Friday, September 4, 2015

The Curious Case of Kim Davis

No doubt, you've heard of the Kentucky county clerk who is now in jail for not fulfilling her duties, i.e., issuing marriage licenses to couples of the same gender. I don't want to add much more print to the issue. There are plenty of articles about her, about how she may or may not be used as a martyr cannon fodder for a larger anti-gay agenda, about how sexist some of the reaction to her has been (really, how she dresses or wears her hair is NOT the issue and reveals some nasty anti-woman and classist currents in our nation), and whether or not she will come out ahead financially in the end, thanks to a likely book deal or whatever.

It's not that I don't care about those things, because I do (particularly the anti-woman and classist currents in this incident). What I'm having trouble with is a really big part of the  arguments against her.

It's the "do your job" argument.

Yes, there is some validity to it, I suppose, and "do it or find a job more aligned with your belief system" is, likewise, a valid choice in the matter.

But assuming that she's acting out of sincerely held moral misgivings about same-sex marriage, I do react to the calls for her to blithely disregard her convictions.

Because, honestly, I might hold convictions that could conceivably get me in trouble in job situations. Luckily, I've not come up against them, but just the fact that I'm gay and am determined to live as an out gay man has potential for all kinds of issues.

The thing is, while I heartily disagree with the analogy, I can see where some people might say, "do your job or quit" might be said of any number of horrendous historical situations. The go-to example, of course, is the Holocaust, but that's hardly the only one available to us. Any number of military actions taken by any number of nations (including---maybe especially---my own) might also fit here.

So, what I hear from the people saying "do your job" is that conscience doesn't matter. And that troubles me deeply.

While I'm not a big practitioner of it (a character flaw), I am something of a fan of civil disobedience. Of course, I prefer when the issue aligns with my personal agenda, but I have more than a little respect for people who defy the powers that be, even when I agree with those powers.

I mean, I'd rather be writing about someone who, in defiance of court orders, had been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples long before the Supreme Court said it was the law of the land. Heck, I'd rather be writing about someone who, on religious conviction, wouldn't sell a gun or who on conscience wouldn't sell subpar baby formula to developing countries, compromising children's health. There's all kinds of ways I'd cheer on someone breaking the rules at work on grounds of conscience.

So while I, again, deeply disagree with Kim Davis' convictions, I have to say, she was willing to stand by them and suffer the consequences by going to jail.

Now, having said that . . .

A more fruitful conversation, it seems to me, would be to talk about why her convictions are misguided, why the particular brand of religion she's claiming is lacking in Good News, how she could have a change of heart and mind (metanoia) and fulfill her duties in good conscience.

But I've long since learned that I want more subtle and nuanced conversations about things than the dominant culture can bear.

So . . . all this to confess that I have multifaceted feelings about the case of Kim Davis.

All I have to say, in closing, is that I can only pray that the Spirit moves in her heart and mind to help her meet the God of ever-widening welcome. I don't take great pleasure in her jail time. I'd rather she be converted and return to her job. I'd like for her to be able to, without troubled conscience, issue marriage licenses to any two people, whatever their gender. 


Post script: I have deep doubts that I'll get my wish, at least not anytime soon. Once a conviction is made in national media, it takes a super-heroic level of humility to back away from it, and I don't know that she has the support system around her that would make that humility possible. I don't say my prayer with much naivete. Still, I pray it. I'd like a good miracle story to come out of this. 

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