As a Christian, it is incredibly frustrating to stand by and watch as my faith continues to be hijacked and used as a tool to promote bigotry and hypocrisy.
The latest example of this manipulation of the gospel is Kim Davis in Kentucky — the county clerk who has repeatedly refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite that her job requires her to do so. Davis claims she is acting under God's authority and cannot violate her conscience by allowing her name to appear on a marriage licence for two persons of the same sex.
It's interesting to note, however, that her Christian conscience did not dictate she resign from her $80,000-a-year-salary job. Instead, "God's authority" has led Davis to noncompliance with the oath of office she, ironically, took before God. (It's also interesting her Christian conscience does not appear to have played a role in her decision to divorce three times over the years.)
A judge ruled she was breaking the law and held her in contempt of court, which resulted in her arrest. After spending five nights in jail, Davis emerged to a circus-like spectacle orchestrated by the media and right-wing conservative Christians, including Republican presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz.
"I think it is a God of miracles that we saw act in getting Kim Davis out of jail. But her being in jail brought attention to something that many of us have warned about: the criminalization of Christianity," Huckabee said.
As they rally around her, Davis' supporters keep confounding the reason for her arrest and accusing the court of violating her First Amendment right to practice freedom of religion. Let's be clear, Kim Davis was not arrested for practicing her religion, she was arrested for refusing to perform the lawful duties of her elected position.
I recently read a blog post from a fellow Christian that denounced Davis and used a phrase I haven't been able to get out of my head. The author called her actions "manufactured martyrdom."
As someone who is familiar with the Bible, one of the first people I think of when I hear the word martyr is Stephen, whose story is told in the book of Acts. He was one of Jesus' early followers who ended up getting stoned to death by an angry mob for preaching the gospel. His last words before dying? "Lord do not hold this sin against them."
While I disagree with Davis' interpretation of scripture, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she, in good conscience, believes issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple violates her religious principles. However, unlike Stephen, who was humbly willing to pay the ultimate price for his strongly held Christian beliefs, Davis is essentially using her faith to harness media attention and political influence.
There is nothing sacrificial about walking out of detention into a crowd of adoring fans and flashing cameras while "Eye of the Tiger" plays in the background. Spending five days in jail, when it creates this sort of high-profile frenzy around your cause is not martyrdom and it doesn't resemble Jesus in the least. Pure speculation here, but I'm guessing Jesus' taste in music was probably a bit more understated.
If Kim Davis really wants to demonstrate her unwillingness to compromise her faith, she should resign from her job. She should humbly give up her position and forego her salary, then she would actually be paying a price for acting according to her Christian conscience.
As I looked at the images of Kim Davis' rally for support in Kentucky, I once again recalled the story of Stephen in my mind. I realized the real comparison to be made isn't between Stephen and the supposed martyrdom of Kim Davis, but between the two angry mobs. While Davis' supporters may not have been throwing literal stones, their actions are causing irreparable damage to American Christianity. Those images of Christians walking around waving Confederate flags and carrying signs condemning people to hell are killing Jesus and his message of love, forgiveness and hope. Every time people representing my religion make a callous comment, like how AIDS is God's punishment for "the homosexual lifestyle," I feel like I've been pelted with a stone.
It is difficult, and often enraging, to watch this play out. Part of me wants to throw stones right back at them, but then I think about Stephen, take a deep breath and pray with all of my might, "Lord do not hold this sin against them."