Kim Davis Update as of 15 September 2015: Kim Davis is Not Issuing Marriage Licences
For the last week I have been dealing with personal issues and have watched and listened in the background to the ongoing developments in this Kim Davis saga, of her refusal to issue marriage licences to gay couples. She was incarcerated for five days and released.
Davis has returned to work on 14 September, and her deputy clerks in Rowan County have being issuing the marriage licenses. She herself has not. She decided not to interfere with deputy clerks who will continue to hand out marriage licences, and she emphasized that they would not be authorized by her and she questioned their validity.
In her news conference, on her first day back on the job after a 5 day stay in jail, Davis expressed how she was torn between obeying God and a directive from a judge that “forces me to disobey God”. Davis is an Apostolic Christian and understands gay marriage is a sin. Davis statement revealed the tension, the drama, and the crisis of conscience that this debate is causing across the US and the world. In part she said, “I’m here before you this morning with a seemingly impossible choice that I do not wish upon any of my fellow Americans: my conscience or my freedom.”
The first couple to come in yesterday (Monday), was a gay couple, who were issued a marriage licence by Deputy Clerk Brian Mason, who issued the licence, and shook their hands, with much fuss from the surrounding reporters.
Meanwhile, Davis was in her office while this was going on.
The mechanism of Federal courts that propelled the Civil Rights movement is repeated in Kentucky
This reminds me of much of the hullabaloo that erupted during the civil rights era of the 1960’s. The Federal Courts made rulings that overturned state laws and state constitutions to impose what has become accepted civil rights equity that many today take for granted. Ironically, the divisions that led the southern states to secede from the union that erupted into the Civil War had much to do with the same strife and tension between the Federal powers and laws, versus the State powers and laws. It seems little has changed in America. There is a conflict so deeply rooted, so much part of the DNA of “rebellion”. Years ago, I read a book, and I occasionally refer back to it, God & Caesar: Christian Faith & Political Action, by John Eidsmoe, where he spoke of much of what is America was born out of rebellion to authority. The American colonies rebelled against the authorities of the day, the British Parliament, and much of that outcome has been an ongoing spirit of rebellion in ever strata of American life. No matter where you look, there has been a streak of “rebellion” in American life and culture, a streak that many like to call “progress” or “advancement”.
The complexity of the American mindsets – us and them
Many of us outsiders, influenced by American culture and foreign policy, see a very different America than do Americans who look at themselves. American self-awareness and understanding of their nation and how others perceive it, including its friends and Allies, see a radically different America. I experienced this first hand as an observer and participant in military training and maneuvers in my days of military service within NATO and when I visited Eastern Europe with a Christian ministry team largely composed of Americans. I realized even more, how radically Canadians see and understand the world than do Americans. It was a startling realization for me, just how little had changed from my time of military service (mid 1970’s – early 1980’s) to when I went to Latvia, Ukraine and Russia in 2012. American attitudes seemed to be entrenched and the ones I took time to listen to, seemed to parrot a party line over and over, seemingly oblivious to whatever I was attempting to convey from a Canadian perspective. I found even in Christian ministry over the years that there is this division between American Evangelicalism and the rest of the world. There is a degree of respect, but an aloofness in that respect toward the UK and Germany, and it is mainly a historical respect for the Reformation, and the roots of American democracy, but most of the Americans view the UK and Western Europe as a place of decline, especially when it comes to Evangelicalism.
American aloofness and indifference toward those in other English speaking countries
I have found Americans have an aloofness even when it comes to Canadians. Canadian Evangelicals appear to be viewed as distant cousins and people who are not as enlightened as Americans, and when you couple that with what I see in many Canadian church circles, there seems to be an “inferiority” complex (although that appears to be waning over the last decade), that says, “we need to imitate the Americans” or “we better add an American to the list of speakers” whenever there is a conference planned. I know I was subjected to this kind of thinking when I was involved in planning church conferences over the last 15 years. We have more than qualified Canadian voices of our own that can address Canadian issues within a context of experience and success, when it comes to church life and mission. We don’t need to add an “American” voice to validate who we are as Canadian Evangelicals.
