Why Kim Davis Has Missed Her Moment

Years ago, I remember Christian right leaders fretting about pastors going to jail if they expressed their anti-gay views; when that didn’t come to pass, they fretted about churches losing their tax-exempt status. These worst case scenarios never happened, because we have this thing called the First Amendment, which protects peoples’ and churches’ right to say gay people are going to hell, or shouldn’t be able to get married, or should be cured by divine redemption.

Years later, the Christian right finally has its martyr in Kim Davis. Thanks to United States district judge David Bunning—who, despite having other options for securing marriage licenses for all Rowan County, Kentucky residents, ordered Davis to jail for six days—a new heroine was born.

Yet while Davis is most obviously a symbol for a Christian right bent on claiming its religious freedom is under siege, she is really a symbol of something else entirely. The Republican Party, and even its most reliable base of support, the Christian right, is being forced to move on when it comes to the marriage issue. According to a 2014 Pew survey, 58 percent of Republican millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) favor gay marriage. A Public Religion Research Institute survey conducted last year found “white evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same-sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).” That’s not a majority of millennial white evangelicals, but it’s certainly significant, given that this demographic has long been one of the staunchest opponents of marriage equality.

Davis, then, is a little late to the party, an anachronism delivered to the doorstep of the party’s most desperate presidential candidates. Her host and chief supporter Mike Huckabee reminded us at yesterday’s rally in Grayson, Kentucky, that Davis came to Christ just four and a half years ago. To her, everything is new again, but to evangelicals who have either embraced marriage equality or acquiesced to its inevitability, her rebirth as a celebrity victim of Rowan County’s gay and lesbian betrotheds and of the judiciary’s “tyranny” must feel a bit stale.

The Davis phenomenon has some Republicans worried, as Sahil Kapur and Greg Stohr report at Bloomberg. “I think the longer this lingers, the worse it is for the Republican Party and for the conservative movement,” John Feehery, a Republican strategist and lobbyist, told Bloomberg, adding that Davis’s stance “smacks of bigotry.”

Then there is the matter of the law. Yesterday Davis embraced Huckabee and lawyer Mat Staver, both of whom have pronounced the Supreme Court to be without authority to decide constitutional questions like whether bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Even Fox News host Gregg Jarrett called this view “stunningly obtuse” and his guest Sharon Liko, a lawyer, called it “ridiculously stupid.” Piling on, the network’s Shepard Smith described the entire spectacle as a “religious play” and criticized Davis’s refusal to accept an accommodation, adding, “Haters are going to hate. We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve granted her, something that worked for everybody. But it’s not what they want.”

While not a majority view among a group of evangelical thought leaders interviewed for the web site Breakpoint, Hunter Baker, a lawyer and political science professor at Union University, opined, “Kim Davis’s office is obligated to perform the state function of issuing wedding certificates. She disagrees that marriage can exist between two people of the same sex. I agree with her.” But, Baker maintained, “the state of Kentucky has little choice other than to respect the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Who else agrees with that statement? None other than Donald Trump, who called the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges “the law of the land.”

Trump’s perch atop the GOP field is, of course, driving his adversaries in search of a potent boost from the fractured evangelical base. At yesterday’s rally, a Huckabee aide did the Christ-like thing of blocking Ted Cruz from a key photo opportunity with Davis; after all, the Bible does say those polling in the single-digits shall reap the glory of exploitative publicity stunts.

While Trump’s summertime standing with evangelicals was thought to be a blip, it has persisted into September—along with continued analyses of why. “Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Obama administration and of Republican Party leaders has many social conservatives cheering for him,” the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Writing on the Fox News website, Robert Jeffress, the Texas megachurch pastor who in 2011 called Mormonism a “cult,” maintains, “No Evangelical I know is expecting Trump to lead our nation in a spiritual revival.” But, he goes on, President Barack Obama has “drastically lowered the threshold of spiritual expectations Evangelicals have of their president. No longer do they require their president to be one of them. Evangelicals will settle for someone who doesn’t HATE them like the current occupant of the Oval Office appears to.”

Do evangelicals need Kim Davis, political motivator? She may very well have missed her moment.

