By Ross Decker Sr
I’m pretty sure that you have heard, over and over, that Kim Davis. a clerk in Kentucky, refused to issue wedding licenses to same sex couples because of her deeply held religious beliefs. She took a stand, a stand that prevented some couples from obtaining marriage licenses for a few days and, once again, made Christians look totally foolish.
I’m a Christian. Had a “born again” experience in 1976 and I’ve never wavered from the commitment I made to God on that day. But I never got confused about what that commitment was. It was a commitment to live my life according to the grace God gave me through His Spirit in accordance with His word, the Bible. At no time did I make a commitment for anyone else and in nearly 40 years of following Him it has never occurred to me to extend that commitment to anyone else. No one had to follow the rules I’d voluntarily adopted for myself but me.
So, Let me get this out of the way straight off. I’m sick to death of Christians taking stands about what other people should do. Before we do that, let’s take a shot at getting better at our own behavior.
I’m not about taking stands. I can’t support someone using their political power to try to force their deeply held religious beliefs on other people. Kim Davis is all that. She’s taking stands. Gays had to wait about a week before they can get married. Not a very effective stand, was it? She wouldn’t put her signature on a marriage license because she has to take a stand. She can’t go against her word. Or….can she? What about the vow she took when she assumed the job? She vowed to uphold the laws on Kentucky. Now she goes back on her word. Because she is taking a stand.
Her lawyer claims she has been jailed for her beliefs. But that isn’t true. She is being jailed for her actions. And she is being jailed for ordering her subordinates to follow her conscience rather than their own. She’s taken a stand for them, too.
The Bible is written for God’s people. For believers. Never does the Bible put us in charge of what non-Christians do. We are not to tell them how to live. We have enough difficulty keeping our own stuff together. None of us are in the position to tell a non-believer how to live their lives. We are called to proclaim the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ died for mankind’s sins. It’s accepting that by grace that we are redeemed. It isn’t by living a moral life.So, why would a dutiful Christian try to control the behavior of non-believers when that good behavior makes a non-believer the nicest person in hell.
I’ve lived this life long enough to see someone on staff at his church refuse to attend a wedding between a young couple because he was “taking a stand.” The couple was of legal age to marry, the bride wasn’t pregnant. All the parents approved of the marriage. What was the issue? The pastor of this man’s church was counseling the groom and the groom chose not to follow it. That was a little more than 10 years ago. That lovely couple is still happily married today. But, that guy, related in no way, refused to be a guest at their wedding because he was taking a stand.
A dear friend gave his daughter in marriage. In this case, she was pregnant. People (from the same church), took a stand and stayed away. Though it was none of their business, they didn’t approve. Maybe they thought that if they went to that wedding they’d wind up pregnant too. It’s hard to know what the reason is when someone takes a stand. Both sets of parents approved of the wedding. But, their dear friends took a stand. And they created a host of negative memories that pop up with each anniversary. And, yes, there have been over twenty of those anniversaries.
Now why does Kim Davis refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants? From my point of view, I’d have to say it’s merely because she feels like it. There are certainly no scripture verses to support her deeply held religious views that she should tell strangers how to behave.
That right wing Christians try to frame this as some kind of infringement upon religious freedom is troubling. The government isn’t forcing its beliefs upon her. If anything, it is Kim Davis attempting to force her religious beliefs on the government. I get that religious freedom extends to the individual outside their house of worship. Religion cannot be limited to the walls that surround the church, temple or mosque. The freedom to practice your religion must extend to the marketplace. Christians are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and the imprisoned. We are to bury the dead. We need to be able, for example, to feed the homeless in city parks. To be forbidden to do so, or to be forbidden to mention Jesus’ name does infringe on our religious freedom. But, when it comes to actions that affect others, our deeply held religious convictions, and the extent of our religious freedom, should be to do good and not harm. To be compassionate and not harsh. It is not an infringement upon our religious convictions to stop us from forcing our religious beliefs on others.
We are a nation of laws. We obey the laws. If we have a job which requires that we perform an action we find we cannot do with a clear conscience, we give up that job. We don’t disrupt the lives of others as we protest the law. Don’t refuse to do your job and expect to continue being paid, especially if you took an oath, as government officials do, to do that job.
One thing we can expect from Christians is to tell the truth. Jesus says to let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you promised to do your job, do it. Or resign. If something about your job bothers you and you do not quit, you effectively tell everyone that you are choosing your paycheck over your principles.
I do believe that a church should never be forced to perform same-sex marriages. That would infringe upon their deeply held religious beliefs. But, an individual’s signature on a marriage license doesn’t compromise their convictions in any way. That would be a legal service regarding a legal procedure. Kim Davis would be acting as an employee of the state, not as a Christian. That marriage will be performed without naming God once. Outside the walls of the church, it’s a civil marriage. Religious convictions are not involved.
Jesus never tells us to interfere in the lives of non-believers. I think that’s because we have such a difficult time managing our own. But, there are many verses and parables which clearly tell us that we are to act kindly, lovingly, compassionately. Let’s not worry so much about how important our signature is and let’s start being kind and compassionate when we name the name of Jesus Christ.