14 September 2015

The Travails of a Babylonian Bureaucrat

This of course is a reference to the County Clerk in Kentucky who has chosen to refuse all marriage licenses in light of the Supreme Court decision in June 2015. She was found to be in contempt of court and imprisoned for several days. Further confrontations are expected. She has been trumpeted as a hero/martyr by the American Evangelical community. Secular society views her as a nonconformist bigot and villain.

Sodomite marriage is a sinful travesty but Davis is probably not a Christian and she and those who support her are in the wrong.

Kim Davis has chosen to work for Babylon. If you want to work for the sword and serve as part of the sword-mechanism regulating society, then you must follow its rules or face its wrath.

Is she's a Christian then she shouldn't have the job to begin with. This is of course unacceptable to Dominionist theology or any Sacralist impulse which demands the whole of society is to be subjugated to religious rule or at the very least syncretised with it. This theology demands that all spheres of society are to be Christianised... whatever that means. The Scriptures do not utilize these categories and the philosophical assumptions driving this way of thinking are quite foreign to the New Testament.

It must be stated in this strongest terms possible that this position directly contradicts the teaching of the New Testament.

If Kim Davis can't follow the law, then she needs to quit. She was free to do so at any time. She's an elected official and so she can't be simply fired. She has to be 'removed' or impeached and such a process is laborious. Those who have the power to do it are certainly unwilling as such a move would destroy their own political standing and aspirations. The judge has little choice. He can't fire her and she won't resign. Therefore he was compelled to punish her to try and coerce her into changing her behaviour.

This is what government is... force. In this case the force is the physical restraint of someone against their will. This threat of violence which contains an even greater peril is implicit in all government edicts. Government is the sword as Paul proclaims in Romans 13. This is contrasted with the Christian who in Romans 12 looks to God for justice and patiently sojourns awaiting delayed vengeance.

She deserved her punishment (1 Peter 4.15). If you want to be an agent of Babylon then you have to play by its rules. Christian suffering is gospel oriented. When Davis is serving as a government bureaucrat, she's not furthering the gospel or building the Kingdom. It is only a confused and perverted theology that thinks so.

It's one thing to make a moral stand and suffer the consequences, it's another to demand the state bends to your will. Her action doesn't even fall under the auspices of non-participation. She is forcing her views on others and forcing them to spend their money and time to seek the services (in other counties) her office is supposed to be administering. These are the services they pay taxes to support, the very same taxes which pay her salary.

While we certainly do not sympathize with sodomite aspirations or values, the bottom line is that Kim Davis is in the wrong.

She's not suffering as a Christian but as a busybody in other people's affairs.

This hypocrisy is further demonstrated by the fact that when numerous officials prior to the SCOTUS ruling insisted (for conscience sake) on rejecting state laws and/or DOMA and issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, they were decried as law breaking renegades by the very same Christian Right that now comes to the aid of Davis. Their appeals to conscience were hypocritically rejected as invalid. That's not to suggest they were morally right, but in terms of government function they were doing the same thing Davis has done.

If they can't follow the law, they should have quit as should Davis.

Davis is being used. The Christian Right is trying to fire Parthian shots at the Left which has gained the ascendancy in terms of social morality. On another front the Right's synthesis with Capitalist Imperialism still rules the day. They have in fact gained ground in recent years. But on the social front the Christian Right project is in serious trouble. At present they are desperate to rally numerical and financial support under the rubric of religious freedom. Davis is being utilized as a rallying point and a means to stoke paranoia and a feeling of desperation.

Davis is an apropos symbol of the hypocrisy and short-sightedness at work in Evangelical circles. Her multiple divorces exemplify the slipping morality present in Evangelical circles. Evangelicals promote marriage and family but are just as guilty in destroying it as society at large. Because of numbers and money, and certainly their political aspirations they sold out on this issue back in the 1980's. The American Church has little to say on the matter. Due to hypocrisy in the realm of marriage and the innumerable scandals the Church has all but lost its moral authority on these issues.

The fact that Davis was 'converted' just a few years ago in no way detracts from this point. The Church refuses to deal with this issue and the nominalist Christianity that reigns throughout Appalachia and the South demonstrates this. The lie of so-called Christian culture is exposed so poignantly in the culture of divorce.

The fact that Davis is part of a denomination that denies the Trinity has also created numerous difficulties. The confusion over this is lamentable.

Oneness Pentecostalism adheres to a Modalist Christology, a type of Unitarianism, but rather than reject Christ's divinity, they reject his humanity and believe the three persons of the Trinity are but names, modes or aspects of one God. This presents significant problems in understanding how Christ as Saviour could properly be spoken of as the Second Adam or the High Priest that represents us. These are critical points in Romans, Hebrews and 1 Corinthians.

We've seen the same confusion in recent years with regard to Mormonism (Romney and Beck) or most recently with Seventh-Day Adventist Ben Carson proclaiming his 'humble' (?!?!?) Christianity vis-à-vis Trump's arrogant false Christianity.

Neither Romney, Beck, Carson nor Trump are Christians according to Biblical definitions.

