Okay, so, Kim Davis. She is the county clerk whose refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is rooted in her religious beliefs and has resulted in her arrest.
Her attorney’s statement says that she is being treated as a criminal because she cannot violate her conscience. But a judge says she is being treated as a criminal because she violated a court order. Either way, tonight, she is in jail.
I wonder if what sparked the stand she took is actually what she says sparked it — if what bothers her is the fact that she’s required by her job description to do something that violates her conscience. Here’s what I mean:
Ordinarily we are given opportunities to evaluate a gig before we agree to it and if, upon evaluation, we discover that its description requires us to do stuff we can’t (because we don’t wanna, or because it violates our consciences), we are free not to take the gig.
Davis’s circumstance isn’t ordinary: she had the gig. The gig changed. Now she can’t do part of the gig in good conscience.
Which means Davis could have resigned (which is, at least, inconvenient) or refused to do it (which is both an expression of a sense of entitlement and a fast way to get in trouble, whatever your job).
While I commend Davis for not agreeing to do a thing that violates her conscience, it would border on violating mine if I didn’t get this off my chest:
I wish she had resigned.
That a person’s conscience is violated by part of a job’s description does not entitle him or her to exemption of parts of a job. An employer is not obligated, in other words, to cater to employees who “don’t wanna,” for whatever reason.
Davis says the reason she can’t do part of her job is her Christian beliefs. I think that’s sensible. Employers (government or otherwise) expect employees to do all the parts of their jobs. I think that’s sensible, too.
But what isn’t sensible is the expectation that a person’s reason for not doing all the parts of her job necessarily obligates her employer to cut her slack.
What I’d guess actually bothers Davis is not that she’s required by her job description to do something that violates her conscience, but that her job used to not violate her conscience and now it does.
In a New York Times article, Rand Paul is quoted today as saying that it’s “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties.” But is that actually why Davis is in jail? Does religious liberty actually imply that a Christian’s employer must amend a job’s description so that it no longer violates the Christian conscience? Or does it imply that a Christian doesn’t have to work that job?
Lots of my fellow Christians today called Davis’s behavior an exercise in religious liberty, because she says her behavior — her decision to refuse to do part of her job — is motivated by her Christian beliefs. But is it? Or deep down, is it actually motivated by the inconvenience of having beliefs that are Christian?
Beliefs that put all of us in awkward positions — like learning that the dude you’re on a date with doesn’t want to save sex, and having to tell him you do. Or having to bail on the rest of a friend’s bachelor party because it’ll involve a strip club. Or having to resign from your position as county clerk because to work the job would violate your conscience (and to have it but not work it would violate your oath).
None of those things are easy. None convenient.
But we shouldn’t expect Christianity to be. It isn’t supposed to be.
And it’s time for us Christians to get ok with that.