Using Dr. King's Name to Support Bigotry

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis listens to a customer following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan Cou
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis listens to a customer following her office's refusal to issue marriage licenses at the Rowan County Courthouse in Morehead, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Although her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, Davis still refuses to issue marriage licenses. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

The claim by many that Christians are under attack has long bothered me. I have not understood...

So I wasn't surprised when I heard the claim yet again when Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for contempt of court when she refused to issue marriages to gay couples, in defiance of a United States Supreme Court law that says she (and others) must.

It is not unusual for faithful Americans to out-and-out defy "the law" if the law goes against their ideological beliefs. When the nation's high court decreed that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional, and said that schools must integrate "with all deliberate speed," many schools and school systems in the South closed down rather than obey "the law." It was against their ideological belief that mixing the races was wrong. So, they didn't care what "the law" said. They simply disobeyed it and went on about their business.

Now, many Americans are angry because the Supreme Court has said gay marriage is legal, and some, like Ms Davis, are choosing to defy "the law." In the case of Davis, she says her conscience and God will not allow her to issue marriage licenses...and she does not want her deputy clerks to issue the licenses, either, because she does not want her name as county clerk to be associated with something she considers to be against the will of God.

I have heard all of that before. I am learning to exhale when I hear it. But I am angered by the claim that Ms. Davis is acting as did Dr. King when he was thrown into jail for working to end racial injustice. Ms Davis has been jailed because her God-sense tells her it is right and fitting to discriminate against people; Dr. King was in jail because his God-sense told him it was wrong to mete out injustice against anyone - especially blacks.

There is a stark difference between the two "reasons" for incarceration, and really, if there was ever an "attack" on Christians, it would have been in the days of the Movement when the masses were working to make sure the words of Jesus the Christ were followed.

Davis' attorney mentioned the Dr, King comparison in his statements to the press, and I was appalled, just as appalled as I was when earlier in the week, some white politicians said that Dr. King would be "appalled" if he were alive and hearing the "black lives matter" chants going up not just all over this nation, but all over the world. It seems that many white people only heard Dr. King say that he would be glad when people would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin." That, it seems, gave them a way out for their color-based hatred and discrimination. But Dr. King's work was about ending the oppression meted out by this American government to black people - and he said the same. He pulled no punches and left no stone unturned as he lay out to the world what America consistently did to black people, called "Negroes" in his day.

What is troubling about this comparison to Dr. King in Davis' case is that the two of them could not be further apart in their sensibilities about what justice is. Dr. King said, in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to which Davis' attorney referred when he compared her to King, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ...Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." King had the profound understanding that the racist oppression wielded toward black people was having an equally bad effect on white people, but theirs perhaps the worse because they did not realize it. Black people had had to fight for every ounce of dignity they had, battle by battle, beating by beating. Black people sought to "negotiate" with city fathers for their American rights but, wrote King in "Letter" the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation."

Though Dr. King was the primary advocate for black life in America, he was ultimately the champion for anyone who was oppressed; hence, his Poor People's Campaign, in which he drew together black and white people who were oppressed by their dire poverty. I would suspect that, given the time period, he was sexist and homophobic, but he did in fact respect women and people who were known homosexuals because he lived by the dictates of the Christian Bible, which forced him to push aside his own prejudices for the good of the rights and dignity of all people.

It is repugnant that Dr. King and this woman are, then, being put into the same category. One person fought for justice for all people, the other sees the world through her own prejudiced lenses and uses the Bible as justification, as has always been done by racists, sexists and homophobes. I do not recognize the God of Davis and others, which seems to sanction cruelty, hatred, bigotry, discrimination and malignment of others. What is going on in American society is a populist rebellion against the changes happening, upsetting the status quo and making all of us, in some ways, a bit uncomfortable at times. Change does that; without discomfort, there is no change.

Dr. King was a "drum major for justice" for all. The white ministers who wrote him and thus inspired his response in the "Letter for a Birmingham Jail" were uncomfortable with the changes for which Dr. King and the Movement were fighting. It wasn't about him; it was about the end of desecration of a group of people who were poorly treated just because they were black. They wanted things to remain as they were; Dr. King had to beat a drum and lead a movement because he knew things just could not remain as they had always been.

This woman is nowhere near having the consciousness and sensitivity to the plight of oppressed people as did Dr. King and those who participated in the Movement. She is beating only the drum of her own bigoted self, and giving God the credit for it.