Kim Davis may not have a legal leg to stand on (see here, and here). But I think some Christians are moving too quickly to critique her situation on a purely legal basis.
We are Christians first, before we are Americans. So before we start talking about whether this is a good religious liberty case, or not, before we start distancing our educated selves from her simple faith, and before we take to the internet to show the liberal gestapo that we really are for the “rule of law” and that Kim Davis is a simpleton of a Christian who should have resigned before embarrassing us Christians—let's just step back from this fog and think with a faithful mind.
Maybe it's because I live out here in Arizona, away from power elites, or maybe it's because I am a recent convert to Catholicism that I find myself empathizing with Kim Davis. We who have been Christians of one stripe or another for our entire lives underestimate the power of conversion. But this is exactly what God used in the first few centuries to build his Church and set the world on fire for Jesus Christ.
Kim Davis is acting upon her conscience, which informs her that participation directly (signing marriage licenses) or indirectly (allowing her staff to sign marriage licenses) in a sinful act (men marrying men and women marrying women) is a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1778, quoting John Henry Cardinal Newman says:
Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.
I do not know Ms. Davis's ecclesial affiliation, but it is likely that she owes a heritage to Martin Luther, whose career and legacy pivoted on his conviction that, “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”
The second paragraph of Dignitatis Humanae states that every human person has a right to religious freedom, and that this right is founded upon the dignity of the human person, and this dignity is known to us “through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.”
This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
We can certainly explore the meaning of the phrase “within due limits,” but it doesn't take much Christian thinking to see how Kim Davis can believe herself to be acting in accordance with God's moral law which is now written on her heart as a convert.
The reality is that Kim Davis was not premeditating any legal machinations. Kim Davis is being driven by her conversion, by her zeal and love for God. Her awakening to her past sinful life coupled with her present desire to live in obedience to every jot and tittle should drive us to say “thank you Jesus for the witness to faith,” rather than wishing she would just offer a little incense to Caesar and go back to obscurity already.
Luma Simms is the author of Gospel Amnesia. Follow her @lumasimms.
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