And the profession of Kim Davis must also be doubted. Though I will grant her theology though perilously defective is at least closer to the Gospel truth than Mormonism or even Carson's Adventism.

And yet online I've seen many rally to her cause and insist this is a moral issue and not a theological one.

That's interesting. Some of these same people who were and are very critical of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) have now embraced the same kind of argument made by its proponents in 1994. The ECT signers said that despite the theological differences there's a common social and moral cause that permits if not mandates the alliance.

Defenders of Davis on this premise are guilty of the same error as well as the larger theological error of identifying this (or any) society apart from the Church as somehow being Christian.

What they're saying is, doctrine doesn't matter, Davis is standing for Christian society. Thinking in those terms it's hard to reject ECT.

What strikes me the most in all of this is the confusion. This event just continues to muddy the waters and distract from the real issues at stake. People are buried by fear and anger and other sentimentalities. The Bible's teaching is nowhere in sight. At best they can only appeal to a confused comparison of Old Testament Israel and the United States as well as a theological-mythology of American history and a man-made meta-narrative to go with it.

Davis needs to resign and repent and be converted to the Biblical gospel rooted in the Christ of Scripture. The legalism and Pentecostal doctrine also flow from this flawed understanding of Christ's person and work.

We are called by the New Testament to live as sojourners, strangers and pilgrims, as second class citizens who obey the law but speak the truth. When we remove political office and aspirations to power, our message can convey its spiritual nature. Men will hate us but they will not view us as political threats... at least not right away. And when they do view us as subversive, then our testimony is rooted in the Gospel and not cultural conquest or the utilization of the sword trying to force others to bend to our will.

What have we to do with those who are outside? God will judge them. Fallen man cannot be subject to God's law. Do these people not understand the spiritual nature of God's commandments?

The confusion is all the more dangerous in that it detracts from our primary battleground. The spiritual battle set up in the New Testament isn't a battle over control of culture, the rule of the Beast's empires. The battle is spiritual and largely within the Church. We are to fight against those who bring in false teachings, those who subvert the authority of the Apostles (Scripture) and those who would lead God's people to follow the ways of the world.

This struggle with regard to Kim Davis is a masterstroke by the enemy. More than ever the Church is distracted by the fight for America, taking up arms, lawsuits, threats, a violent hatred of the world, and consequently embracing an ethic of power that rejects Christ's ethic of the Kingdom.

The enemy is among us.

Finally though it's been addressed before, the Biblical examples must be briefly considered. What about Paul? What about Daniel?

Isn't Kim Davis following their examples?

Not at all.

Paul while imprisoned in Philippi exercised his rights as a citizen in rebuking the magistrates that had criminally ordered him beaten and incarcerated.

Or did he?

He didn't pursue it. He exposed their grievous injustice, shamed them and then walked away. He could have presided over their removal from office and possibly being put in chains themselves. He dropped the matter and let it go. What a contrast compared to the vicious impulse to litigate in today's Evangelical community, to call on the state to violently enforce their will on others.

Paul appealed to Caesar. Yes, he did. There were dozens of assassins after him and his appeal was a means to insure his continued high-security incarceration and ultimately his Apostolic mission to Rome. Paul wanted to arrive in Rome in chains. That was important to him in terms of his ministry. His actions were not normative but even if they were, they do not support the activism and litigation of the Christian Right that seeks revenge when wronged.

Paul's appeal to Caesar is something very different from contemporary politically motivated Christians filing lawsuits and demanding the exercise of rights.

Daniel like Joseph was a captive. He did not seek the office. It was thrust upon him. With regard to Daniel we know next to nothing of his official duties. His private prayer was not connected to his office. He was not charged with violation of office but breaking an unjust and idolatrous law.

Joseph of course embarked on an economic programme that is highly problematic for modern American Evangelicals. They wouldn't want to consider the implications of his actions. Despite the utter repudiation of their own agendas and narratives, I don't believe Joseph is an example that we are called to reiterate in our time.

What of the Centurions, the one in Matthew 8, as well as Cornelius in Acts 10?

All arguments on this point are from silence and we can just as easily say they sought to leave the legions in the days subsequent to their gospel encounters. Of course that wasn't always easy to do. It was a hard personal lesson for me to learn but we are called where we are at and we can't always disentangle ourselves immediately. It takes time. They may have been able to serve out their terms peacefully and retired or they may have come into conflict and ended up in difficulty. We're simply not told.

But we are told not to enslave ourselves to others. We are not to seek to be bound. No Christians should seek these entanglements let alone seek power over others. The military represent both and the Early Church largely understood this. There certainly were deviations from this view in the centuries before Constantine but they do not represent the norm. Post-Constantine the Church abandoned the Biblical position wholesale.

The Bible provides no support for Kim Davis or those of like aspiration. She's right. She absolutely cannot issue those licenses. That would be sinful. But she shouldn't have been involved in the work in the first place. She wishes to be modest and yet her position of authority belies her claims. Her occupation and her conduct are hardly shamefaced.

I pray the Church learns something from this episode but in this case the positions represented here are truly a voice in the wilderness.