  • lsomers

    Kim Davis is a throwback to the Middle Ages and period of the Reformation and Counter Reformation when every Christian knew that their was the only way and if you didn’t agree it was the rack or the stake and flames for you. I had hoped that most Christians had moved past that period, but clearly they have not. Mike Hustleberry is only seeking to identify with the nearly and clearly deranged Christian Taliban or ISIS. The USA has a Constitution that guarantees all of us to be free from some government official trying to impose their religious views on us. She is a symbol of what is rightfully Christian shame. As for the Bible – she clearly only believes the parts made up by the Right Wing. While Jesus had nothing to say about g/l/b/t people, he had plenty to say about marriage and divorce – HE CONDEMED IT – clearly, openly and without reservation. So Davis is just another fraudulent, hypocritical pseudo-Christian.

  • Whiskyjack

    There’s one part of this story that puzzles me:

    Mike Huckabee reminded us at yesterday’s rally in Grayson, Kentucky, that Davis came to Christ just four and a half years ago.

    My understanding is that Davis was a Baptist before this sudden conversion. Don’t they count as Christians any more? What exactly is involved in a conversion from Baptist to “Christianity?” Don’t Baptists “come to Christ?”

  • Kathy English

    I have noticed this many times, the Born Agains preempting the term Christian.
    The vast majority of Christians are not much like the right wingers.

  • Burnt Orange

    There are over 3,000 counties in the USA. One county has a radical assigned to issue marriage licenses. Suddenly she becomes a symbol for every Christian in the country. This women and her actions don’t even represent 1/10 of 1 % of the American public but the media now has a straw man that allows them to ridicule all religious people everywhere. Kim Davis is a throwback to another era and her so-called conscience is just an excuse giving her center stage in this ongoing narrative of Christian intolerance so favored by the liberal press.
    Liberals love individuals who involve their conscience when refusing to enter the military and allow others to defend them and be killed and injured but when this right is excised, rightly or wrongly, in an area of carrying out public policy they react like it is the end of civilization.

  • Jim Reed

    She has Republican presidential candidates rushing to hold her up and praise her, and even volunteer to go to jail for her next time. Doesn’t that count for something? Those Republican presidential candidates are probably the best and strongest Christians in the nation. Who else would you use as the example Christian?

  • Jim Reed

    We will continue to have problems as long as the majority of Christians continue to vote for right wingers.

  • Jim Reed

    Isn’t Mike Huckabee a Southern Baptist?

  • Burnt Orange

    If MOST Christians believed and acted like you seem to think they do people like you would be treated just like ISIL treats non-believers. Your language and attitude mark you as as intolerant and backwards as those you would condemn.
    Then you mark Davis as a pseudo-Christian. Which is it? Are MOST Christians like Davis as you state or is she a faux Christian? BTW she is a symbol of NOTHING but an individuals misguided personal interpretation of some religious dogma. Using her as a cudgel to beat-up on religion in general is just so chic of you.

  • Robert Burke

    Isn’t RD über Socialistic, supported by whom?

  • ATF45

    I do not think it is so clear that a federal judge had other options, or at least other options that would have not done more to inflame the situation rather than bring some breathing space. At this point, the real solutions are in the hands of the State of Kentucky and its legislature. Or, in the hands of Kim Davis, who should resign since she refuses to do the job for which she was elected and is paid. In the meantime, under the conditions initiated by the judge, licenses are being issued. Admittedly, Kim Davis, now free, could again order her clerks not to issue the licenses and I do wonder at that point what really happens if some of her subordinates refuse to follow that instruction. She could fire them, even if Judge Bunning then sends her back to jail.

    The “other options” link refers to a section of Kentucky law that provides for the “county judge/executive to issue licenses “in the absence of the county clerk, or during a vacancy in the office…” The “absence of the county clerk” was clearly arranged by Judge David Bunning – she was “absent” while in jail. Putting her in jail was necessary to trigger the application of that section of Kentucky law. Judge Bunning could then have made the point that it was now up to the county judge/executive. I suspect he did NOT do that because it would only be up to the county judge/executive as long as the county clerk (Kim Davis) was in jail. Triggering that portion of Kentucky law would have required Judge Bunning to keep Davis in jail.

    While Judge Bunning secured the cooperation of other clerks in that office to issue marriage licenses, I have to wonder if he did not do what he did to give her a chance to change her behavior. If Davis raises a ruckus again, he can slap her back in jail and make that point about Kentucky law devolving the obligation on the county judge/executive. The Rowan County Judge/Executive is Walter “Doc” Blevins, “who had expressed willingness to issue the licenses on an equal basis.” Of course, it still only works while Davis is in jail.

    Frankly, I just wish the governor would allow a special session so the legislature could make whatever accommodations they are going to make. I don’t like “accommodations” either but that really is up to the State of Kentucky, as long as the marriage licenses get issued to all who qualify under the law of this land.

