Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
I am getting so tired of people who decide that their religious freedom trumps everyone else’s freedoms as well as the law. The example of the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Mrs. Kim Davis provides us a shining example of this from the Christian side of the house; and I can only say YUCK! So today I am taking a certain amount of delight that she is now in jail, the German word for my feeling of joy is schadenfreude. It’s a great word that we don’t use often enough.
I cannot speak authoritatively about non-Christians who decide that they can disobey law based on their religious freedom, and frankly I haven’t heard about too many of those cases;. However, as a Christian, a historian, a theologian, and a military officer charged with upholding the law; I can comment on Christians who decide to disobey the law in the name of their faith.
Freedom of religion is the most abused freedom that we have in this country. For the most part it is we can blame politically powerful conservative Christians abusing it. For them their religious freedom is a constitutional absolute which allows them to pick and choose what laws they do not want to obey; of course should a Moslem public official attempt this these same people will scream about Moslems trying to impose Sharia law on non-Moslems.
The fact that there are thousands of Christian denominations and split offs makes this messy. It is messy because while most of these Christians claim to believe in Jesus and the Bible, most cannot agree on any doctrine; except that they hate Gays. Other than that there is there is almost no consensus of belief. American Christianity is a pick-and-choose smorgasbord of beliefs, in which the individual’s right to choose what they want to believe about God is now spilling out of the church, and over into society at large. They chose what laws they will obey, and the religious beliefs that they want the government to enforce against others based on their “sincerely held religious views.”
To that I say YUCK! As Attorney Alan Shore played by James Spader said in Boston Legal “Enough with this freedom of religion crap. Yuck. Yuck, yuck.”
But this is the latest “in-thing” for Christian bullies to do. In fact, the failing Presidential Candidate and seminary drop-out Mike Huckabee, got in on the act today. He commended Mrs. Davis today, saying that he called her and “let her know how proud I am of her for not abandoning her religious convictions and standing strong for religious liberty…” Likewise Senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are conniving to find a way to legislate ways for Christians to do this, while forgetting the legal precedent that would allow others to do the same in the name of their religion, and they will cry foul when a Moslem uses that precedent.
The fact is that this pompous attempt to make Evangelical Christianity a State Religion, is positively abusive toward all other citizens. To be fair the attempts by Mrs. Davis and her political and legal supports needs to be called out by Christians, if we want to be taken seriously. If we don’t we as will denigrate our witness in the community and if the time ever comes, will forfeit our rights if someone wants to use the legal precedent that we set against us.
Dr. Mark Silk, Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college’s Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, calls this “Spiritual Libertarianism” and it is dangerous both to society, as well as the church. Or should I say churches, since given the chance and the backing of the government, a big church with the majority of adherents in an area will always oppress smaller churches, non-Christian religions and unbelievers. Since I have written a lot about this facet of religious liberty I will not go into that in depth here. Just put “religious liberty” or “freedom of religion” in the little search box on this site, and you will see my long list of articles on the subject, most dealing with our religious history.
But I digress… These people, including the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, Mrs. Kim Davis, all claim to be obey the Bible, but they totally ignore other parts of the Bible. Jesus said to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” and the Apostle Paul commanded Christians in his letter to the Romans, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
So, this absolute right that Davis and so many others a championing is overplayed and dangerous. To quote attorney Alan Shore:
“Ugh, please. It’s a dumb freedom….And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little tired of this freedom of religion thing. When did religion get such a good name, anyway? Be it the Crusades, the Reformation genocides, the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, mass slaughters supposedly in the name of Allah, and then, of course, the obligatory reciprocal retribution. Hundreds of millions of people have died in religious conflicts. Hitler did his business in the name of his Creator. 9/11 was an act of religious extremism. It’s our greatest threat today—a Holy Jihad. If we’re not ready to strip religion of its sacred cow status, how ‘bout we at least scale back a little on the constitutional dogma exalting it as all get-out?” (Boston Legal “Whose God is it Anyway” Season 3 episode 5)
I am beginning to believe, like Alan Shore that religious freedom is a dumb freedom. This is not because I do not value it, but because it is so abused by people who want to establish a theocracy. This is something that our founders and even influential religious leaders of their day, did their best to avoid.
The fact is that these true believers, like Mrs. Davis, who desire to have their religious beliefs exalted over law and the rights of others are dangerous. Eric Hoffer wrote, that true believers, especially the religious type were likely to see themselves as “as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”
People are looking for something different than this and they are fleeing the church in droves. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed by the Nazis in 1945 wrote something about German Christians of his time that more American Christians should take to heart:
“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God, either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there will be nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words… never really speaking to others.”
Christians no longer have a good name in this country because we act like we are better than everyone else. What Mrs. Davis and her supporters are doing is to make that even worse. A pox on them.
Davis told Fox News before the ruling, “This is a heaven or hell issue for me and for every other Christian that believes…This is a fight worth fighting.” In other words, she is a Christian that believes and Christians who do not agree with her are not.
If you wonder why people are fleeing Christianity look no farther than Mrs. Davis’s and her supporters. Their perverted and insidiously malignant “Christianity” is the cause of this. As I said yesterday by the standards of Christian orthodoxy she is not even a Christian based on her beliefs about the Godhead. In Calvin’s Geneva and almost all countries with state churches in Europe, as well as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, she would have been burned at the stake for her beliefs; beliefs that she now presumes to hold as the standard for all other people. Basically, she has just had the nerve to say, in so many words, that the rest of us are going to hell. Of course in Jesus Name, Amen.
As to the ruling of Federal District Judge David Bunning which sent Mrs. Davis to jail until she complies with the law: it also requires her deputies to carry out their duties and authorizing county judges to issue marriage licenses. Five of the six deputies have agreed to follow the law.
Now the Kentucky legislature which has tried to avoid the issue, and to kick the can down the road until next year might actually have to get off their asses and do something to amend their laws regarding marriage as well as what officials can issue a marriage certificate. That is if they want Mrs. Davis to keep her job and get out of jail before the next legislative session in 2016.
Davis and her followers, including the crass politicians trying to carve out exemptions for people like her to disobey the law have poisoned the water for anyone wanting to actually be a positive influence on society as Christians, and I include conservative “pro-life” Christians, as well as progressive Christians who advocate a more inclusive faith and relationship to society.
But, as more people flee the church and the Christian faith, the leaders of this movement to impose Christian beliefs on others through the power of the state, will have no one else to blame. They are the cause of this. The Barna group did a scientific survey of the attitudes of 18-29 year-olds on what phrases best described Christians. The top answers were “Anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical and too involved in politics.” This view was held by 91% of non-Christians and a staggering 80% of young churchgoers. Another Barna survey mentioned Hypocritical, anti-homosexual, insincere, sheltered and too political. Another Barna survey of Evangelical Christians of the same demographic found that they believed that, “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” while 20% said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” while 22% said that “church is like a country club, only for insiders” and 36% said that they were unable “to ask my most pressing life questions in church.”
As for now I am glad that she is in jail. The sad thing for her though is that the people who helped get her to jail at Liberty Counsel, will jettison her as soon as they can no longer make money off of her cause; and that will not be very long from now. They will move along and find some other dupe to do their bidding. By dupe, I do not mean a devout Christian, but rather one stupid enough to trust the judgement of politically motivated lawyers like Liberty Counsel who get them tossed in jail, and pocket vast amounts of money for their next legal crusade.
But then there seems to be an unending supply of dupes who think they are doing God’s will, and sadly, not just in this country. The Middle East is full of them.
God help us all.