Kim Davis, Jesus, and the woman at the well: A marriage equality lesson

If Kim Davis really studied her Bible, she would come up with a different conclusion on sinning and issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Kim Davis is the infamous homophobic county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who has become a conservative folk hero for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She spent five nights in jail on a contempt charge for refusing to obey court orders to follow the U.S. Supreme Court decision — and the law of the land — and issue marriage licenses to all comers.

Why doesn’t she just resign if she doesn’t want to issue such licenses, some ask. Well, Davis earns $80,000 a year as the elected county clerk, a post held by her mother for many years while Davis was chief deputy county clerk. (Nice to keep a high-paying job in the family.) There is no avenue for a recall in Kentucky, and she won’t face re-election until the fall of 2018. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has decided against prosecuting her.

Davis claims that her belief against marriage equality is based on her Christian principles and thus is a higher authority than the Supreme Court. She’s gained support from many conservatives, including GOP presidential contenders like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who fought for the spotlight on which candidate supports her more, with a Huckabee aide literally pushing Cruz out of the way.

But let’s look at the situation from a biblical perspective. Some cite Leviticus 18:22, which reads (depending on the version): “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” This is the classic verse the right points to when arguing against marriage equality. Of course, Leviticus 19 also contains verses prohibiting tattoos, forbidding men to cut their hair or shave their beards, and warning against eating rare meat.

(Interestingly, Leviticus 19:33-34 also blows up any Republican argument against immigration reform. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” But we digress.)

On the other side of the marriage equality coin, some cite Romans 13:1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” In other words, follow the law.

I see another Bible reading as applicable: John 4:4-42, the story of the woman at the well.

To recap: Jesus comes to a well and asks a Samaritan woman for a drink. Asking a Samaritan to draw water for him goes against the custom of the day. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” she asks him.

The two have a discussion about “living water” and how anyone who drinks of the water that Jesus provides (mainly, faith) will never be thirsty again.

At first, the woman is clueless, asking Jesus how he intends to get water when he has nothing to draw water with. Finally, he tells her to call her husband. She answers that she has no husband. Right, says Jesus, since she’s had five husbands already. The Samaritan woman is an outcast from her own society, seen as immoral for her string of lovers.

Now, as many know, Davis is on her fourth husband. Her personal life might be her own, but it’s pretty hypocritical to claim moral superiority when you’re discarding husbands left and right and the father of your twins is your third husband, conceived while you were still married to your first husband, and claimed by your second one. (Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?)

Guess Davis skipped over the verses that were inconvenient about her own marital status. Malachi 2:16: “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.” Matthew 5:32: “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Any “exceptions” to the divorce/remarriage rules in the Bible suggest that the faithful spouse might be entitled to marry again, but not the one who was unfaithful in the first place. Like Kim Davis.

But back to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus is willing to minister to an outcast of Jewish (and her own) society. Besides the message of eternal life through faith, the passage tells us that all people are valuable to God and that Jesus desires that we demonstrate love to everyone, including enemies and those we consider outcasts. Kim Davis should consider demonstrating that love to gays and lesbians.

Davis’ story is ending with a whimper (for now, at least). Other deputy clerks under her are issuing marriage licenses to all comers amid her lawyer’s threats of filing suit against Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. Beshear already ruled out calling a special legislative session to deal with Davis’ “problem,” calling it a waste of money. Candidates like Huckabee and Cruz, straining for relevance in a crowded field dominated by real estate mogul Donald Trump, will keep her cause alive, because they haven’t got much else to talk about.

Whatever your system of beliefs (or lack thereof), it’s worth remembering the bigger lesson: If a Jew like Jesus could go outside a cultural norm and minister to a Samaritan, a sinner like Kim Davis should be able to find it in her heart to let two people who love each other get married.

And the woman at the well learned her lesson at the end, accepting Jesus’ message. We can only hope Kim Davis and others like her might learn one, too.


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