  • Jeff G
  • Geoff Martineau

    Whaaa? Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are “probably the best and strongest Christians in the nation”? It would seem you know few actual Christians. If you asked every (self-identified) Christian in America that question, you would likely have millions of answers, and very few would be a politician.

  • andrew123456789

    I’m with you, though I think 1/10th of 1% is a drastic understatement. Definitely the minority, but not a teensy minority.

  • Rmj

    Never heard the joke about the new arrival to heaven who is shown around by St. Peter, and they start whispering as they pass a stadium from which loud cheering can be heard?
    When asked who they are, St. Peter whispers “Those are the Baptists, They think they’re the only ones here!”

    Of course, you can substitute any number of Christian denominations in there.

  • Rmj

    Well, I suppose they are, if we measure by their ability to get publicity for themselves, and to proclaim themselves superior to others.

    Which ain’t exactly Christian humility, so there’s that…..

  • andrew123456789

    My understanding, based entirely on hearsay (I don’t live in Kentucky and haven’t researched this), is that the Kentucky legislature is in no way disposed to go against Davis, just as the county electorate to which Davis is beholden likely to vote her out. It’s a strange political mess. Again, putting this out there in case it is relevant; I am not working from anything other than one radio host’s comments.

  • Jim Reed

    So who is the example Christian? Is there anyone who you would select to be better than Huckabee?

  • AustinRocks

    Kim Davis supporters have a hard time answering this question:

    Do you believe Christian clerks have the right to deny a marriage license to an interracial couple, due to religious beliefs?

  • ATF45

    I think the Kentucky legislature would work to find an “accommodation” for those poor people who are so abused by having to follow the law and issue licenses to LGBT couples. Whether it would be a reasonable accommodation, one that balances the rights of all citizens with the religious rights of a government worker – that is a big question. There is no question in my mind that some would be swinging the scythe with gleeful abandon, cutting down grape vines while aiming at making hay. But it is also possible that Kentucky can come up with a reasonable solution to what is apparently a problem in a number of states.

    Of course, I think the solution is that elected officials who won’t do their jobs should be impeached and removed from office if they won’t resign. Elected officials have a special responsibility under the law. In this day and age of Taliban and ISIS implementing religious “law” I hardly want the U.S. to follow their example. Accommodations can be made for those who are not elected.

  • How about the nun that runs the local inner city school? Or the pastor who maintains the local homeless shelter?

    I mean, are you serious with this question?

  • Jim Reed

    The point is there is lots of big name famous Christians. Would any of them be a good representative of Christianity? All the ones I can think of, the answer would have to be, don’t be fucking crazy. The best you can do is come up with a non-list, like the generic nun in an inner city school.

  • I’m thinking about actual people, actually.

  • Meg Griffin

    The legalization of gay marriage nationwide was a step towards equality in the United States. It is about two people who love each other being able to share a life together. Key word, love. The Bible says “Jesus is love.” Kim Davis is ignorant and I don’t think that she is living for God.

  • mk

    One man and one woman in one marriage no matter what the race. Interracial marriage is not barred by scripture. The abomination of the sodomites is. See, question answered. No hard.

  • AustinRocks

    You didn’t answer the question. Thanks for proving Kim Davis supporters have a very hard time with that question.

  • nightgaunt

    Kim Davis isn’t even acting Biblically since it says nothing about accommodating such just in condemning them. So she has no legal, Constitutional or Biblical leg to stand on. Just her own institutionalized hatred she wishes to call “religious” and failure to do what she was elected to do. She needs to be called down on her own reasoning as well to show she just needs to do her job or quit.

  • nightgaunt

    We are not under Biblical law. I know you want to be. But the rest of us don’t. Its narrow minded vicious police state mentality is on display in the Middle East.

  • nightgaunt

    “Jesus is love” till the Apocalypse where he is to come on a white stallion waving a flaming sword to slay thousands at a swipe. Then he’s a killing machine.

  • PorlockJunior

    Just for the record:
    When I was kid (60 years ago) it was the Catholics.

  • PorlockJunior

    Some people seem not to be aware of what the Bible explicitly says was the sin for which Sodom was punished. It’s right there in the words of th Prophet Ezekiel, And it is not *stated* specifically anywhere else.

    When I say “specifically”, I mean saying something like “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom” – rather than telling a tale from which certain interpreters infer some lesson or other. Call this Biblical literalism if you want.

