Southern Baptists Bail on Kentucky Clerk, Kim Davis

A fish rots from the head, down – The ancient Turkish people, as quoted in James Porter’s Observation on the Religion, Law, Government and Manners of the Turks, 1768.

A great number of Christians are supporting Kim Davis for obeying her conscience and honoring her oath of office by upholding the laws of the commonwealth of Kentucky. Both Southern Baptist presidential primary candidates, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, were outside the jail to greet Davis upon her release. Conservative Christian pundits like Focal Point’s Brian Fischer and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins have defended Davis for doing her job – submitting to the Kentucky State Constitution which bans gay marriage, in an Amendment that, like the Defense of Marriage Act, was not struck down by the Supreme Court’s judicial precedent in Obergfell v Hodges.

As united as conservative evangelicalism seems to be, however, Kim Davis is not without her detractors. The chief detractor among “conservative” (a word that is quickly losing meaning) Christians is the head ethicist of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore. Moore, who runs the 7 million dollar budget, Cooperative Program-funded Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has made it very clear that Kim Davis should have resigned from her position rather than continue to faithfully execute the requirements of her office.

…we must recognize the crucial difference between the religious liberty claims of private citizens and government officials. Let us be clear: Government employees are entitled to religious liberty, but religious liberty is never an absolute claim, especially when it comes to discharging duties that the office in question requires. While government employees don’t lose their constitutional protection simply because they work for the government, an individual whose office requires them to uphold or execute the law is a separate matter than the private citizen whose conscience is infringed upon as a result of the law. It means the balancing test is different when it comes to government officials because of their roles as agents of the state. Government officials have a responsibility to carry out the law. When an official can no longer execute the laws in question due to an assault on conscience, and after all accommodating measures have been exhausted, he or she could work for change as a private citizen, engaging the democratic process in hopes of changing the questionable law.

Moore, who has called Jesus an illegal alien in his push for amnesty, advocated “creation care” environmentalism, who has appointed a gay-affirming feminist who endorses gay and pornographic propaganda as an ERLC research fellow, and says we should attend gay wedding celebrations, for some reason thinks that law was been changed, annulled or created by the Supreme Court on June 26th. How someone as educated at Moore repeatedly presumes that there is a “law” somewhere that Davis has yet to obey or that the Supreme Court issues law is an embarrassing blight upon the SBC’s main smarty-pants on ethical and governmental issues. It seems that a review of this epic School House Rock video on how laws are created might be in order for Moore.

Laughably, Moore tosses the idea that Davis might want to work as a private citizen, engaging the democratic process in hopes of “changing the questionable law.” Would someone pleeeease inform Moore that there is no “law” that needs to be changed? In fact, the populace voted to change the Kentucky State Constitution with Amendment 1, banning gay marriage. And lest someone insinuate it’s unconstitutional, it’s in the Constitution…as an amendment. It’s hard to get more Constitutional than been written into the Constitution. One wonders what on earth Moore is thinking, that the “law” needs to be changed. The law is already there. It just needs to be followed, and local officials need to remind the federal courts of the 9th and 10th Amendments and tell them to go pound sand.

It seems like Southern Baptist pastors across the denomination are following Moore’s example, and castigating Davis, throwing this long-haired Apostolic Kentuckian under the bus in the name of nuanced enlightenment and just a dash of Romans 13. An SBC pastor named Russell Williams wrote this on his Facebook page and soon received about 50k shares.

Since I am a pastor of a southern Baptist church please allow me to weigh in on the case of Kim Davis, the lady in Kentucky who refuses to issue a marriage licenses to a same sex couple.

First: This is not a case of the government forcing anyone to violate their religious belief. She is free to quit her job. If she quits her job to honor God surely God would take care of her.

Second: This is not a case of someone trying to uphold the sanctity of marriage. If she wanted to uphold the sanctity of marriage she should not have been married four different times. If she is worried about her name being affixed to a marriage license that goes against a biblical definition of marriage, she should not have her name on the last three marriage licenses given to her.

Third: This seems to be a case of someone looking to cash in on the religious right. Churches all across the south will throw money at her to come and tell congregations how the evil American government put her in jail because of her faith in Jesus.

This is why we are losing.
This is why people have such disdain for evangelicals.
Not because we disagree but because we don’t take the bible seriously. If ever there was a case of “he who is without sin cast the first stone”, this is it. If ever there was a “take the log out of your eye” moment, this is it.

We must stop looking to the government to make America a Christian utopia. Our kingdom is not of this world.
We must abandon all thoughts of fixing others and let Jesus fix us.
If we want sanctity of marriage then stop cheating, stop having affairs, stop looking at porn, stop getting divorces. That is the way for the church to stand up for the biblical definition of marriage, not by someone martyring their self-righteous self.

