One of the biggest news stories this week is the Kim Davis saga in Kentucky. It is sad to see that Davis’s legal advisers have apparently encouraged her to continue defying court orders, with the foreseeable result that she is now in jail. Wiser legal minds—one thinks especially of St. Thomas More—might have counseled her to resign. That she has chosen defiance puts Christians who believe in the traditional Christian definition of marriage in a quandary. On the one hand, it is difficult to say anything critical of an apparently sincere Christian woman who is in jail for standing up for her beliefs. On the other hand, it is difficult to defend her without obscuring the New Testament’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
Over at First Things, Carl R. Trueman, a professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary weighs in on the controversy in a spirit that is sympathetic to Davis’s stance, while focusing on the timeless truths about marriage which the Church needs to do more to defend:
The controversy surrounding the refusal of a Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, to issue marriage licenses so that she can avoid sanctioning same sex unions raises a whole host of issue which will be debated for some years to come. While sympathizing with her position on marriage, I also find Ryan Anderson’s argument, that religious liberty is not in itself absolutely decisive in such a case, to be compelling.
Of course, the situation also highlights another aspect of the struggle over same-sex marriage. The woman concerned is apparently on her fourth husband and thus her critics ask the obvious, and legitimate, question: How high a view of marriage does that indicate? Her response is that she has only been a Christian for a few years and that her broken marriages are part of a life which she has left behind.
I have no reason to doubt her sincerity or the significance of her conversion. But the fact that she has only been a professing Christian for a few years scarcely defuses the power of the question. The politics of sex is the politics of aesthetic and rhetorical plausibility, and a multiple divorcee understandably lacks such plausibility on the matter of the sanctity of marriage. The only way in which her defense could be deemed plausible would be if the church in general had maintained in practice, not just theory, a high view of marriage. Then the move from outside the church to inside the church would perhaps have more rhetorical power. In fact, at least as far as Protestantism goes, the opposite is the case. The supine acceptance by many churches of no fault divorce makes the ‘I have become a Christian so it is all different now’ defense appear implausible, even if it is actually true in specific cases.