About that Oft-Married Clerk in Kentucky

838 - Kim Davis

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard of Kim Davis. She’s the county clerk in Kentucky who is still refusing to give out marriage licenses to same sex couples, despite losing various court battles and having her case rejected by the Supreme Court. She is currently facing contempt charges, but what you really know about Kim Davis from the news media is that she’s been married four times. The hypocrisy is delicious, and reporters cannot get enough of it. Here are a variety of tweets from professional journalists about the story:

840 - Steven Nelson tweets

839 - More Tweets

Here’s the thing: it’s not unusual to have Christians guilty of hypocrisy. Christians are guilty of lots of things. They are, as a general rule, no better or worse than anybody else from any other faith tradition or none at all. And I don’t think it’s even necessarily out of bounds to comment on it. The glee with which the journalists are relishing in it is a little unseemly, but the fact itself is fair game, in my mind.[ref]And, while I’m at it, I don’t support Kim Davis’s position. I’ve seen someone make the analogy that you can cite religious pacifism as a reason to be exempt from the draft, but you can’t expect to join the military, become an officer, and then refuse to fight based on your religious beliefs. I’m not sure it’s quite as clear-cut in this case–giving out licenses to same-sex marriages wasn’t in the job description when Davis took her job–but all things considered I think the logic is that she isn’t actually marrying anyone, she is merely certifying that these people meet the legal requirements. Which, they do. So she should give out the licenses, even though I am also opposed to same-sex marriage.[/ref]

However, this is the one thing that these journalists aren’t telling you: Davis converted to Christianity about 4 years ago and all of the behavior they are ridiculing her for–all of the divorces and affairs–happened before that point. Since becoming a Christian, Davis has been married to one and only one person. Isn’t that fact also relevant? And yet it tends to get buried in these stories about her, if it is mentioned at all.

These screenshots and the information all from an article at The Federalist, by the way: Kentucky Clerk Didn’t Follow Christianity Before Converting To It.

The article also makes the point that, in general, journalists don’t really have a clue about religion. And they don’t. It’s just another aspect of life in 21st century America. All the folks making the movies, deciding what news to cover (and how), and writing the books we read tend to come from a small class of people who don’t know the first thing about religion and yet–at the same time–have a visceral antipathy towards it and especially towards any forms of religion that bear even a passing resemblance to historical traditions. Perspectives like this one, therefore, are all too rare:

837 - Last Tweet

There is plenty of Christian hypocrisy out there, folks. And I don’t have a problem with fouls being called when they occur, even if I know the refs like one team more than the other. All I ask–and I don’t think it’s too much to ask–is to actually wait for a foul to occur before dishing out the penalties.

4 thoughts on “About that Oft-Married Clerk in Kentucky”

  1. Fair enough, all things considered. Maybe I read better sources than Facebook posts, but I got the “converted to Christianity four years ago” clear enough. I’d make a blanket suggestion that Facebook is a poor way to gather news.
    There’s a slightly deeper issue at play, which none of the news or reporters that I’ve seen has addressed. That is the observation that for “Christians opposed to marriage” (my term), the reasons–including scriptures and arguments about what’s best for children or ‘family’–ought to sound as loudly with respect to divorce. And yet in many voices divorce seems to get a pass. The marriage issue is a done deal for the United States, so this is not a live discussion any longer, until an individual case brings it to life again.
    (For what it’s worth, I don’t have any idea, and I don’t think any reporters know, what Kim Davis’ post-conversion views are regarding divorce. The only statement I’ve seen comes from a co-worker. Kim Davis is in many ways a place holder for issues that people still want to talk about.)

  2. Christian-

    You’re right that divorce is relevant. You’re also right that Christians who had nothing at all to say about divorce prior to the gay marriage fight make their stated opposition to gay marriage suspect.

    My explanation of this is two fold.

    Some of the Christian opposition to gay marriage is bigotry and fear. I think this is just obvious, but important to state plainly. (It’s something I’ve written about before.) So, to a certain extent, your criticism is simply correct.

    However, the criticism is not the whole story. First, there has historically been Christian opposition to no-fault divorce (before and after it was legalized, consider the covenant marriage movement) as well as things like out-of-wedlock parenting (think of the infamous Dan Quayle / Murphy Brown incident). Second, the theoretical conflict between same-sex marriage and traditional, procreative views of marriage is far more severe than the conflict between divorce and traditional, procreative views of marriage. This explains some of the disparity in opposition to same-sex marriage vs. to no-fault divorce.

    For Christians, the war on family really got started with the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and has increased in intensity ever since then, with same-sex marriage being the gravest threat to date. Thus, not all of the relatively stronger / clearer resistance to gay marriage is attributable to fear/bigotry (or other bad motivations), although some certainly is.

  3. All fair as a matter of history (although I would argue the other side regarding marriage in many respects). But my point is that this is an old and done discussion that some reporters would like to reinvigorate, and it is that interest that explains much of the news coverage of Kim Davis. Otherwise, she’s just an outlier and in a big country there will always be outliers and how is her case worth more than about one column inch?

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