There have been tens of thousands of social media posts, as well as numerous Christian websites calling Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis a Christian “hero” or “martyr” for her refusal to obey the law and provide marriage licenses for same sex couples. Her refusal, after receiving multiple orders to do so, led to her arrest and she landed in the Carter County Detention Center where crowds have been standing outside chanting for her release. But is Kim Davis a Christian hero for standing on her convictions? Are people right in admiring her and calling her a martyr for her faith?
Like it or not, same-sex marriage is now legal, and as citizens of the United States, we don’t get to pick and choose which laws to obey. It’s worth noting however, that our current administration does that very thing. It’s been reported across the political spectrum that in recent years, President Obama’s Department of Justice refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on state attorneys general to refuse constitutional amendments they believe are “discriminatory.” It’s been a similar story with immigration.
And in this article, Leo Hohmann, reminds us back in 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco and Mayor John West of New Paltz, New York, both directed marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples long before it was legal.
Illegal acts like these anger me as well, but how does it help change the culture when we act the same way they do? Stepping down to their level doesn’t create a higher standard or make them “marvel” (as Jesus did) by showing them a better way.
As a result, Kim Davis should have resigned her job. Certainly she should have done it in protest, making sure the local government officials and community leaders understood her reasons. It would have been a great opportunity to raise the discussion of workplace accommodations which has worked very well in North Carolina. In fact, a compelling campaign could have been mounted around stories like hers – good people, forced to resign from their jobs because of their principles. But by breaking the law, she gave up the moral high ground which in turn, undermined her point.
Then there’s that pesky fact that Kim Davis has been married four times. She’s stated that the first three were before her conversion, but do we really want to make our “hero” on the sanctity of marriage issue someone who apparently has had that much difficulty with it? Only God knows her heart, and certainly there are legitimate reasons for divorce, but when it comes to our perception in the culture, positioning as our champion someone who’s had four times at bat, doesn’t create an inspiring story of the importance of a fruitful, long-term marriage. It’s not about judging, it’s the simple observation that the media has had a heyday with that issue alone.
The question is: What did Kim Davis’ actions accomplish? If her goal was to change people’s thinking, or move the culture in a better direction, I haven’t seen any signs of success. She’s been vilified in the media, and held up as another example of ignorant, backwards Christians who refuse to see reality. Whether that’s right or wrong isn’t the point. It’s the story that has prevailed.
How has that helped?
There’s a long tradition of civil disobedience in this country, and I’m in agreement that there comes a time to take a stand. But this wasn’t that time. There is plenty to discuss here about the constitutional and legal issues of how this came about, and as citizens, we should fight those battles. But when it comes to Christian influence and witness today, the Church needs to understand that people who are committed to the gospel are a minority, and learn to act from that perspective. To move the dial for Christ in today’s world, we have to be more thoughtful about when and where we take a stand, lest our actions hurt more than they help.
I’m not worried, because nothing can derail God’s ultimate plan. But if our goal is to share Jesus with unbelievers, Kim Davis’ actions have allowed the secular media to paint all Christians with her brush. Which means it will be that much harder to share our faith with nonbelievers, and it will be that much harder to get non-believers in the door of your church. After all, in their minds, we’re “all like Kim Davis” now.
That’s why she isn’t a hero. Granted, she was standing against what she perceived was an immoral law. She may be well intentioned, and we can appreciate her commitment. Her actions have given many Christians a morale boost, but the truth is, those actions haven’t helped the greater cause. I’m not calling for anyone to compromise their message or go soft on principles. But as Christians, if we really want to make an impact on today’s decaying culture, we need to be more strategic – certainly more thoughtful and strategic than we’ve been so far.