Where are the Christians?

Recently, I’ve been involved with the group that’s been supporting the couples who could not get married in Rowan County. I was out-of-state all summer, so I only began turning up to the courthouse recently, but I’ve made many friends in that group, and it’s been really interesting to hear their viewpoints about so many things.

On Thursday, I drove to Ashland and hoped to get into the courtroom. Unfortunately, I did not get in (I think the press had half the seats!), so I joined the group of couple-supporters. All around us were so-called Christians who used all sorts of means to throw hate around. And seriously, it was pure hate and venom. The signs were professionally done (leading one to the conclusion that the holders thereof were “professional protesters”), and these guys (almost all men) knew what they were doing. The wove in and out between people in our group, then isolated them by preaching/shouting/”arguing”with them. I can’t really call what they did “proper” arguing because they simply did not listen to the other person/people. Their language was disgusting. One man, using a megaphone (several of them had megaphones, all were using them, and the cacophony of sound was just awful) was describing anal sex in detail. It was tasteless and vulgar, and there were children present. Why not describe vaginal sex in such detail? Oh no, that would be wrong. Grrr. The words are all almost the same. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing “Do you have AIDS yet?” “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah” etc… In fact, I am unable to really paint a picture of what it was like to be facing those people. A cameraman told me he couldn’t even pan the crowd because the signs were so bad, they couldn’t be shown on TV. Shame. I think people should be able to see what was being said and done in the name of Jesus.

Then, yesterday, while we stood outside the courthouse waiting for our couples to come in and get their licenses, a lady showed up. She was wearing a Lutheran-type shirt with dog collar, and I waited for her to start arguing with someone. She didn’t. She was quiet for a while, then addressed us. She was AWESOME! One of the things she pointed out was that the people on the other side of the concrete strip between us were NOT representative of all Christians, that there were many, many who did not support what Kim Davis was doing. But… this woman, together with a unitarian minister who showed up at almost the same time, was the first, and ONLY Christian clergy-person to support us. My question is, then “Where are all the Christians?”

Aren’t Christians supposed to be the salt and light of the world? There have been many hate-group-type-Christians turning up for the other side, but where were the pastors who agree with us? Where are their congregations? Why aren’t THEY bussing themselves in? Don’t they care? Is not caring what all the other Christians, “not like” the screamers and haters really do? I’m not sure that’s any better. On the one hand, the haters who feel passionate enough about something (I’m not sure what that something is in this case: homosexuality, gay rights, so-called religious freedom, martyr complexes, politics), yet on the other, the do-nothings who don’t care. Which group is better? Hmmm

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Are These People REALLY Christian?

Today I went to Ashland, Kentucky. I wanted to sit in the courtroom and see what was going on in person. Unfortunately, once I went through security, up the elevator and to the courtroom, the door was shut. I ended up being the first one denied entry. After a polite exchange with the man at the door (I volunteered to stand quietly at the back!), I went back outside into the melee.

While I was lined up, waiting to not get in, the person in front of me asked who I was with. Not quite understanding, I told her I was with myself. She persisted, eventually getting out of me that I believed Kim Davis should be doing her job. She summarized “Oh, so you’re against her.” She then proceeded to question me about my morals, where they came from, the bible etc… I told her a couple of times that I really didn’t want to engage in this kind of conversation, and eventually she stopped. It bothered me no end that she was saying the sorts of things I once might have said (we’re talking 25 years ago now), and I found I had absolutely no wish to engage. I did, however, try to point out a few times that gay marriage was not the reason there was a hearing today. But she wasn’t listening. For her, it was about gay marriage, not about a state employee who isn’t doing her job, forcing her beliefs on the community, and collecting a paycheck as a result.

But, things seemed to get worse. There were people with professional signs, some of which were rude and insulting, who seemed to like to walk around and get into people’s faces. They’d tell them they were going to hell etc.. etc.., sometimes using a megaphone just a couple of feet from the chosen targets face. There was so much shouting that at time you could barely hear your neighbor when they yelled in your ear. And almost without exception, the shouters were “Christians” Some wore sandwich boards, one waved a skull draped in the rainbow flag, some preached, some handed out tracts, some waved giant bibles in the air, and, frankly, some looked as if they were almost mad with rabies.

I was shocked, upset, sad, and depressed that this was Christianity in action. I tried to imagine the Jesus I know doing that, and I just can’t. Just. Can’t. I thought about the time Jesus got really, really mad… and you know what? The only time I can think of was when he turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple. These were the RELIGIOUS people of the day – he never got mad at regular sinners, just the religious people. I tend to think he’d have been REALLY mad at many of the people outside the courthouse today.

