Saturday, October 3, 2015

She's Back

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, who should show up again unannounced but Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who has steadfastly refused to grant marriage licences to gay couples. Davis if you recall, openly defied a federal court order forcing her to do her job, which resulted in a five day stint in the local pokey. On her return to work, she agreed not to interfere with her deputies granting marriage licences to all comers.

In a sane and rational world, that would be the end of the story and we could all go back to our lives worrying about normal things like ISIS, the latest school shooting, and fantasy football.

But we live in anything but a rational world and Davis continues to be a lightning rod, symbolizing the egregious ideological rift in our country that seems to grow on a daily basis. To the folks on the right, Davis is a modern day Joan of Arc, fighting "under God's authority" the brave battle of conscience against the evil doers who would defy scripture by imposing the sacrilege of gay marriage upon this country. To the left, she is a bigoted homophobic criminal, a hypocritical religious zealot who is imposing her own backward beliefs on her constituents and the rest of the country. To both sides she is a cause célèbre, nobody it seems can get enough of her.

Well except for me that is and perhaps a silent majority of people in this country who believe that all the ruckus over Kim Davis amounts to much ado about nothing.

It's all very simple really, gay marriage is a divisive issue and no one should be the least bit surprised that there would be some government officials who feel compelled to refuse enforcing what they consider to be an unjust law. Frankly I'm surprised there aren't more Kim Davises around. Our country has a long, proud, and sometimes not so proud history of people defying the law in order to stand up for what they believe. Call it conscientious objection, political dissent, or civil disobedience, this country would be a much different place were it not for people who have stood up to the government in one form or other.

Of course it's easy to support people who break the law when they do it for something you believe in; it's a whole other matter when they do if for a cause you find objectionable. 

In the case of Kim Davis, she felt obligated to break the law because she believed her religion compelled her to do so. For defying the court order she was sentenced and served a brief time in jail. This is entirely just and appropriate, the system worked this time and no one should have any problem with it. After all in the end, no one was really harmed, right?

I personally don't agree with Davis's cause. Yet as a matter of principal, I don't object to her actions; she made her point and paid the consequences. It seems her time in jail however was not enough for some people who felt the need to ridicule, lambast and excoriate Davis by bringing up events in her personal life that suggested she wasn't as good of a Christian as she let on. I found these allegations to be reprehensible, as they were irrelevant to the matter at hand and amounted to nothing more then character assassination.

Thankfully Ms. Davis disappeared from the news for about a week, as she
was pushed out of the headlines by Pope Francis and his trip to Cuba and the United States, Many Americans, at least those left of center, were all gaga about the new pontiff's openness, humanity, and his perceived liberalness. They oooohed and aaaaahed over his comments about global warming, and they swooned over his pronouncements on immigrants, the poor, and his steadfast opposition to the death penalty,

Full disclosure, I did those things as well. Do yourself a favor and read some of his comments made while he was in the United States. For their part, many conservatives all but labeled Francis the Antichrist.

Then something strange happened. As the pope boarded his plane for home, the news broke that while he was in Washington, he met with you know who. Liberals turned on The Holy Father quicker than a twig in a tornado. All the good will that he generated with the American Left evaporated in the blink of an eye. Even Catholics whose faith was renewed by the pope's visit were left perplexed. How they felt, could a visit that was intended to draw people together by avoiding the pitfalls of extreme ideology conclude with a secret meeting with one of the most divisive characters in the country?

Well it's becoming quite clear that Kim Davis's visit was not all that it seemed. It appears the visit was arranged by some Catholic bishops who were sympathetic to Ms. Davis and her cause, not by the pope. For her part, Ms. Davis milked the visit to the extreme, telling anyone who cared to listen that the pope's friendly demeanor and his parting words to her, "be strong", sent a clear message message of justification and solidarity with her cause. What she failed to mention is that her "audience" with the pope was shared with several other people. I wouldn't be surprised if Pope Francis's parting words to all who attended the audience were to be strong as those words most likely are to the hundreds of prisoners he visits each year. My guess is that not one of those prisoners take the pope's kindness and words of encouragement as a justification for their crimes.

It seems likely that Kim Davis, her husband and her lawyer used their visit with Pope Francis for their own ends, which in my book is deplorable.

Having said that, I'd like to forget about her for a moment and concentrate on Pope Francis. The motivation and circumstances behind his visit with Kim Davis are quite irrelevant to me. His papacy so far has been dedicated to love, compassion and inclusion. This means inclusion for ALL, not just for those who we deem are worthy. If this sounds at all familiar, you might be reminded that the paradigm for Pope Francis is none other than Jesus, who continually astonished his friends and followers with the company he kept. No he didn't hang out with the upstanding members of the community, more often than not, those people were the subject of his wrath. Instead he hung out with the outcasts of society, the infirm, the unclean, the sinners, the prisoners and yes, even the tax collectors.

There is something important that those who first embraced then rejected Pope Francis this week need to understand. His approach to the role of pastor may be very different from that of his two immediate predecessors, but his theology is not. The current pope criticizes the excesses of materialism and capitalism, and so did John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Those two talked about our obligation to the poor and denounced the death penalty, as does Francis. One difference is that the two popes before Francis railed excessively against abortion and gay marriage. Francis does not, saying that Catholics have become obsessed with those two issues at the expense of others. However that cannot be taken as an endorsement of gay marriage and abortion, as the church's position under Francis in opposition to those issues, as well as many others close to the heart of liberals such as the ordination of women, is unequivocal. Whether you agree with those positions or not, the pope finds scriptural basis to support them, just as he does for environmental issues, caring for the poor and other things liberals can easily relate to.

The pope is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, liberal nor conservative. His mission, if I may be so bold as to put words into his mouth, is first and foremost to preach the truth of the Gospel (literally meaning the good news) of love and forgiveness that Jesus taught. Once we have that conquered, no easy matter, everything else should fall into place or so the theory goes.

What we must understand, and in my opinion cherish in the current pope, is the manner in which is he lives the Gospel by loving, respecting and embracing all individuals, recognizing that each one of us is a sinner who falls far short of perfection, and made worthy only by the grace of God. "Who am I to judge?" Pope Francis once said, specifically referring to gay people, but he could have just as easily been referring to any one of us in that statement, yes even Kim Davis.

Our hostile reaction to the meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, whatever that encounter may have been, speaks very little about the two of them yet volumes about us. Pope Francis more than anything has challenged us to come together, to follow the freedom of open minds and hearts, compassion, love and forgiveness, rather than the spiritual and intellectual prison of ideology, in whatever form that takes.

If we are to follow him, we apparently have a very long way to go.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I couldn't have said it better. Thanks for posting this.