Kim Davis, Marriage Licenses and Taking a Stand

September 22, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

In case you are unfamiliar with who Kim Davis is and what the controversy is, here is a brief primer. She is a County Clerk in Kentucky.  One of her primary roles is issuing marriage licenses.  When the Supreme Court declared that gay marriage was legal, she refused to issue the licenses.  Ultimately she was sent to jail for not following the law and doing the job she was elected to do.  For more information, go anywhere on the internet and you will find an article about it.

A few interesting (to me) notes on this controversy before we get to the actual content of the post.

1) Kim Davis is a Democrat.  I don’t mention this to take a shot at Democrats. I mention it because it’s ironic. (Wait. Is that the right use for the word ironic? I’m not sure I know any more.)

2) Has there ever been a more bizarre use of the song Eye of the Tiger than for her post-jail rally?  I can’t imagine there is. The beach running scene from Rocky III is more awkward but they played the Rocky theme during that.

3) The fact that she has been married multiple times is essentially irrelevant from a Christian perspective.  She was not a Christian when she got divorced.  She became a Christian and her values changed.  That doesn’t make her a hypocrite.  It makes her someone who recognized her own sin, repented and wants to live differently. I suppose you can bring it up to be ironic. (???)  But it is irrelevant to her character now.  We have all changed and grown.  She has repented for what she was and wants to be something different.  The question becomes, is that different thing a good thing?

This leads to my larger point.   It would seem, that we, and by we I mean everyone, do not have the ability to process this well.  As with most issues, we are incredibly shallow in our reasoning.  This leads the two camps to dig their heels in even further and continue to not listen and understand one another.  You have Christians on the one hand who don’t know how to live well in a world that does not share their values and you have non-Christians who refuse to try and see the world through the lenses of an evangelical Christian.  Evangelicals are simply foes to be vanquished.  My role as a pastor, and the percentage of people that read this blog dictates that I address primarily the first group, but there is something for everyone.

The primary shallow way that we evaluate this is based on whether we agree with her on the issue of gay marriage.  If we agree, then anything she does to take a stand is good.  If I disagree with her, anything she does to take a stand is wrong.  We need to open ourselves up to the idea that you can do the right thing for the wrong cause, and you can do the wrong thing for the right cause.  Deciding that you agree/disagree with her on the issue of gay marriage only tells you what you believe about her motivation not whether or not what she did was right.

So then, how do you decide if what she did/is doing is the right thing?  She essentially had 3 basic options.

1) Continue to do her job. She puts her name on marriage licenses even though she does not believe that all of the marriages are honoring to God.

2) Resign from her job. She no longer believes that she can do her job without violating her deeply held convictions, so she resigns and lets someone else do it.

3) Take a stand (the option that she took). She refuses to issue the licenses because she believes that it is wrong, and tries to prevent anyone from being able to issue those licenses.

Are any of those necessarily wrong? Are any of them universally always right?  I believe the answer to both of those are no.  The situations that you will find yourself in are complex and there often are competing values in place.  It takes wisdom, discernment and prayer to determine what the right way to go is.

Sometimes it is #1.  You need to choose to unconditionally love the people who are doing something you disapprove of.  Cross-cultural missionaries do this all the time.  They are invited to a religious festival or service of a different religion.  They choose to go because they want to build a relationship and are willing to be a part because love for the person trumps the desire to not participate in something that is distasteful in some way.  I have participated in services for other religions and spent a lot of time praying for the people I was with.  I have a friend who photographed a wedding that he/she didn’t believe was honoring to God.  Again, because they valued the relationship with the people.  This is not compromising truth.  This is choosing to love someone rather than trying to tell non-Christians that they should behave like Christians.

Sometimes it is # 2.  You are being asked to do something at your work that you do not believe honors God.  So you quit.  You don’t really have any ability or desire to fight the system and so you quietly step aside.  This is not necessarily cowardly.  You work for a company that practices shady ethics and you tell your boss that you won’t do it and you quit before he fires you.  You are taking a stand but in a different way.

Sometimes it is #3.  Sometimes the right thing to do is to stand in the face of injustice, immorality or evil and say that this will not stand.  You would rather face significant consequences than let something go.  Most injustices in the world are resolved initially because someone took a stand and refused to let injustice stand.  The civil rights movement is full of such people like MLK Jr and Rosa Parks.  Choosing this doesn’t mean that you crave attention or fame or that you are simply a troublemaker.  You believe your cause is just so you will do anything to fight for it.

“Wait. Did you just compare Kim Davis to Rosa Parks?”  (Rereads last paragraph) Nope, I didn’t.  I just used it as an example of when taking a stand against the law is admirable.  Whether or not what she did is admirable or right is still the question. “It’s the law of the land! How can she do this?”  The law she is fighting became law, because people refused to accept the status quo.  What she is doing is the same, at least in her mind.  However, in choosing #3, you have to be ready to face the consequences.  If you’re going to, for what you believe to be a noble cause, break the law, then be prepared to go to jail, pay a fine or whatever.

Her going to jail doesn’t mean that Christianity is now illegal, a bit of hyperbole from some aspiring presidential candidates.  It means that to work in government, you will sometimes be put in situations where you will be asked to do something inconsistent with your values.  That’s not just true in government jobs but other jobs as well and with friends.  It can happen a lot.  We live in a world and a country that does not share Christian values. (I don’t believe that it ever did, but that is a controversial post for another day.)  We have to decide what kind of people we are going to be in that reality.  How will we show the world that we love them and also point them to the truth of who God is and his gospel?

It’s not always going to be clear cut and obvious.  It is far easier to judge someone else’s decision than to wrestle with the decisions that you face and will have to face. To answer the question you are wanting me to answer, I wouldn’t have done what she did.  First, I’d never be county clerk.  Second, if I were, I would have been putting my name on lots of marriage licenses for marriages that were not honoring to God before gay marriage became legal, what’s a few more?  I would either have done number #1 and just prayed for every person and couple that came into my office, or #2 and I would have quietly and, hopefully without fanfare, step aside.

Regardless, it’s not an easy answer to a simple question and when we make it that we oversimplify life and what it means to follow God.  When do we show grace and when do we take a stand?  This is an important, deep question that we need to wrestle with, one that makes a huge difference not only in our lives but in the lives of the people that God has called us to reach.

So, what would you have done?


One Response to “Kim Davis, Marriage Licenses and Taking a Stand”
  1. Russ says:

    I would have chosen #2. However, I would prefer that government not be involved in the concept of “marriage” in any sense – straight, gay, more than two people. etc. If we accept that we have a secular government (I do), then we should not attempt to put religious institutions (marriage) into such a framework. A government should be allowed to institute legal protections for relationships it deems important for society stability (for the record, I don’t see how homosexual relationships fall into this category). So, within the framework I would suggest there are 2 options:

    (1) Religious marriage with a government civil union
    (2) Religious marriage without a government civil union

    People and churches (along with synagogues, mosques, etc.) would be choose as the they see fit. Churches that oppose homosexual marriage would not be forced to perform ceremonies because all the legal protections would be available through the civil union and I am certain that there are churches that would perform such a ceremony.

    Anyway, that’s probably just me thinking this through logically.

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