I had the good fortune to meet Tim Love, the guy who challenged Kentucky’s SSM ban in the Supreme Court, leading to the ruling that gays could not be discriminated against by refusing to let them marry each other. He was such a lovely, gentle, kind man. When I told him that I was so put of Christianity as a result of today, he looked genuinely sad and said that I needed to know that these people aren’t representative of true Christianity. But, are they? The more I learn about the way Christianity is practiced in this country, the more I am put off. Screaming hate to people? Salivating with anger while “preaching”? Is that really it?

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, this was NOT WHAT THE HEARING WAS ABOUT! Why won’t they all listen? It’s not about religious freedom, unless you think about it in terms of the county citizens’ religious freedom (she’s denying them theirs), and it’s not about her “standing up for her beliefs”. It’s about a woman who was elected to an office, and took an oath to uphold the constitution – and then broke it. It’s about a woman who will NOT issue ANY marriage licenses, gay or straight, yet wants to collect her full pay every week. It’s about a woman who has closed the courthouse randomly so citizens cannot get ANY business done. In short, it’s about a woman who’s breaking the law.

Those “Christians” are trying to make her into a living martyr, and a martyr she is not. They have twisted this whole affair to serve their agenda, and now we have presidential candidates siding with her… applauding her for not doing her job. I can’t help but get angry!

Anyway, there is no shadow of a doubt in my mind that I do not want to be like those people. I don’t want to be a narrow-minded, bigoted, rude, in-your-face person screaming my religious biases at other people. If that is Christianity, I’m absolutely, positively, out of there.

Kentucky Clerk – Kim Davis

Watching people at the demonstration at the Rowan County Court this morning has most certainly activated a bunch of my brain neurons! In fact, so many thoughts are zooming through my head right now that it’s hard to know exactly what to say. However, I’m going to start by stating that I believe in equal rights. Marriage is a civil union, protected by law, and granting many benefits such as tax breaks, next-of-kin privileges, health care benefits etc… No-one should be excluded from civil marriage based on their religion, color, race, or sexual orientation.

So why is this clerk defying the Supreme Court, and breaking the oath she swore when she became the elected clerk of the county? Speaking from my own experience, I think I can venture a guess, and I’ll start with an observation. Looking at those supporting Kim this morning, a group that appeared to be members of her Apostolic church and led by a man I assume is her pastor, one could not find a single African American or other person of color in the entire gathering. The majority of the people were over about 50, with a few exceptions (there were some children present who I assume were either playing truant or are being “home-schooled”). They were dressed like country folk, and held placards that included miss-spellings and very odd references (For example, one sign proclaimed that the Supreme Court ruling was wrong because of the 10th amendment). The leader (pastor) seemed to be a very dynamic man who certainly organized the group in a confident manner. The people clearly respected him.

I imagine the pastor has been teaching this group about the “evils” of homosexuality, and if he’s anything like the people on American Family Radio, he’ll have told them that there is no worse sin. If he doesn’t SAY that, he probably treats it that way. He’ll use a few passages in the bible to shore up his statements, and everyone will simply listen and soak it up. The majority will NOT go home after church and check that what he says is the whole truth. Quite probably, the majority have never read the bible in its entirety. So, as long as a few verses are thrown in here and there, they’ll accept anything he says (unless he veers off the path they’ve been walking along all their lives). Unquestioning acceptance. Questions will be considered rebellion and a lack of faith and trust (been there, done that!). Platitudes and oft-repeated phrases will assume the same value as truth.

Fundamental and/or evangelical Christianity is like a box. Once you’re in, there are many ways to keep you there, and most of them can be condensed into one word: fear. If you die unsaved, you’ll go to hell; if you examine other religions, you will most likely open yourself up to demons; if you question, your faith is not sure; if you even attempt to read or listen to divergent opinions, you might stray and lose your salvation (or, if you’re a Calvinist, entertaining opposing ideas might simply show you that you were never saved in the first place). It’s scary to contemplate non-Christian viewpoints, and the viewpoints you’re supposed to embrace are very specific (depending on which church you belong to, of course).

Kim Davis will not change her mind because she will have swallowed the Kool-aid. She will be frightened to question, and she’ll keep her eyes “fixed firmly on Jesus”. She will believe she is right, and her church will agree with her. Heck, the fundamentalist right would probably make her a saint…  if saints weren’t so… Catholic! As a result of this kind of thinking, arguing with her (or her ilk) is an activity doomed from the start. She will not think outside her box; her everlasting life depends on not doing so. And that’s a real shame. Truth should stand up to scrutiny, but if you avoid the scrutiny altogether, how do you know if you have “the Truth”? You don’t. You can’t.