    Since Ezekiel’s explicit statement is entirely safe for work (*) I reproduce it here:

    “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of
    bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters,
    neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
    –Ezekiel 16:49

    That’s the King James translation. A person who has read the original text in the original language informs me that somethng like this is closer:

    “Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters
    had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support
    the poor and needy. ”

    Holman Christian Standard Bible, and similarly with other editions. This is preferable in that the Hebrew does not imply that there is something *wrong* with having wealth; just that not using it properly is deeply sinful. Rather less socialistic than the attitude of the King James, don’t you think?

    (*) Not applicable if your employer is a religious nut who thinks his favorite not-quite-Biblical interpretation is the Word of God.

  • Evan Derkacz

    Hi MuskogeeOkie, the confusion is understandable, but that’s not Davis’ church. See the editor’s note at the bottom of this post:

    http://religiondispatches.org/kentucky-court-clerk-a-professing-apostolic-christian-questions-legal-authority/

  • George M Melby

    Kim Davis is an anomaly even today, as the religious right must have their small piece of meat (SSM) to gnaw on, while the majority has found the mother lode of sirloin (true freedom of religion for ALL people!). May Mssss. Kimmy RIP in her sty!

  • George M Melby

    Looks like you aren’t on the right side of this argument. Growing up single can’t be fun…?! Ms. (4X married) Kimmy is no Christian! christian, yes! There is a big difference between “C” and “c.” She is a charter member of the AcT (American christian Taliban!).

  • George M Melby

    C’mon, Jim… you must be joking?!

  • George M Melby

    The man is a politician, fer cryin’ out loud! And masquerading as a minister of God, fer Pete’s sake! There are thousands of Christian ministers that would put ol’ Huck to shame! You must be one of “them,” lol.

  • George M Melby

    At this point she’s merely living for her own self-glory and has been 1000% successful!

  • George M Melby

    FINALLY, somebody “gets” it right! Sex had nothing to do with the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah! Greed and very poor habits of hospitality were the main, and only cause!

  • George M Melby

    Yes, but it’s a long, hard road, lolol. I retired as a Baptist minister 7 years ago, and the next Sunday I was in the Mennonite Church-USA for good… never looked back. Those Baptists are toxic, lolol. I truly left ‘Baptist’ behind and became a better Christian!

  • George M Melby

    Yes! Let sleeping, flea-infested dogs lie… don’t wake them up!

  • Jim Reed

    You could name great politicians who you admire and who have big accomplishments. You can name great baseball players. Or great engineers running rocket companies. It is not so easy to name great Christians. Doesn’t that seem strange? Maybe the problem is anyone who is greatly admired, like the pope, is also greatly distrusted and disliked because Christendom is so politically fractured. This discussion might not lead anywhere, but it is still worth having so that we can see once more just how screwed up Christianity now is. Jesus won’t be coming, so it will have to just continue to get more screwed up until it hits some breaking point. The fun is trying to guess ahead of time what that will be.

  • NancyP

    I don’t know – Jimmy Carter seems to be a reasonable Christian. So far as I am concerned, a solid attempt to live by Christian principles is good enough, who needs “great”. He helps out the Habitat for Humanity organization, speaks up for the value of peace, teaches Sunday School. The current pope seems good enough, within the limitations of the Catholic Church (which are many). The overwhelming problem of religion is failure to recognize that other people may have perfectly workable ethical systems that differ significantly from sectarian religious doctrine, lack of humility, and need for control of adherents and non-adherents alike. Ecumenism is seen as weakness too often.

  • NancyP

    For that matter, if she wanted to delegate responsibility for dealing with the gay public vis-a-vis marriage licenses, fine, that’s what the deputy clerks (5 willing employees, 1 unwilling employee/son) are for. The whole thing sounds like an ego trip, not a principled objection, for Davis.

  • Jim Reed

    So there are some example good Christians. Thanks.

  • EyeTee

    Or do they believe that a devout Roman Catholic clerk can deny a license to a previously divorced person?

  • ATF45

    NancyP – I agree with you. She would not allow the deputy clerks to issue the licenses before she went to jail. As far as I am concerned, she had an “accommodation” that is as far as an “accommodation” should go.

  • Re: “One county has a radical assigned to issue marriage licenses. Suddenly she becomes a symbol for every Christian in the country. This women and her actions don’t even represent 1/10 of 1 % of the American public but the media now has a straw man that allows them to ridicule all religious people everywhere.”

    Sorry but that “1/10 of 1 %” thing is way off. Something like 25% of the country is evangelical/fundamentalist Christian of a sort similar to Davis. Many of those folk agree with and support her. She has entire Christian organizations lined up behind her, including her lawyers at Liberty Counsel. She’s gotten the support of the Oath Keepers militia … among others.

