For those discriminating readers of similar distinguished tastes (and vintage) as myself, it is well-known that a singular powerful figure controls the official county business and approvals in a rural Kentucky county. Of course I speak of one “Boss” Hogg, the all-powerful county commissioner of Hazzard County, and extolled in the high-brow television series The Dukes of Hazzard. “Boss” controlled all the major government offices in his county, and there were no approvals of any official actions in the county without his authorization, and thus consistent with his aims. This position of local control made him quite wealthy. The only other power figures were his wife Lulu, who placed her brother Roscoe P. Coltrane as “Sheriff” since he could not acquire other work, and “Boss”s nephew Hughie, who had his own schemes. Another powerful figure venerated in the media was the legendary “Inspector 12” who had to approve each pair of Hanes underwear before they left the factory. As she powerfully stated in this Youtube-preserved commercial, “They don’t say ‘Hanes’ until I SAY they say ‘Hanes’!”
We find a similar situation in another rural Kentucky county – Rowan County. To consider the similarities we should first acquaint ourselves with its county clerk, Kim Davis. According to a 2011 article in the Morehead News, at the time Kim was an assistant county clerk, while the current county clerk (who set Kim’s wages) was Jean Bailey – her mother. Ms. Bailey was noted to have served 32 years in that position by that time, and served 3 more years to well exceed a third of a century in that taxpayer-paid position. Kim worked for her mother in that office for 24 of those years. This article notes that in this county of less than 23,000 people, in 2011 her mother had set her daughter’s taxpayer-funded annual wages at over $63,000, while the county Chief Deputy Sheriff was paid $38,000 and the Deputy-Judge executive $36,000. Jean expressed extreme disappointment that county residents had complained about the wages she had set for her daughter, and thought it was unfair.
As most of you certainly know, newly serving County Clerk (replacing her mother) Ms. Davis has been in the national news for not only refusing to issue county marriage licences to gays and lesbians in compliance with new law, but also refusing to issue any marriage licences to anyone in the county, and also forbidding any of her six assistant clerks to do so either, to the point of ignoring a court order and appearing before a judge, who could not fire her but had to jail her as the only legal recourse for an elected official who refused to perform the duties for demanded by law and for which they were paid. She declared it to be a case of “religious liberty” violation in inhibiting the expression of her views, and obtained legal counsel to represent her from the law firm Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Liberty University. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, five of the six deputy county clerks under her told the court that they would comply with the law and issue marriage certificates; the sixth deputy said he would not, who happened to be Nathan, her son who works for her in the office.
One could say that she was well experienced in the matter of the “sanctity of marriage” – in fact, four times, to be exact. The U.S. News and World Report magazine reported that Kim Davis had obtained four marriages and three husbands over a fourteen year period, and gave birth to twins five months after her first divorce, with the father being her third husband, and adopted by her second husband – all while she was working in the clerk’s office, defending “traditional marriage”. They further note that she was afraid that being involved in the approval of a gay marriage could send her to hell; obviously she feels that her multiple broken marital covenants and adultery can be forgiven, but not for merely acknowledging the marriage of another.
The New York Times noted that Ms. Davis told a couple outside the courthouse desiring a marriage certificate that she was denying them this request as a state official based upon “God’s authority”. A supporter of hers outside as well, 72-year-old Flavis McKinney, said that the longsuffering Ms. Davis reminded him of the prophet Daniel in the lion’s den.
The allusion to Daniel is an interesting one. I believe that Daniel is probably the most consistently pious and wise man of the entire Old Testament. The thing that distinguishes him from his peers was his ability to cheerfully work in a pagan society for a pagan leader and boss, work with pagan peers and serve pagan citizens. His Jewish faith was certainly more strict and socially exclusionary than that of the New Covenant Christian faith. Furthermore, his Jewish brethren were taken in hostile fashion to a faraway pagan land, and resided as a conquered minority. However, he was devoted to the success, prosperity and well-being of his pagan kings and nation he served – even Nebuchadnezzar, whose fate he feared for when prophesying. I am sure he was immersed in a place and city with pagan rites and talk going on all around him, but scripture suggests that he served them faithfully regardless, only offering resistance in a single case when his own personal worship of Jehovah would be compromised. Even then, he did not seek counsel, start a protest movement or a violent resistance; he calmly agreed to “pay the price”, without adding malice to their charges against him. When sent to apparent certain death in the lion’s den, he met the king’s inquiry the next morning from the bowels of the den with only a cheerful, “O King, live forever!”. His prayers were in contrition for the sins of his own religious community, and not for the pagan nation he served, nor calling curses upon them. Thus he was highly regarded in heaven, as well as the pagan nations he served – be they Babylon of their conqueror Persia – which led to their praise for the God of Daniel. Why is he not cited within this context as a role model by our American Christian leaders?
