Kim Davis: Reminiscent of Thomas More?
“I love my King, but I love my God more….”
On the Right to espouse Unpopular Causes
A fervent Protestant Evangelical, elected by popular vote, as a Democrat, to be the County clerk in Ramon county, Kentucky issuing marriage licenses, refuses to issue a license to a same sex couple. Since the United States supreme court has recently upheld the right of all people, including same sex or homosexual couples, to acquire marriage licenses, Kim Davis, fully convinced that God Himself through Holy Scripture has clearly forbidden such behavior finds herself in a profound and personal dilemma.
Should she continue in her refusal, she will be obliged to pay a price of considerable proportions. Should she obey the Court, she suffers the enormous guilt of what she perceives to be the foundational meaning of Life. Her very identity is either lost or badly mauled beyond her recognition. Some observers see her dilemma as elementary, unnecessary and easily solved. Most human beings like the easy solution. The resolution is simple, they say. No one is above the law. Obey the law or be prepared to pay the price, legal, social, spiritual. Black and white is the obvious approach. Issue the license or seek employment elsewhere. What’s the problem?
To Kim Davis and the many others for whom this incident has huge meaning such an approach seems sophomoric. There are several factors which have been brushed off too easily. One such factor, for example, is the one in which the individual citizen believes a particular law to be unjust and even evil.
I lived in the Republic of South Africa for seven years under what I considered to be an iniquitous and evil system, called apartheid, in which terrible injustices, to my mind, were laid upon millions of people. I and my colleagues refused to play that game in our Church where we ripped off the signs indicating where “non-Europeans” or non white people, were supposed to worship.
We said, in effect, not in God’s house! No one, surprisingly, challenged us or indeed our lives in general. In fact we were left very much alone to follow our own consciences. But publicly we did go against the sense of the “Law”. Publicly we argued against the law. Some suggested that we should leave the country and go somewhere else where policy would be more congenial to our own. But we LIKED living in South Africa, a beautiful country, populated with wonderful people of all races and back grounds. We wanted to stay in the country. The simple point of this example is to highlight the obvious but incredibly rarely articulated, fact that mere legality is not the same as morality.
This practical Ignorance is replicated elsewhere.
- In 1858 the infamous Dred Scott decision. The US Supreme Court informed the Nation that henceforth a black person would be equal roughly to ¾ of a white person. The entire question of slavery has been a terrible disgrace in our history. Yet it was, de facto, imposed, in murky quasi legal language, as the LAW of the land.
It was legal for one person to own another. Clearly, this was unjust and evil and should have been vigorously disobeyed. But it was legal. What kind of logic is it which accepts such legalisms as moral? However, to disobey such a law in my mind is not only morally permissible, but right and even heroic. Granting the obvious substance differences, there is some kind of possible application to the plight of Kim Davis. The facile assumption of the non-equation that legality is the same as morality is the core issue here.
- Munich, Germany. 1938. I am eighteen years old at that time. Though I was a publicly committed near fanatical Christian Catholic, I would be ushered, after phony legalizations into a concentration camp or even into the “oven” category. The reason? My blood is tainted. My father is a Jew. “Scientifically” I am non-Aryan. Beyond my personal bias on such a grotesque twisting of logic and truth, this “legalization” does not make it moral. One shouldn’t need to draw pictures to illustrate the non-equality of the legal and the moral in some instances.
3. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled, at least implicitly, after much foggy “emanations” talk that unborn babies could be legally killed (theoretically) any time in the pregnancy. In spite of the endless talk about women's rights and back alley abortions, there was a huge rush for what were called “convenience” abortions. Millions of babies have been killed since then and sometimes the body parts sold for research, an act clearly defined by Federal Law as criminal. The specious argument that the child is a part of the mother’s body leaving her to do whatever she wishes with her body has been used to justify what to many, many others is clearly an unbelievably barbarous act. Factually since that time a universe of helpless people has been executed simply because their existence was burden to others.
In the opinion of very large numbers of people such a “law” is intrinsically unjust and evil. Hence, the Law should be opposed and disobeyed much in the fashion of Rev. Martin L. King in his disobedience under the unjust laws of some Southern cities.
The principal is clear. Human history offers many instances of such a specious idea. “Simply because a behavior is labelled “legal” it must be considered as moral.”” Simplistic categorizing can be harmful to honest thinking and dangerous for the welfare of many. Infantile drawings should not be required just make the point. One presumes this is not merely a case of a King who is publicly unclothed!
As to Kim Davis.There are obvious similarities and differences between her and the great St. Thomas More, the quintessential Catholic Brit. They both, in a sense,work for the government. They both love their country. they both are strong people with powerful convictions. They both are willing to pay heavy personal prices rather than deny their very souls. Both believe that integrity shouts for congruence between inner belief and outer behavior.
In the name of the Law, More’s head was chopped off, while, all he had to do was join the crowd. Every one else was approving the Government’s stance. Who was he to place himself above all the rest? Even his own daughter begged him to agree to what he believed was evil.
He pointed out to her that those who signed the Oath truly believed it to be right, even though it was wrong. But, in the eyes of God, they are moral and would save their souls. But if he, who thought it to be wrong still signed it, pretending that he believed in it when he did not, would lose his soul. Clear case of conscience, is it not?
If Kim Davis fits the Thomas More/ conscience mold, she is to be admired and commended, even if one disagrees with her whole intellectual, spiritual stance. She undoubtedly will pay for her brash confrontation with the un-American secular power. Even Pope Francis, despite all the frenzied scrambling of progressive clerics, by largely no-verbal behavior, supports her position. The truth is that he did meet her privately, told her to “be strong” and embraced her. She did not ask for the meeting. She was invited. The clerics are trying desperately to dilute the obvious message of the meeting. I wonder why?
One can recall the following: Federal law is different from state law and applies differently. She was elected by her peers under state law BEFORE the SCOTUS ruling. Her election was to carry out the wishes of the voters under the law which existed before the Court ruling at the time of the election. There is a failure in confusing the functions of the branches of Government. Courts do not make laws. Legislatures do.
No matter what the ultimate outcome, fair minded Americans are asking for some kind of accommodation for this courageous lady and for many many others who will follow in her brave footsteps. Rather than dismissing her as a “backwoods hick Bible thumper” we ought to be awed by her conviction or “chutzpah”. I thought we had left the barbarian methods of Henry VIII behind in the dust of history. Perhaps the chop/chop solution of Thomas More is gone but we have now more subtle modes of execution. May God help our beautiful but staggering country!