Charlotte Allen had a very thought-provoking article in the latest First Things, entitled “Punching Down” (see it here http://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/06/punching-down). The article begins with the saga of the all but forgotten Kim Davis, the hapless county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky who refused to sign homosexual marriage licenses and also forbad her assistant from doing so. Well, even many on my side of the political spectrum ridiculed her for that brazen display of conscience run amok. And I fully understand the issues behind that position, but Charlotte Allen has added an important dimension to this sad situation. Reading the article has caused me to see Kim Davis and others humiliated deliberately by the elites with new sympathy, if not for their particular actions, certainly for the abuse heaped on them by our “betters.”
Here is how Allen sums the first stage of the legal wranglings and the beginning of the second phase:
“You might think that Bevin’s stroke of the pen [an executive order removing clerks names from licenses]—honoring the Christian faith of Davis and two other Kentucky county clerks who had taken similar stances (neither was subjected to litigation), while allowing same-sex couples to proceed to their wedding ceremonies—would have ended the matter in an amicable compromise. It did not. The ACLU continued to press forward against Davis, contending that a Kentucky statute required that Davis’s signature and title appear on the licenses, and it was a statute that could not be nullified by a governor’s executive order. This was certainly a valid legal point, except that the ACLU’s way of making it was to request Bunning to issue a second contempt order that would send Davis back to jail for failing to comply with his original September 3 injunction. The ACLU made much of the altered license form that Davis had authorized (it had the word “clerk” systematically crossed out) and was still seeking to have her re-incarcerated even as the Kentucky Senate was moving along a bill in early 2016 that would amend Kentucky law along the lines of Bevin’s executive order (and thus render the ACLU’s argument moot), and as the Sixth Circuit was reading briefs and hearing arguments in Davis’s appeal.”
Well, that seems at first like a little legal “strategy.” But read further, about how our cultural elites have treated Ms. Davis:
“The added factor is the social and personal identity of Davis herself. It is class that turned the Kim Davis litigation into a long-running spectacle of ridicule . . . of Kim Davis. Her personal appearance—significantly overweight, clad in the drab ankle-length skirts and visible undershirts that reminded everybody of the Duggars, and sporting the flyaway waist-length hair that seemed to be dictated by an overly literal reading of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians—was a fixture of nightly television during the fall of 2015. It was also an object of parody, on Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live and in gay bars across America, where “Kim Davis” seemed to be the prizewinning Halloween costume.”
Before accepting Jesus as her savior in 2011, Davis had been married no fewer than four times since age eighteen (her fourth and current husband, Joe Davis, is also her second husband), and while she was still married to her first husband, by whom she had had two slightly older children, she had borne twin children to the man who became her third husband. This Jenny Jones Show–level familial history (including a restraining order for alleged violence obtained against Husband No. 3) generated sanctimonious outrage in the liberal media. Some commentators contrasted Davis’s chaotic romantic life with the stable relationships enjoyed by the named gay and lesbian plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who had lived together as couples for years. Other commentators faulted Davis for hypocrisy, pointing to Jesus’s injunctions against divorce in the Gospels, even though it would seem a tad unfair to blame Davis for transgressing against Christian precepts before she actually embraced Christianity. For them, Davis typified an American identity very much derided by upper-crust people, and for this messy Kentucky woman to assume the moral high ground on sex and marriage was beyond hypocrisy. It was ludicrous.
Well, there you have Kim Davis’ story, all laid out for the world to see and to ridicule. What a stupid, backwoods, hillbilly woman who probably can’t even read, they think. Moreover, she “got religion,” an absolute “no no” among our intelligentsia, but even worse, the wrong kind of religion, the “fundamentalist” kind, but even worse, the bad fundamentalist kind. I’ll be honest, and I frankly don’t care what the reader thinks. I read this entire story, including the sagas of others of the “wrong kind” and I cried. I am pained that our world that has such incredible hubris in the very face of God cannot at least treat its fellow human beings with some degree of dignity. Yes, she may have been wrong in her approach, but that does not entitle others to attack her personally, as they also have many others. This is a cultural issue, not just a legal one. Those who ought to be showing the way toward a more civilized and compassionate morality are flaunting their utter contempt for those “beneath” them and exalting their own sin as good. Yes, we call right wrong and wrong right, and even when we may be right, we don’t miss an opportunity to crush our defeated—“punching down,” as Charlotte Allen called it. Once more, I quote from her article:
“At the heart of the autumn 2015 brouhaha over Miller v. Davis was that yawning class gap between the plaintiffs with their advanced degrees, university connections, and comfortable salaries, and the non-college-educated Davis, with her pioneer-woman skirts, trailer-trash backstory, and practice of throwing her arms up in public prayer in an enthusiastic fashion that would be deemed mortifying by most of today’s suburbanized and hypo-expressive mainline Protestants and Catholics.”
Well, I guess I should end this blog. I ask the reader to consider whether the disagreement, if any, with those who choose a different path of conscience, gives the right to “punch down” on people that are just different from us. We are the sophisticated ones, we often think, sometimes somewhat pridefully. But this reminds me of a line from “A Man for All Seasons.” The Duke of Norfolk is aghast that Thomas More won’t give in and submit to King Henry VIII’s new edict recognizing him alone as supreme head of the church. More replies that the “nobility of England labors over the pedigree of a bulldog, but would snore through the Sermon on the Mount.” Let’s be careful we don’t err too far in that direction.