Jesus acknowledged the earthly jurisdiction of pagan nations and their leaders when He said to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is Gods” (Mark 12:17), as well as acknowledging that His kingdom was not of this world, lest His followers would fight for it (John 18:36). He saw earthly government as more of a distraction to be tolerated and not provoked, as he produced a coin from a fish’s mouth to pay their taxes to not resist the government (while a Christian leader in Florida has sat in a jail for not doing the same). When Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman with “marriage sanctity issues” like Ms. Davis, he did not continue to chide her or protest her while in such state, but rather focused on giving her the “living water” she truly needed. Jesus told soldiers employed by and serving the State not to use the State power to advance the agenda of the Church and Kingdom, but rather to not do violence, not do unjustly and to be content with your wages (Luke 3:14).
Paul had some guidance concerning sexually immoral behavior that was going on in the church in Corinth that was so bad that even the pagans complained. But regarding the local church and its Christian members interacting with the greater community and its lifestyle “issues”, he said:
“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.” (1 Cor. 5: 9-13 KJV)
Paul is telling these Christians to hold to standards amongst those equally yoked to Christ within their own body, but not to judge the world itself in these matters, rather leaving it to God Himself. He further recommends that they cavort with some of the worst “sinners” of their society, just like their Founder Jesus before, because of the Church’s mandate from Him to “go out into the world”, which means one will be exposed to such behavior and values. If we followed Paul’s guidance here to “not judge the world”, it would eliminate the missions of most para-church organizations, and eliminate the “culture wars”, and most other “wars”.
The Apostle Peter also gave advice on the proper circumstances for Christians to endure persecution, as well as the improper:
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1 Peter 4:14-15, KJV)
It is interesting to note that Christ never directed His followers into a “culture war” against the Roman State to transform it as a tool to accomplish Kingdom business, nor the conquering of the “Seven Mountains” of societal influence to dominate over the wishes of those not yoked to Christ; His Apostles likewise do not mention any such directives, unlike most of our prominent American Christian leaders.
I imagine Ms. Davis is a sincere follower of Christ, and is trying to follow Him the best she knows how, along with her many hangups like we all have. She is also probably genuinely thinking she is bravely being a “soldier for Christ” and a martyr, while also motivated by other cultural and historical aversions to homosexuality which cause many Christians to take a harder line on this issue compared to similar ones. She is also likely going to be exploited as a partially-witting tool of those “Christian” zealots who seek to accomplish those societal objectives mentioned in the last paragraph in opposition to the stated methods of Christ and His Apostles, which if followed would keep the American Church in “good report” with the society it is called to minister to and reach.
Nowhere in the Bible is authority granted for a third person to have the power to “grant” or permit or refuse a covenant between two consenting people, of sufficient mental capacity and judgment and without fraud discovered between the two parties, and which does not conflict with other covenants they are subject to; neither does the State. The role of any third party, if any, is merely to witness the covenant they made at the time, if its occurrence were to be placed in doubt by others, or even disputed later between the two; the role of the State similarly is to document such transactions, their basic structure, parties and date and to confirm that it is not in conflict with other covenants either party is privy to (to the extent of State knowledge and records), with the purpose to judiciously resolve possible later disputes. When the Department of Motor Vehicles acknowledges a transaction between buyer and seller in the trade of a car, we know it is not acceptable for the clerk to withhold the granting of the new title subject to their personal approval of the wisdom of both parties in making their private decision to covenant together. The moral acceptability of the nature of a covenant between two parties in terms of permitting it is not the jurisdiction of the State nor even the Church (both of whom would have prevented mix-race marriages a mere generation ago based on moral grounds), the latter being only authorized to discipline members by disassociation for outward Bible-specified sinful behavior while in their own ranks, and for the limited jurisdiction of its own activities. The ultimate “approval” or “disapproval” of a covenant is between the two parties and God Himself; otherwise, many churches would not even grant approval of marriages even between those of differing religious denominations (or remarriages, like with Ms. Davis)! Why voluntarily give up the ancient, God-given right of two people to covenant together without interference from third parties, and transfer such a sacred right to the State or the Church? Thus, I believe this recent public incident that is the subject of this article is not one of the moral acceptability of homosexual marriage, but a case of the personal abuse of governmental and institutional power.
It appears to me that Ms. Davis, like many, thinks her taxpayer-paid civil position is somehow “sacred” because of her residence in it, and rather than doing the business of the taxpayers she was elected to serve to honor the laws their elected representatives passed and the judges appointed by them, she feels that it offers her the authority of endorsing or rejecting state-sanctioned marriages based upon her personal perception of the moral acceptability of the circumstances surrounding it. This is a power not enumerated in her state’s constitution or elsewhere for her position, or for anyone else for that matter. How would we fare if a Seventh Day Adventist bureaucrat forbid the rest of us to worship on Sundays, which they find “offensive”, or a Jewish one prohibiting the public display of a cross for similar reasons? What if some of you who like to down a beer or glass of wine from time to time were forbidden to by a strict Baptist in a state or local office, for their own conscience sake? Better yet – what if Ms. Davis had been denied her fourth marriage license by a good Christian clerk who rightly saw the history of adultery and string of broken marital covenants in her past?
I submit that Ms. Davis, no matter how well-intentioned, is just another “Boss Hogg” over Rowan County, or “Inspector 12”.