for the state. She does not work for God, no matter what she may think to the contrary. She works for Rowan County in Kentucky. This is who she works for and she must enforce the laws and bylaws, as well as the provisions of the US Constitution when it comes to the rights of ALL citizens. The “authority of God” has NOTHING to do with it. She is bound by law to yield to the direction of the Supreme Court and she faces only two choices.
She is no different than any other person working for a company that must comply to the laws of the land. Case in point. If there is a print shop that refuses to do business with a gay couple who want to have their wedding invitations printed, they are in violation of the law of the land. The faith or beliefs of the owners of the shop have nothing to do with who they choose to serve. By law they are to serve all people who come and ask for their services. The same can be said for restaurants, for bed and breakfast operators and a host of others. Christians, or people of any other faith, cannot and should not discriminate against anyone who want their services, just because they object to their “sin”.
What we have here is people discriminating based on sins that are more objectionable than other sins, implying that their own sins are not as bad or grievous before God. Hello? God is grieved by ALL sin, and He is not partial to which ones. He doesn’t put them on a graded scale like human beings do.
Kim Davis is in error and so are the Christians who think their faith is under attack in the public square.
- Kim Davis is an employee of Rowan County and must enforce all the laws equally to all citizens. She cannot user her personal faith to discriminate.
- Kim Davis and her faith are important and needs to be protected under law, and her faith already is protected. Her practicing of her faith has not be violated or compromised.
- Kim Davis is NOT a bigot or a hypocrite, no matter what people say. She has genuine convictions, but they are being wrongly interpreted and applied in this particular context.
- Kim Davis is merely an administrative clerk that sells the appropriate license to those who qualify for that license. She cannot discriminate against anyone. She must apply the same conditions under law. If they qualify under law, she is obligated to give them the requested license.
- Kim Davis is in error to stand on the “authority of God” as this is not a faith issue that affects her right to practice her faith. It is a civil authority issue and based on Romans 13, she ought to obey the law of the land, pray for the authorities that have been appointed by God, and pay her taxes. If Kim Davis cannot do that, then she is in violation of the “law of God” and the “authority of God” who has placed godly government in its place of authority for order and good government.
- Kim Davis and the religious zealots who have stood and continue to stand with her, are all misrepresenting the Christian faith, and doing a disservice to all law abiding Christian citizens. Their zeal for their own “interpretation” of their faith is incorrect and they need to be held to account for that by their faith communities.
- Kim Davis is doing her own witness a disservice as she is being ridiculed publicly from coast to coast and is portrayed wrongfully as a bigot. She may be misguided and may not fully comprehend the distinctions of matters of faith and conscience and her responsibilities as a clerk for Rowan County, but she is no bigot.
- Kim Davis makes a mockery of her stand on the sanctity of marriage when she has had multiple marriages and divorces herself. This was bound to come up from those that oppose her and has been used to ridicule her and make fun of her faith and call her a hypocrite. NEWSFLASH… All of us are hypocrites at one time or another, Christian or otherwise, and we all make errors in judgment and we all sin. Case closed. No need to badmouth people, or judge and ridicule them because of failed marriages. But Davis did compromise herself publicly when she took this “public stand”.
- Kim Davis is in error presuming she speaks for God and His word. She doesn’t. God doesn’t need defending and neither does His word, and His word certainly does not need to be misrepresented or disrespected from all sides of this debate.
- Kim Davis is in error for presuming to be taking a Christian stand, implying by her actions that she represents “Bible believing Christians”. She doesn’t represent anyone but herself and her flawed understanding of the Bible, theology, the US Constitution, and the responsibilities of her office.
Kim Davis is faced with a startling reality.
- If she refuses to still comply to the direction of the court, she will be in contempt of the court, and could face fines and/or jail time.
- If she cannot perform the duties of her office, and if she is a person of conviction and conscience, and I have no reason to believe that she isn’t, and by all accounts she has been a good employee of Rowan County and the constituents, then she should do the honorable thing and resign from her position and move on from this.
- If she still refuses to comply, then at the end of the day, she is failing to do her job and uphold the laws of the land and enforce the constitutional rights of all citizens to gain marriage licenses, then her employment should be terminated.
This was so avoidable and was and is so embarrassing to all concerned
The problem with all this for all of us Christians, is that it could have all been avoided. From the onset this could have been avoided. The problem we have within North American society as the Church, is that anything we do, say or stand for, that is contrary to the mood and temperament of the culture, the Church comes under attack, whether merited or not. All Christians get lumped together. Just like I got lumped in with all the “liberals” and all the “non-biblical Christians” who are progressive and support marriage equality.
