I’m a few days behind on the times, it seems, since I don’t read a lot of American news in Spain, but I did just finish reading up a little on the Kim Davis situation and just wanted to give my take really quickly, because I do plan on keeping up with this blog (both fun Spain things and things like this) while I’m gone.
In case anyone reading isn’t super familiar with the situation, what’s happening is basically this: a county clerk (or something along the lines of that; she’s a government employee, which is the point) was taken into custody earlier this week for refusing to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer. Her defense was that her religious convictions prevented her from participating in or facilitating sin, and she now faces greater charges and possibly prison time. Needless to say, people have gotten pretty riled up on both sides of this debate.
Well, actually, my initial reaction to this whole entire thing was sadness. I obviously don’t know Kim Davis, but I’m sure that she’s actually a really nice lady, even though she’s sort of refusing to do her job (which the government pays her for by the way) right now, which isn’t okay. But what occurred to me secondly was this: I think that a lot of Christians are still really confused about how they’re supposed to navigate situations like this, and I think that confusion and lack of understanding causes them to create situations in which there appears to be a great deal of animosity between Christians and LGBT people. And right now, my prayer is that we would learn quickly so that conflicts and situations like this stop happening.
Now, some people may argue back that Christians aren’t confused at all and that people like Kim Davis are doing absolutely the right thing for “standing up to legalized evil” or something of that sort. Well…I would disagree.
Here’s the thing (and something that I’ve probably said a lot of times on this blog): there’s a grand difference between actually having religious liberty and using religious liberty as an excuse to be the god of your microcosm.
The problem is this: Kim Davis isn’t losing any of her own religious liberty. She has the right to believe whatever she wants and no one can tell her otherwise. She can refuse to attend an LGBT wedding. She can refuse to be friends with LGBT people. She can basically do whatever she wants in that sense. However, she cannot use religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against people by refusing to do her job, which happens to be that of a county clerk (or whatever the official title of that position is). That would actually fall under the category of imposing on their religious liberty by attempting to force her own religious beliefs on them. Just because she believes that same-sex couples shouldn’t get married doesn’t mean she’s allowed to use her government job to prevent them from doing so, and that’s why she’s currently facing prison time.
Regardless of whatever side you may take on this, (hopefully) I think everyone can agree that the situation is complicated. So let me say this: in my ideal world, Kim Davis wouldn’t go to prison for this, and I’m sorry if that angers any LGBT people. I just don’t. Rather, I think that this could be used as a learning experience for all Christians, and especially for those who still aren’t sure how they’re supposed to navigate these types of situations. My reasoning for this is that I’m sort of viewing ultra conservative Christians as children who don’t know any better in this sense, and I’m sorry if that angers any of those people.
Again, the problem here is that some Christians are acting a little like spoiled kids, and again I’m not hating on Christians, I promise. I am one, and I’m proud to be, but I think that the vast majority of conservative Christians aren’t quite used to not getting what they want in terms of laws and legal arrangements. Thus, like any child, they start to lash out, crying that the system isn’t fair and that they’re being persecuted, just because they haven’t yet learned how to live in a world where they don’t get everything that they want. I understand that my analogy might sound a little derogatory, and again, I’m sorry about that, but it does seem pretty apt for the situation, doesn’t it?
What people need to learn is this: you can disagree with people and stick to your own beliefs without creating a scene or throwing a fit (which refusing to do your job fits into in this analogy). The world is changing, and we need to learn how to adapt to it in order to keep up and stay relevant.
But let me be clear here: for those who aren’t going to be shaken in what they believe, that’s totally fine. You may continue to believe whatever you want. I’m not arguing for relativism. In this case, adapting means learning how to retain those beliefs while continuing to treat others with respect and dignity so that they don’t dismiss you as being some sort of backwards person who just believes in myths and stories instead of a real, powerful, loving God. That’s what I mean by adapting and staying relevant. It’s not at all a call to discard your beliefs just because the world doesn’t agree with you. It’s a call to behave and conduct yourself in such a way that people might not necessarily know that you disagree with them and in such a way that they might actually want to hear what you believe.
For example, some people choose to smoke even though it’s been scientifically proven that it’s bad for your body and leads to cancer in the long run. That’s just scientific fact. However, some people still choose to smoke. That doesn’t mean that those people are evil or bad; it just means that they’ve taken their American liberty and acted on it. Most people can continue to believe that smoking is bad for you and abstain from it without constantly reminding their friends, family, and acquaintances of that fact. Moreover, people can also work in stores and sell cigarettes to people even if they don’t smoke and continue to believe that it’s harmful to your body. Thus, their personal beliefs don’t affect the way they treat other people, and they can continue to treat those people with respect and dignity regardless of their decisions.
Though that comparison isn’t perfect, I think that it can be applicable to this situation as well. People can disagree and believe that same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships are wrong without discriminating against people and without compromising their own personal beliefs. Just like a non-smoking person selling cigarettes because it’s their job, people who don’t necessarily believe in same-sex marriage can still issue marriage licenses without having to feel like they personally endorse that union.
That kind of grace and tolerance/respect is my hope and prayer for the future, because we need to start learning how to adapt in these ways so that people will stop calling us bigoted and hateful and start seeing that we (hopefully) do love everyone unconditionally, regardless of our own personal beliefs, because again, that’s what we’re called to do, isn’t it? We’re not called to try and conform the world and the government to the Bible and its teachings, only ourselves. Our primary calling is to love.
So let me end with this.
I think that what Kim Davis did was wrong.
And I think that conservative Christians need to change some of their attitudes and actions in order to better serve and love people while we’re here on this earth.
But I also think that what she did doesn’t necessarily warrant jail time, at least in my own personal opinion.
And I also think that we’re (the church) in a transition period right now and that LGBT people and the rest of the world should have a little grace for us, just like we’re (LGBT people) asking for some grace from the church.
So that’s my take on this whole messy situation, and unfortunately, I don’t think that cases like this are going to stop popping up any time soon, at least in the near future. Like I’ve said a couple times in this post, we’re in a transition period right now, and times of change and transition are incredibly hard sometimes, let me tell you. But that doesn’t mean that you give up and stop. From what I’ve been learning this past year, I think that while these times might be some of the most uncomfortable and painful that we go through, in the end, they result in a lot of growth for all parties involved, growth that couldn’t have happened without going through all of those experiences.
So that’s what I’m hoping and praying for, that these times of trial and awkwardness for the church will lead to a time of renewal, revival, and nuance where we become relevant again and known for our love rather than for our political stances.