    Re: “Kim Davis is a throwback to another era and her so-called conscience is just an excuse giving her center stage in this ongoing narrative of Christian intolerance so favored by the liberal press.”

    If Ms Davis doesn’t represent this supposedly-massive majority of “tolerant” Christians, why have they not corrected her yet? Which of you has shown up to her house to confront her, explain why she’s wrong, and demand she amend her ways? She hasn’t been subject to any discipline or correction by any of her fellow Christians. None of them are doing anything to make her change. Not. A. Single. One. Of. Them.

    The thing is, if it were really true that only “1/10 of 1 %” of Christians thought like her, it’d be trivial for the rest to marginalize them and essentially stomp them out. They literally could not continue to exist if such a vast majority didn’t tolerate them. Lunatic fringes can only persist if they’re allowed to persist … and that can happen only if enough people not in the fringe actually sympathize with them. That’s where this all boils down: There are lots of Christians who might, themselves, not have done what Ms Davis did, but who actually think highly of her because she did. They’re the real problem, and I suspect those folk comprise nearly all of the 25% or so of Americans who’re evangelical/fundamentalists.

    Re: “The public gloating about this individuals struggle presupposes that she is some kind of attention seeking, hate driven head case rather then a misguided over zealous individual.”

    But she IS a wannabe martyr for Jesus! That’s what this whole thing has been about. She wants to cash in on this … by going on the evangelical Christian lecture circuit, selling a memoir in Christian bookstores, by becoming a Christian pundit on radio, TV or both. She might even establish a ministry. She’s being guided by people (e.g. Mat Staver) who’ve done precisely this, themselves.

  • Bee Wald

    I completely agree. This article has made me realize that disregarding any objections, change in inevitable, especially if it does not hurt anyone, Though some conservatives may not think that the change is proper, if it is the matter of people’s lives, it should not be objected.

  • Jim Reed

    It’s not a question scripture can answer. Scripture is one of the answers that would have been given centuries ago.

  • Jim Reed

    No, the fall was about angels and some of the most bizarre wrath of God events ever written.

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  • cranefly

    That doesn’t answer the question at all. The question is what about a clerk of another religion besides yours, that opposes interracial marriage? It has been known. The Mormon Church officially opposed interracial marriage until 1978. The Catholic Church officially opposes remarriage after divorce. Do they get the same freedom to deny other people rights and follow only the laws they like?

  • cranefly

    It seems that most Christians do not consider most other Christians to be Christian. I’ve heard a lot of these conversion narratives, where the Christian goes from some mechanical churchgoing lifestyle to being truly born again.

    It helps them feel like a persecuted minority in a 70% Christian nation.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Hmm…that’s very interesting,Mr.Melby.I’m guessing that we’ll have to assume that you didn’t think the Baptists were “toxic”when YOU were one; what brought about the big turnaround? And for the record(and not to pick on the Mennonites;I’m certain that they’re far more humble than YOU seem to be),I searched the Scriptures and I couldn’t find the concept of any given denominational construct making one a “better”Christian–I always thought that that was the Holy Spirit’s job.Perhaps you could enlighten me.I await your reply.–PEACE IN CHRIST, ALWAYS!

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Judgemental much,Melby?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sure,the Scriptures say many things about Jesus the Christ,Meg.Your point is what,exactly?

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Wow,Melby…Your devolvement is hastening at a rapid clip.Ms.Davis is a pig,now,misguided though she may be? Is that the product of Mennonite teaching? WOW!

  • George M Melby

    Count your blessings!!! I was being nice!

  • George M Melby

    The “fall?” has what to do with Sodom and Gomorrah? Hmmmm.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    I don’t have to count any blessings,sir; if it’s your intent to display how boorish,vile,and viciously mean-spirited and judgmental you can be,well-congratulations-you’ve succeeded.How very sad,even for an ex-Baptist,now a Mennonite(Really?).

  • Jim Reed

    The downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah. That is what I was responding to. The Sodom and Gomorrah story is about angels, and some truly bizarre stuff, some of the most bizarre Biblical events south of the book of Revelation.

  • George M Melby

    Comment noted… DISmissed!

  • mk

    I am a practicing Christian and there are no scriptures that support homosexuality. The gays have a bible too. You all delete all scriptures that you do not like. I read the KJV and have all of my life. You all should stay away from using the bible as justification for your actions and beliefs and use your man made entities. People like me know it far more better than people like you.