For the record, I am progressive in many things, but not in marriage equality. This for me is not a faith issue. This for me is a constitutional rights issue. The LGBTQ community should not be discriminated against in any way, shape or form. The Church is to be known by love and grace and compassion. A lot of the vitriolic dialog I was subjected on FB was not filled with grace, love, compassion or understanding, and I am on “their side”, I am one in the faith. So imagine how others feel, when we stick to our religious views so stridently, and so stubbornly, and when we talk, our nostrils flare up and we get all worked up and emotional, and we end up sounding angry and full of judgment. How does that make others feel? How does that kind of behavior exhibit grace and love to the culture? As a Christian, I support the rights of all citizens to marry who they wish. In that sense I support the civil laws that guarantee the rights of all citizens under the law, gay, straight or tans-gender. It does not matter. The laws of the land protect these rights. I am also of the conviction that the Church should not perform gay marriages, and that is for each denomination to decide, and those that do embrace marriage equality go against all the history and teaching of the Church throughout the centuries. So, yes I protect the right to civil marriage, and so should all thinking Christians.
There are ways and means of having open and frank dialog when it comes to this and other issues. But clarity of thought and a deeper understanding of what is involved legally, theologically and philosophically is imperative if we are all going to actually engage in a meaningful conversation on issues that matter to all of us, and not just a particular interest group or segment of our society.
My desire is for thinking Christians to be more active in challenging the non-thinking Christians about such matters, so that we stop creating messes where there are none, and we all stop making an embarrassing mess of what the Church is, and stop making Jesus blush with shame and sadness at all the things we keep mucking up in His name.
THIS is not Jesus’ mess. It is ours. We need to take ownership of it, repent before God and before men, and start loving others as Christ calls us to love. Nothing else matters and nothing else works.
Saskatchewan Marriage Commissioners Must Wed Same Sex Couples – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/saskatchewan-says-marriage-commissioners-must-wed-same-sex-couples/article562374/
Sask Marriage Commissioners Must Wed Same Sex Couples – http://www.ctvnews.ca/sask-marriage-commissioners-must-wed-same-sex-couples-1.597614
County Clerk Refuses to Issue Marriage Licenses – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/09/01/kentucky-clerk-kim-davis-on-gay-marriage-licenses-it-is-a-heaven-or-hell-decision/
Kentucky clerk denying licenses to gay couples has married four times – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/02/kentucky-clerk-kim-davis-divorced-three-times
Kim Davis’ four marriages: The ugly self-righteousness of the “saved” that fuels her marriage license refusal –http://www.salon.com/2015/09/02/kim_davis_four_marriages_the_ugly_self_righteousness_of_the_saved_that_fuels_her_marriage_license_refusal/
Kentucky clerk, citing God, defies courts on gay marriage – http://news.yahoo.com/clerk-issue-gay-marriage-licenses-court-ruling-083217111.html
Kim Davis’ Hearing For Contempt Of Court Has Been Scheduled. Here’s How It Could Play Out. – http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/09/02/3697931/heres-what-the-courts-can-do-to-that-anti-gay-clerk-as-long-as-she-refuses-to-obey-the-constitution/
The Biblical Problem With Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis’ Opposition To Same-Sex Marriage Licenses – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zack-hunt/the-biblical-problem-with-kentucky-clerk-kim-davis_b_8071506.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000055
Hijacking The Government: What Franklin Graham Is Wrong About Today – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/hijacking-the-government-what-franklin-graham-is-wrong-about-today/
Kentucky Clerk Turns Away Another Gay Couple Seeking Marriage License – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/03/us/kentucky-rowan-county-clerk-kim-davis-denies-marriage-license.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
13 Jobs the Bible-Believing Kentucky Marriage Clerk Probably Shouldn’t Apply For – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bible-believing-kentucky-county-clerk-should-probably-not-apply-for-any-of-these-13 jobs_55e5b11ce4b0b7a9633a2d94?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000055
Clerk in Gay Marriage Fight Once Unlikely to Wage Moral War – http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/clerk-gay-marriage-fight-wage-moral-war-33473636
Kentucky clerk denying licenses to gay couples has married four times – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/02/kentucky-clerk-kim-davis-divorced-three-times?CMP=twt_gu
Kentucky Clerk Invokes ‘God’s Authority’ in Fight Against Gay Marriage – http://time.com/4019949/kim-davis-kentucky-rowan-county-clerk/