Originally written for The Autarkist.
What an entertaining set of historical events we’ve had so far this year! After the gay marriage ruling, the media circus around Kim Davis was to be expected. For a moment I felt sorry for her, but then I remembered how she slammed the door of her office and locked herself in, rather than do her job–while earning an $80,000 salary that her eager-to-marry constituents helped to pay–as the couples asked, and waited, for marriage licenses … and told them things like “you’ll have a very long day” waiting for the licenses, which were never issued.
Anyone who tries to depict her as a martyr must consider the abuse, humiliation and hatred experienced by the gay and lesbian citizens whose civil rights she hypocritically violated. In an excellently written piece for thestranger.com that EVERYONE should read, Dan Savage serves high doses of realness:
I say this with sadness, I say this as the son of a preacher, I say this as a former seminarian: This pathetic bullshit is what passes for Christianity in America today…
… Kim Davis got knocked up by her third husband before she divorced her first husband and somehow managed to talk her second husband into adopting the kids she had by the man who would eventually become her third husband… and she’s now on her fourth husband? …
… and SHE is the voice of domestic stability and “family values” in America? One of the people who defended her in a news article was saying how we should ignore her turbulent marital past, and how she was just exercising her First Amendment right, just as her opponents are doing. Her twisted hordes of inane followers will now attempt to somehow paint this as a battle between the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the relevant parts of which read:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …
Amendment XIV, Section 1.
No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
If, by the “authority of God” as she claimed, her right to deny LGBT people a marriage license for reason of her faith had been upheld by the courts, then in effect a theocracy would have been established in the United States: the country would have been establishing a religion and replacing the rule of law with one woman’s demented interpretation of Christianity, which is unconstitutional.
Let’s stop and consider what’s at stake in all this. If Davis had not been put in jail, and if she had been granted the right to discriminate in the name of her faith, this would have set a dangerous and scary precedent that would have been used in the future by federal courts to dismantle the constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights of all citizens in the name of faith, while pushing a theocratic agenda. The rule of law, and our secular way of life, is what’s at stake.
On Davis’ Spiritual Disease
Davis’ existential state was diagnosed centuries ago by one of the Masters in the Epicurean tradition, Polystratus. In his On Irrational Contempt, he argued that virtue, if pursued without wisdom (that is, without scientifically studying the nature of things), came to nothing and could even generate more evil than good. To be specific, he said:
In any case, the fact that even virtuous actions often have no advantage because, in the cases mentioned above, men show too much arrogance or fall back without reason into superstitious fears, and because in other actions in life they make many mistakes of every kind, so that no one really exhibits virtue.
Let’s consider this most unfortunate case study in light of Polystratus. Davis believes that her God will not hesitate to cast her into a pit of fire, to burn and suffer for all eternity, if she goes so far as to hand over a marriage license to a loving gay couple that has decided to build a life together.
Let’s consider this carefully. Davis says that she consciously chose to declare herself the slave of a Monster God who, she believes, would cook her alive and torture her forever.
Let’s put aside the reason why her God would do this, which is just as arbitrary, cruel, degrading, evil, and absurd as her superstitious fear. But let’s put it aside. Davis is horrified of her God, and yet has entirely surrendered her life to that God, and lost her mind to a world-denying worldview, for the sake of which she’s willing to suffer horribly and waste away her life in jail.
Davis’ prison stay is a metaphor for her true spiritual state. She’s imprisoned in a crazy cult, and we should now wonder what her pastor has said in church, and what other lives he’s destroying with his evil and false doctrine. But he can not bear all the blame: his own instructors, and theirs, and the entire culture built around these beliefs which reinforces them, must all come under suspicion so that, as Nietzsche said in TSZ:
Unto your children shall ye make amends for being the children of your fathers: all the past shall ye thus redeem!
Tonight we are making amends: Davis will sleep in jail. But it’s sad that a woman who was nurtured in a land blessed with one of the most progressive legal infrastructures in history degenerated into this paranoid state, immersed in a cult and barking at law-abiding citizens, for cause of chasing after virtue while at the same time neglecting wisdom and science. She may have been well-meaning in chasing virtue, but naturalist ethical philosophy should have been her guide. Not religion–“that blind guide of human souls; that poisoner of human happiness”, to paraphrase A Few Days in Athens.
One final note must be added here, noting the extent to which our Constitution is a secular humanist manifesto, and a philosophical document itself that enshrines tremendous maturity of thought. That, not the writings of Bronze-Age animal-sacrificing savages, is and must be the Law of the Land in America.
Dan Savage’s Excellent Ops Piece on Kim Davis
Time.com’s KY Clerk Doesn’t Seem to Understand How the Constitution Works