So, Kim Davis, sincere as she might be, is unable to examine her actions in any light other than the one she has chosen to bathe in. The idea of substituting her own actions with what another might do, for example, imagining a Muslim refusing to issue marriage licenses to divorcees, or a Christian from a different sect/group/church refusing to, say, collect property taxes from any of his/her church members, would require logical thinking. She cannot do that.

Her lawyers are not immune to this kind of thinking either. Some of their arguments are, frankly speaking, ludicrous. The idea that public servants should not lose their first amendment rights when they take up a post is just silly. Of course they lose some of their rights. A teacher loses some first amendment rights when he/she enters a school. Imagine in Kim Davis had another daughter (not the one who stole the dog) who was in public school. Then imagine that daughter having a math teacher who started telling his/her charges all about his/her sex life. Kim would be up at that school in a heartbeat. And rightly so. Teachers do NOT have the right to say whatever they please in a classroom. And county clerks do NOT have the right to withhold services from certain people because they think God is telling them to do so.

Apparently, the courts agree with me, but it will be interesting to see what happens in court on Thursday (Sept 3) at 11am. If Bunning fines her, Liberty Counsel will no doubt pay her fines. If he jails her, she’ll become a “martyr” and the funds will flow into Liberty Counsel’s coffers in a huge rush. He’s going to have to be very wise and thoughtful about this. And I’ll be waiting on tenterhooks to see what he’s going to say.

Religious Freedom

It’s interesting to me to hear people say that the Pilgrims (that is, the puritans who came to America on the Mayflower, as well as those who followed in other ships I assume) came to this country for religious freedom. As far as I can tell, that was absolutely not the case. The Pilgrims came to this country to establish their own religion, and proved to be as intolerant toward non-pilgrims as had been the British established church toward them. Bear in mind they had already left Britain and had set up their own “colony” in Holland some years earlier. They were not being persecuted in Holland, so I’m a little dubious about the claim that they were fleeing from persecution. At any rate, as soon as they landed on American soil, they set up their own rule of law and had no difficulty in forcing the non-pilgrims living among them to follow those laws.

Fast forward to Rowan County, Kentucky today. We have a clerk who feels her religious freedom is being violated. Why? Because she, as a county clerk, is required to issue marriage licenses to those who qualify. And guess who qualifies now? Right, gay people. SCOTUS has declared that gay people do, after all, have equal rights and that they can, therefore, marry. Clerk Kim Davis disagrees, and in spite of the Supreme Court ruling, and in spite of the oath of office that she took, is refusing to issue ANY marriage licenses to ANY couples in Rowan County.

I think Davis is conflating the religious sacrament of marriage with the legal definition of marriage. Further, I think the issue is clouded by the fact that the state of legal marriage offers legal rights and responsibilities. To try and explain, think of the rite of baptism. This is something most churches practice, and you certainly don’t have to get a license from a county clerk to receive the right. Neither do you enjoy tax benefits, next-of-kin privileges etc… as a result. Why? Because baptism is a sacrament, and it is simply religious. The same can be said of confirmation, bar mitzvahs, and many other religious rites. Not so with marriage. Marriage is a human condition, if you will. Humans have a desire to become close to someone, maybe to have and rear children, but certainly to support one another. I don’t know if marriage exists in every single culture, but I would guess it probably occurs in the vast majority. And it confers upon the partakers certain legal rights. THAT is why SCOTUS opined that gay couples should be able to marry.

Now SCOTUS has not demanded that churches solemnize gay marriage, just as they have not demanded that they conduct weddings for anyone who is legally entitled to become married. There is no forcing here. However, Davis, not “believing in” gay marriage, wishes to force that belief on her constituents (who pay her not-too-shabby salary), thus depriving them of their legal rights. No-one is asking her to conduct the weddings. No-one is asking her to think any differently from the way she does now (probably just as well; I’m not sure it would work). ALL that is being asked of her is to give marriage licenses to those who qualify. Heck, once a couple gets the license, they still have to get a celebrant to conduct the wedding, otherwise the license expires.

So, Mrs. Davis, instead of fasting and praying, how about reading that bible of yours and examining what it says about religion and society, fairness, and doing the job which you have been given to do.

And, Mr Bunning (the judge), please just remove the stay and place the woman in contempt of court. By not doing so, you are de facto approving of what she’s doing.