Slut-shaming the Christian convert in Kentucky who is open to compromise?

So The Washington Post has another news report out about the woman of the day, which would be Rowan County clerk Kim Davis in the hills of Kentucky. And, once again, readers who dig into this news feature will find it hard to learn a crucial fact about this embattled Democrat, who converted to Christianity four years ago.

Sorry to repeat myself, but I am going to have to repeat a pair of questions that I asked in my earlier post on this topic. I'm seeing the same gap in the basic facts about Davis and the stand she is taking.

Let's flash back to that:

To spot this gap, ask yourself this question as you read the news coverage on this story in the next few days: Is Ms. Davis trying to stop gay citizens from getting married? Yes or no. In fact, is her primary goal to stop them from getting married in he county?

I have heard for some readers who are saying, "Yes, Davis is trying to stop gay marriages."

At that point I have asked: "Then why is she backing efforts to promote political compromises that would allow gay marriages in Kentucky and in her own county?" If you dig a bit deeper, you'll find out that her primary goal is not to prevent gay marriages, but to prevent these marriages from taking place with her signed consent, in violation of the traditional Christian doctrines on this subject that she embraced four years ago.

The Post piece does offer more information on this woman who is under the gun, but it was silent at crucial points. Here is a crucial passage:

... Davis’s defiance of a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has put her in an unbidden spotlight and at odds with that Election Day promise. She faces official misconduct charges and a hearing to determine whether she is in contempt of court.
And she’s become the target of scrutiny across the nation, which has alternately hailed her as a hero standing up for principle and criticized her as a hypocrite out of step with society and the law. Revelations of Davis’s own marital history (four marriages to three different men) have further fueled criticism of the small-town clerk.
Since June, when the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples have a constitutional right to wed, Davis has asked to be excused from issuing marriage licenses to anyone on the grounds that licensing a same-sex marriage would violate her religious beliefs.

And what else has Davis done? This returns us to my earlier question. She has also said she can accept compromises that give same-sex couples their marriage licenses, including in her county, through the hands of other people or with licenses that do not require her signature.

Here is a another detail that I wish I was seeing in printk: Under current Kentucky law, does the county clerk's signature or name have to be on every marriage license, even if it is physically handed to citizens by someone else? This would explain why Davis is refusing to allow her staff to distribute the licenses in their current form. She has said she has no problem with someone else signing them or issuing marriage licenses that do not contain a signature, if the law can be tweaked to allow that.

Are these important facts in this story, the facts concerning her willingness to compromise and allow same-sex marriages to commence? 

Now, there is one other issue here -- this woman's marital history. The Post story is not as bad as others on this point of theology, but it retains quite a bit of bite. It starts with her testimony:

“...I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ,” she wrote. “I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God. I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage.”
The phrase “I am not perfect,” may be an oblique acknowledgement of a fact seized on by many of Davis’s critics: According to records obtained by The Washington Post, Davis has been married four times to three different men. She has had three divorces over the past 21 years.
Liberty Counsel chairman Matthew Staver told US News and World Report that Davis’s marriage history isn’t relevant to the case. “It’s something that happened in her past,” before her conversion to the Apostolic Church four years ago, he said. “… She was 180 degrees changed.”

So what is going on here, in terms of the mainstream media's fascination with this woman's divorces?

Well, let's let GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway explain it, as only she can. The bottom line: Davis is being called a hypocrite because she didn't follow the Christian faith in the years before her conversion to Christianity. Here's Mollie in The Federalist, focusing on this Steven Nelson piece in US News & World Report:

Here’s the lede for his story:
The Kentucky county clerk facing potentially stiff penalties for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses has been married four times, raising questions of hypocrisy and selective application of the Bible to her life.
You might be confused right now why it became OK for the media to slut-shame someone. Usually they’re complaining about it, such as when some well-meaning woman tells college co-eds to watch their alcohol intake before heading over to an out-of-control frat party. It’s good to remember, however, that slut-shaming by the media is permissible — welcome, even — so long as the victim is a political opponent.
And opposing the redefinition of marriage is pretty much grounds for instant excommunication in our elite religion. As a result, Nelson has all the gory details about her supposed “hypocrisy” and “selective application of the Bible to her life.” So did each of these divorces take place in the last four years? It wouldn’t actually be a sufficient proof of hypocrisy if each of these divorces took place since 2010, but it would be a necessary requirement for them to take place within the time period she was Christian.
Roll the tape, Nelson:
“The marriages are documented in court records obtained by U.S. News, which show that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis divorced three times, first in 1994, then 2006 and again in 2008.”
Wait, what? Hunh? But I thought she was a total hypocrite! And it’s not like Nelson is unaware of the recent nature of her conversion. It’s buried deep in the story, and completely undermines his lede (and activist tweeting) but he quotes her legal representative on her conversion taking place “about four years ago” and has him saying of her, “She was 180 degrees changed.”
Now, any personal failings on her part are actually irrelevant to her legal argument, however much fun the media has in slut-shaming her. But I am hard-pressed to understand how she can be a hypocrite for failing to perfectly adhere to teachings of a religion she wasn’t even part of! Hypocrisy isn’t failing to practice what you preach. Hypocrisy is pretending to have beliefs that you don’t actually have.

Strong stuff, as you would expect from Mollie.

By the way, I did hear that there is an online feature out there that is reporting on the efforts to find a compromise in the Kentucky laws that affect marriage licenses. Yes, these legal battles are highly political and complicated, but the goal seems to be to give people of conscience on both sides their primary goal.

On the left that primary goal, I think, is same-sex marriage (as opposed to the end of Kim Davis and her career in public service). Many or most people on the right appear to know that same-sex marriage is now the law and, thus, they are trying to find a way for that to happen (handing out marriage licenses, in this case) without forcing a few doctrinally conservative citizens to violate what they see as the tenets of their faith.

This feature you need to check out? Oh, right, it's in The Deseret News and it was written by former GetReligionista Mark Kellner.

Please respect our Commenting Policy