I responded to William’s HuffPo Religion Blog-esque trashing of Kim Davis in today’s podcast (click here, fast-forward to the 41.03 mark). Aside from attacking her pre-conversion divorces (yes, she’s a modalist – that’s another story) and impugning her motives as being profit motivated with no evidence whatsoever, Williams, like Moore, seems to be utterly oblivious as to how the American governmental system is designed to operate and how elected officials at the county level provide checks and balances to other branches of the government hell-bent on tyrannical usurpation of political power.

Pittsburg Theological Seminary professor, Robert Gagnon (who has been stellar on the topic of sodomy and has provided several good responses to Russell Moore’s capitulation) provided his own response to Williams…

Here is an example of a Southern Baptist pastor who, despite the over 50,000 shares of his post, has unwittingly encouraged the dark side to deprive Christians of their religious liberties and drive them out of the public and political marketplace, as well as to undermine the foundation of marriage and promote a patently illicit ruling by five despotic and lawless “Justices.”

First, when the government says to anyone, “Do this or resign your job; otherwise we’ll throw you in jail,” that counts in the minds of most rational observers as coercion.

Second, while Kim Davis’s divorces are indeed unfortunate, it is absurd to argue that standing against the egregious immorality of “gay marriage” has nothing to do with upholding the sanctify of marriage. Moreover, there is the mitigating circumstance that (according to a Baptist Press article) she converted to Christianity after her most recent divorce in 2008.

More importantly, by this pastor’s logic, a person who has been divorced and remarried should not stand against government validation of even greater immoralities than divorce/remarriage, including adult-consensual polyamory or incest, and worse. This pastor shows no awareness of the fact that Jesus’ views on divorce/remarriage were predicated on a male-female foundation for sexual relations. Homosexual practice is a direct violation of that foundation, making it worse than even polyamory and remarriage after invalid divorce. Accommodations to less severe offenses do not justify accommodations to greater offenses (Gagnon’s full response, much more lengthy, can be found here).

Exhibit C in Southern Baptists ditching Kim Davis, along with their longtime friends, Religious Liberty and Conservative Christianity (they’re great folks, you should meet them), is James MacDonald. MacDonald, who joined the SBC this year, is one of the most prominent and well known Southern Baptists in the convention (albeit he may not be known as a Southern Baptist). At his website, MacDonald writes…

Government employees cannot make their own rules any more than church employees can. We would defend a church’s right to dismiss an employee for any form of persistent immorality or lawlessness. Can Kim Davis, in refusing to obey the U.S. law under which her employer is organized, be terminated? If she loses her job for her stand, she has my admiration, even though I would not counsel someone to do what she has done. It might have been better, maybe, if she simply resigned in writing, stating her convictions and rationale for refusing to do her job. What if she had gathered her employees in a meeting, shared her faith in Christ and her convictions about the Bible, then quit? As she asserts her citizen rights, is she portraying Jesus accurately? Do the two people seeking a same-sex marriage license have a clearer picture of the gospel of God’s grace to us in Christ, because of Kim’s chosen course of action? 

Lost on MacDonald, as it is with Moore and Williams, is that Davis is no mere employee. She is an elected official who is her own supervisor, manager and boss, who can only be removed from office by congressional impeachment or the will of We The People in the next election. Her job description is her oath of office, which is to uphold the laws of Kentucky, which ban gay marriage and by the preamble of the US Constitution cannot be annulled by the Supreme Court. MacDonald’s Jesus is apparently a reed shaking in the wind, insinuating that it was unchristlike for Davis to stand for her convictions and keep doing her job in the face of tyranny.

There was once a time when Southern Baptists, with emphasis on Southern, understood the limitations of federal power and the concept of state’s rights written into the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Constitution. There was once a time when our chief ethicist thought about things ethically instead of through the lens of political expediency. There was once a time when we weren’t limp-wristed, nuanced debutants looking to have our glamor shot on the cover of Christianity Today and championed a hard-scrabble, scuff-knuckled Christianity. Long gone are those days. They’ve been replaced with days full of Starbucks lattes and fanboys whose loyalties are paid for with Cooperative Program dollars doled out by a man with a quarter-million dollar salary who lectures the rest of us conservative neanderthals about making him look bad.

In the mean time, there’s a lady over there in Kentucky who’s being supported by our politicians because, for once, politicians have more guts than our pastors.

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[Editor’s Note: For more P&P articles on Russell Moore, click here]

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JD Hall

JD Hall, pastor, dad, husband, writer, etc...

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