American Christians could learn from the experience of Canadian Christians
I have found the same lack of understanding when it comes to same sex marriage and the church. I found American Evangelicals have historically been unwilling to learn from the Canadian Evangelical experience on the issue of “same sex marriage” and how over the last decade, the Canadian church has found way to co-exist in a democratic secular state, and retain its place as a Christian voice, and solemnize marriages which the state recognizes as valid. The Marriage Law was changed in Canada in 2005, and protects the rights of all Canadian citizens, religious denominations and clergy. All marriage licences in Canada are issued through the province where the citizens reside. You can still read the banns for three weeks in a row and officiate a marriage in Ontario, but to save legal hassles or anyone that may object to the marriage, couples are encouraged to buy a marriage licence. I myself did this when I got married in 1983. I was concerned that someone would show up at my wedding, and publically stand and oppose my marriage to my wife. By purchasing the licence I was able to have both peace of mind and legal protection to get married to my wonderful wife Lori. I am however of the opinion now, that the practice of clergy solemnizing marriages has to end. The Christian Church in Canada, should no longer act as an extension of the secular state and perform marriages. All couples in Canada should have to be married in a civil ceremony, and IF they are Christians and their denomination recognizes the marriage as a Christian marriage between a man and a woman, then the Church should offer to “bless the union of man and wife” in a separate celebration by the church community of which the couple belongs and is a member of the Christian community. In this way the Church removes itself from the divisive debate on same sex marriage. It defuses a hostile situation.
The divisions in American society are growing and becoming more divisive than ever
I just find it fascinating to see how Americans are so divided, and even in the upcoming 2016 election, the divides not only between the Right and the Left, but even the divisions within each of those, are so seemingly separate, so deep, that the chasm seems impossible to be breached and repaired. People keep digging in deeper, becoming more entrenched and stubborn, demonizing the other side of the debate, no matter what the debate happens to be. No one wants to concede that there may be alternative views and opinions on matters.
The need for the great Canadian “national virtue” commonly known as “compromise”
What is needed in the US, is a spirit of compromise. Canadians are known worldwide, in politics and economics and banking and finance to be a “people of compromise”. We know how to get along and respect people to keep dialog going to build consensus in order to build something together. We value compromise. There needs to be a repair of the breech, in the Body of Christ, and in every segment of American society and all the sub-cultural divisions within it. There needs to be a coming together of hearts and minds that declares to each other, “We are better together than apart from one another.” There needs to be a willingness and an act of the will that is demonstrated by the laying down of “demands” and a laying down of “agendas”. On the issue of gay marriage you have people unwilling to do either of these on BOTH sides of the debate. Both sides are becoming more and more vitriolic in its angst and defiance. It needs to stop. Nothing is achieved by the escalated diatribes. Compromise will only come when each side respects the other and tries to find the middle way, a way of accommodation. It appears that what is happening in the Kim Davis saga is the development of accommodation that takes into account freedom of conscience and respecting court decisions.
Leave love out of it – it is about a change in understanding of marriage and legal protections for all citizens
When I hear “Love has won” from the family equality supporters, I get flummoxed because it really has nothing to do with “love” and has everything to do with changing the definition of marriage. Leave love out of it. All that word “love” does is conjure up all kinds of emotions that tend to turn civil discourse into rants and flaming arrows back and forth between people who try to claim “love is on our side”, when love is not the issue. So let’s let go of that mantra “love” and get back to upholding the changes that guarantee the rights of all citizens, straight or LGBTQ. Let’s demonstrate honor and respect for all parties, including those with whom we disagree. I have seen a lot of criticism pointed at Christians from the supposedly “enlightened” “progressive” “tolerant” family equality crowd filled with such vitriolic venom that it baffles me that they think they own a corner on what we define as tolerance. It is time for all of us, without regard to what “side” of the issue we happen to be on, to stop. We need to cease and desist from name calling and demonizing each other. If you really believe “love has won” then start practicing it!
As Kim Davis stated, marriage licences are being issued “pursuant to federal court order”, and the governor, attorney general and county attorney have stated the licences are valid, even though both Davis and her attorney claim otherwise.
It is high time for compromise. Hopefully what is happening in Rowan County and with Kim Davis, will lead the way to greater understanding and bridge building, which will respect the convictions of all citizens and the rights of all citizens to the legal protections that they are entitled to. There needs to be room made for people of the convictions of Davis, to be able to do their jobs and exercise freedom of conscience. As she said, “I don’t want to have this conflict. I don’t want to be in the spotlight. And I certainly don’t want to be a whipping post. I am no hero. I’m just a person that’s been transformed by the grace of God, who wants to work, be with my family. I just want to serve my neighbours quietly without violating my conscience.”
If we can have this happen, it will make all the pain, sorrow, tumult and upheaval we have all endured worth it in the end. Let’s see if that Canadian value, “compromise” can take root in Morehead Kentucky and spread to the west and east right across America. Here is one Canadian hoping that happens.
A final note. On September 11, Kim Davis filed an appeal that would allow her to continue blocking the licences. As of today’s date there has been no ruling. Stay tuned.