This is smart journalism: The Associated Press made an open records request to see Kentucky clerk Kim Davis' emails.
This is confusing journalism: AP's headline on its story about Davis' emails contains a full quote that doesn't actually appear in the story:
Clerk who opposes gay marriage: 'I am a soldier for Christ'
The top of the story references a clipped version of that quote:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky clerk who found herself at the center of a heated national debate when she refused to license same-sex marriages described herself in an email as a "soldier for Christ."
Davis' emails, obtained by the Associated Press under the Kentucky open records law, offer some insight into her state of mind in the weeks leading up to her five-day stint in jail for defying a federal court order to issue the licenses.
"The battle has just begun," Davis wrote in the email to a supporter in July, hours after four couples filed a federal lawsuit against her. It was the start of a monthslong legal fight against licensing same-sex marriages.
"It has truly been a firestorm here and the days are pretty much a blur, but I am confident that God is in control of all of this!!" she wrote to the supporter on July 2, the day the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against her on behalf of the couples. "I desire your prayers, I will need strength that only God can supply and I need a backbone like a saw log!!"
Now, if you work in a position where your emails are public record and at some point might be subject to widespread scrutiny, can I make a suggestion?
Here goes: Please, please, please don't use two exclamation points at the end of a sentence.
One is preferable. Three is (perhaps) stylish. Two is just plain annoying.
But I digress.
Back to the opening quote: At my church, we frequently sing the hymn "Soldiers of Christ, Arise":
Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
And a reader notes on Twitter:
So at one level, I'm not surprised a person who believes she's acting in accordance with her Christian faith would write an email in which she describes herself as a "soldier for Christ."
On another level, though, I need additional information to understand that quote: In what context did Davis say it? Exactly how did she say it?
I kept reading the AP story. I expected that deeper in the piece, the wire service would reference the full quote — especially given the headline — and explain the background surrounding Davis' use of those words.
After AP leads with the "soldier for Christ' reference, those words jump off a cliff — never to be explained.
Two problems with that:
• First, the headline needs to reflect what's actually reported in the story. That's just good journalism. So AP either neglected to provide the full quote in the story or the headline quote ("I am a soldier for Christ") is not actually what Davis said.
• Second, if that statement is worthy of a news story and headline by an international news organization, it deserves some explanation of what Davis meant by it and whether it's important, i.e., some theological insight into how Christians typically use that terminology.
From my standpoint, most of the email statements attributed to Davis in the AP story sound like pretty standard fare for a conservative Christian. Nothing to see here, in other words. Move along, folks.
But these two paragraphs left me with my mouth hanging wide open and shaking my head:
"Will your lawyers and several decent people be around you to protect you from the wicked threatening homosexual mob and their supporters?" a man from Somerset named Willie Ramsey wrote to ask.
"They are going to try and make a whipping post out of me!!" she wrote in her response. "I know it, but God is still alive and on the throne!!! He IS in control and knows exactly where I am!!"
To me, that exchange is more revealing — and newsworthy — than the truncated, out-of-context "I am a soldier for Christ" quote.