People have been asking about Kim Davis, the county clerk who was perp-walked to prison after refusing to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. She’s been released now and has returned to work, but the questions linger: what should a Christian do?
In a sane world, an elected official like Mrs. Davis would have had time to work out her ethical dilemma with mayors and legislators and courts. When the Supreme Court turned marriage on his head and ruled that most human beings through most of history have been bigots and homophobes, it should have surprised no one that there were many people in government jobs with traditional convictions about marriage. In fact, the dissenting Supreme Court justices predicted chaos would soon follow. In a rational society, there would have been a period of transition when laws and regulations could be crafted to allow for the new vision of marriage while protecting people who cannot sanction such a radical departure. Reasonable people could have applied for their marriage licenses in neighboring counties for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, in 2015 the United States is neither sane nor rational. Thanks to 24/7 cable news and social media, we live in a society that thrives on hysteria. Today’s Outrage is the currency of every successful media career. A stupid ruling by a high school principle in Texas or photos of a lion mistakenly shot in Zimbabwe can go blazing across the internet, often replete with misinformation, but always capable of sending one radical group or another into apoplexy and media mayhem! Within hours, world capitals have villagers with torches and pitchforks marching off to slay the Monster.
In an hysterical society where political correctness has won the day, Christians still have clear choices when conscience and national mandates collide.
- As Kim Davis did, you can appeal for adjustments in regulations that allow you to delegate offensive new duties to people who do not have a conflict of interest. This will take more time than you are generally given in the press. In this case, a radical judge will very likely have you arrested. You won’t be the first or the last.
- You can resign if you are not granted some sort of religious or ethical exception.
- You can clarify your convictions. In the case of Kim Davis, one might wonder if her signature requires that she must approve every marriage she licenses. One suspects she probably disapproves of someone getting married for a fifth time, or a citizen remarrying within days of a divorce being final; yet she is able to sign those licenses. Perhaps a clerk is simply certifying that a couple meets the government’s minimal standards- not God’s. Some might find they could continue to perform a government job without being compromised.
There’s more than enough outrage to go around these days, so I find it useful to pick my battles. Last week I read a news story about an office supplies store that refused to print pro-life flyers for a customer. The store manager labeled her prayer flyer unacceptable hate speech.
After confirming the facts of the matter, I looked up the website of the national chain and submitted a polite email. I mentioned my concern that a local store has chosen to discriminate against the politics or religion of a paying client. I explained my concern that this kind of behavior is discriminatory; that I would suggest the company apologize and correct the situation before many customers like me found it necessary to move our business to a competing chain. (I’m sure I was not alone in writing.) Within 24 hours, the management apologized to me and the pro-life woman in Illinois and to her attorneys, as well; they invited her back to print more flyers and expressed their regret.
Don’t explode or collapse when the pressure comes to bear on your faith. Stand firm. And don’t leave other saints standing alone when the firing squad turns on them. Let’s seek Christ-likeness and community wherever we can in these angry, divisive days. And don’t get mad at the world just because some idiot with a computer gets a viral moment on Facebook.
Lift up the Cross!