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Ted Cruz made his feelings clear about defiant county clerk Kim Davis: “Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith.” Mike Huckabee said, “having Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubt of the criminalization of Christianity in our country.”
Mat Staver, who is representing Davis in court, compared her to several Christian martyrs. “Kim joins a long list of people who were imprisoned for their conscience,” Staver said. “People who today we admire, like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan Hus, John Bunyan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more — each had their own cause, but they all share the same resolve not to violate their conscience.”
Kim Davis is not being persecuted for her faith, she is facing the consequences of violating the law. Davis was elected to execute the clerk duties of Rowan County, Kentucky, and she refused to do that. I agree that tossing her in the clink seems like overkill, especially when federal officials can violate Americans’ rights with near impunity, but she suffered this fate due to her illicit actions, not her spiritual beliefs.
The Davis story reminds me of an ancient Christian sect Ricochet member Midget Faded Rattlesnake brought to my attention. Seeing how much reverence was given to martyrs, a bizarre little group called the Circumcellions decided to get in on the action.
On occasion, members of this group assaulted Roman legionaries or armed travelers with simple wooden clubs to provoke them into attacking and martyring them. Others interrupted courts of law and verbally provoked the judge so that he would order their immediate execution (a normal punishment at the time for contempt of court)…
Because Jesus had told Peter to put down his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:11), the Circumcellions piously avoided bladed weapons and instead opted for the use of blunt clubs, which they called “Israelites.” Using their “Israelites”, the Circumcellions would attack random travelers on the road, while shouting “Laudate Deum!” (“Praise God!” in Latin.) The object of these random beatings was the death of the intrepid martyr, who sought to provoke the victim to attack and kill him.
Circumcellions weren’t executed for boldly living their faith in an intolerant society. They were executed for being violent, lawless jerks. Their “martyrdom” pointed not to the glory of God, but to their own moral vanity. Even if we assumed the Westboro loonies were Christians, they are loathed for their hatred, not their holiness.
Davis and many other Americans of all faiths disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, but it is now the law of the land. Many conservative believers disapprove of no-fault divorce, free speech rights for pornographers, and many other irreligious laws, but that is the result of living in a secular, pluralistic America. You may choose not to engage in those behaviors, but you can’t stop others from exercising their rights.
If Davis wants to live her faith with a clear conscience, she should render unto Caesar by tendering her resignation. Refusing that, she at least should allow her staffers to issue marriage licenses in accordance with the law. If, after that common-sense decision, secularists continue to attack her, she will have legitimately earned a small measure of martyrdom.
What Davis, Cruz, and Huckabee don’t realize (or more likely, won’t admit) is that being a Christian puts you in tension with a secular world. My faith has impacted my professional life repeatedly, but that hardly means martyrdom.
Fresh out of college, the best paying graphic design jobs I could find were among the glitzy new casinos opening in Vegas. They offered not only large paychecks, but high budgets so I could create the most luxurious, Trumpian full-color ads, brochures and mailers. But I didn’t apply. I don’t oppose gambling but did I want to spend 50 hours a week enticing spendthrifts to blow their paychecks at a craps table? It felt wrong.
Another well paying job was for a rapidly growing adult superstore chain (I believe they’re national, but won’t check their website in case the Mrs. scrolls through our web browser history. [“Really honey, I was researching a story on Christian martyrdom; I promise!”]) As with gambling, I’m fine with people flying their freak flag in whichever position they choose, but it’s not my scene.
As I grew in my career and faith, I grew even more selective. A bank offered a fantastic art director position, but their primary marketing technique was “You deserve a new boat/nicer car/larger house!” Their largest money maker required false flattery and poor stewardship; I rejected the job. (A year later, the easy-credit economic collapse hit. Glad I followed my conscience.)
I could have gone the Kim Davis route and taken one of those jobs anyway. When my boss yelled at me for only designing Bellagio flyers hyping nearby churches, or sex shop ads insisting on abstinence outside of marriage, I could have claimed persecution. But these companies would have tossed me out on my halo — not to violate my religious liberty, but because I wasn’t doing my job.
A devout Muslim won’t work as a pulled pork chef. An observant Jew won’t take a job where she’s forced to work on the Sabbath. If Kim Davis wants to exercise her faith in the public sphere, she should take a job that doesn’t violate her conscience.Published in