Bringing out the faux-martyrs

On Kim Davis and the “Christian Persecution Complex”

Yme Woensdregt

If you haven’t heard about Kim Davis, you’re just not paying attention! She’s the clerk in Rowan Country, Kentucky who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same–sex couples, even after the US Supreme Court landmark ruling that states must allow same–sex couples to marry and that they must recognize same–sex marriages from other states.

Ms. Davis claimed that she had a “higher loyalty to God” which superseded her loyalty to the laws of the land as made by the Supreme Court. God, she claimed, said that same–sex marriages were an abomination, and that she would be sent to hell if she issued licenses for such marriages.

She may not have gone to hell, but she did go to jail last week by Judge Bunning. The good judge found Ms. Davis in contempt for defying the federal court, saying “Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense. I myself have genuinely held religious beliefs,” and added that he took an oath of office to uphold the law. “Mrs. Davis took an oath,” he said “Oaths mean things.”

After five days in jail, Ms. Davis emerged from prison to a crowd of over 3,000 cheering supporters, with Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee by her side. Her first words as she emerged through the door were “I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied and you are a strong people!”

Mike Huckabee praised Davis and crowned her as the latest victim in what he calls the “Christian Persecution Complex.” Evangelical Christians in the US, and increasingly in Canada, are painting themselves as victims in an ongoing battle (their words) with the liberal, secular media. They are being persecuted, oppressed even, for being Christians.

There is no issue which brings out the faux–martyrs more than the issue of gay marriage. One Christian “leader” posted a facebook rant in which he claimed that the ruling of the US Supreme Court legalizing same–sex marriages was the “beginning of the Christian Holocaust.” The video has been seen by millions, with hundreds of thousands supporting his position. The language is clearly over the top and offensive to all people of good will.

Other websites claim that people no longer have the freedom or the ability to say that they believe in traditional marriage. They may be less extreme, perhaps, but they also buy in to this silly notion that Christians are being persecuted in North America. And just you wait — it’s going to raise its ugly head again in a few months around the issue of “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays,” which is — you guess it — another sign of Christian persecution.

I have just one thing to say to this. Give me a break!

The Christian Right in the US wants to paint Ms Davis as another David battling the Goliath of state persecution. I want to suggest that Ms. Davis is not David, but that she is, in fact, Goliath. In her role as county clerk, she is a representative of the government.

Those who cheer on Ms. Davis seem to be unaware that they are asking an agent of the state to withhold secular rights associated with the marriage license which is granted by a secular government to consenting adults who wish to spend their lives together in a relationship of love and commitment.

Kim Davis doesn’t have to agree with the law. She can have a religious objection. But as an agent of the state, she took an oath to uphold the law of the land, and her religious objection cannot supersede that oath. As Judge Bunning remarked, “Mrs. Davis took an oath. Oaths mean things.”

As Goliath, Ms. Davis is the giant, the barrier, which needs to be overcome by those who know what persecution really is. Talk to any gay or lesbian person about what it’s like to be a minority and to be persecuted for their beliefs and their practice.

Tomorrow is the annual AIDS Walk in Cranbrook. Unfortunately, another commitment prevents me from attending, but I have been proud over the last 11 years to offer a blessing and my wholehearted support to the GLBTQ community in Cranbrook and the work of ANKORS in our region. I am proud to be the priest at a church which has supported the AIDS walk since before I arrived in Cranbrook.

In truth, Christians are not being persecuted in North America. Asking Christian people to practice compassion for those who truly have been persecuted is only asking those very Christians to follow in the road walked by Jesus. To suggest anything else is blasphemy, and dishonours the name of the one they claim to follow.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook