Do you know Kim Davis (the County Clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue same sex marriage licenses)?
I grew up in a small town in the South next door to folks like Kim.
They taught in my schools, served lunch, ran local businesses, worked cash registers, served as police and any number of other positions with a public profile.
The Kim Davises of this world played a undeniable role in my life during my formative years.
It makes me all the more conflicted when I see people judging, shaming, and personally attacking Kim.
I’m conflicted because I have no sympathy whatsoever for the stance she is taking in regard to same-sex marriages. I’m doubly offended because she’s trying to root her stance in Christianity when I and others have demonstrated you just can’t do that and stay honest with the full biblical text.
So, I ask again, “Do you know Kim Davis?”
Do you know her personally? Have you had a real relationship with people like her?
If not, where are all these personal attacks and attempts at public shaming coming from?
I guess it hurts me a little because I was once Kim Davis.
As I’ve said, I grew up in a small Southern town. My family and I attended Graystone Baptist Church (a Southern Baptist Church). I thought of myself as a morally righteous person. I worked diligently to stand up for biblical “truths” and I looked down on people who led what I understood to be morally vile and misguided lives.
While it is true that I am no longer that person, I once was, just like Kim. So, I’ve refrained from jumping onto the “publicly-shame-Kim-bandwagon” hoping to sort out a more Christian way of approaching the issue.
Fortunately, a Divinity School friend, Heather Cronk, had a clearer mind and a keen insight into how a Christian should respond.
And, get this, she’s queer and agnostic. (I certainly hope that busts up some people’s preconceived notions of both of those communities).
The first post about Kim that I saw from Heather started this way, “I’m going to say this once, and I’m going to try to say it as nicely as possible. Cut out the personal attacks on Kim Davis. Most of what I’m seeing is liberal/progressive men making jokes about her outfits, her appearance, her past marriages, her perceived socio-economic status, and the hypocrisy of not distributing marriage licenses due to her religious beliefs despite having been divorced three times. Cut it out.”
I thought, “Amen. Yes! Exactly this.”
And I did nothing.
The next day Heather posted this, “I woke up feeling very clear about one thing – this is a moment for progressives who are living in or who are from the South to talk about our own transformative experiences.
Rather than talking about Kim Davis, I’m going to talk about me. I grew up not far from Rowan County and identified as an evangelical conservative Christian through high school and much of college. I distributed Christian “tracts” at school, helped organize “See You at the Pole” days of prayer at school, and engaged in witnessing to folks at the local mall. It wasn’t until I went to seminary in North Carolina that I had my own “crisis of conscience” after deep conversations with my very patient classmates and roommates. With the support of classmates and faculty, I was able to carve out a place for myself in seminary to not only ask hard questions, but also to lean into a far more progressive theology that seemed (and seems), to me, to much more accurately reflect what I saw (and see) in Jesus.
#IwasKimDavis – and I’m now a queer, agnostic leader in a church that loves me.”
How brilliant is that?
How Christ-like is that?
Heather concludes, “I’m inviting others whose theological and/or political analysis has evolved to join me in telling your own story using this hashtag across social media. This moment is not about a county clerk in Kentucky – it’s about showing folks who live across the South that there is plenty of room to grow and to change and to shift, and to do so with love.”
Heather, with gratitude, I accept your invitation to tell my story.
#IwasKimDavis – I grew up as a theologically conservative Southern Baptist who had to go to drum major camp and took a small bat to sleep with because I was certain all drum majors, other than me, were gay and would obviously try to make a move on me while I slept. Yes, I was that guy. The more I read the words of Jesus, the more progressive Christian writers appealed to me because they seemed to more clearly echo what I read of Jesus’ teachings. In divinity school, I was fortunate enough to have the remaining conservative theological positions that had been installed in my head in my youth questioned and removed. Through my own research and writing, I have continued to grow theologically.
#IwasKimDavis but now I’m known for my progressive Christian writings and for being a strong advocate in issue of social justice particularly around issues of LGBTQ equality. I have even lost a church job for being too progressive.
It happened to me.
It happened to Heather.
Why couldn’t it happen to Kim?
If it has happened to you, tell your story on social media. Use the hashtag #IwasKimDavis. Encourage others to do the same.
Let’s begin to shift the unChristian response of publicly judging and shaming to a public response of understanding and encouragement.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead