When I was a very young fella, my grandmother would wake me up about 5 a.m. to get dressed to walk about 50 yards to the west, in the dark, to New Jerusalem Baptist Church for the 6 a.m. Sunday service.
On my wishes, we would sit up close because I was amazed at how the Rev. Winder could preach, dip snuff and spit into a spittoon all at the same time. As I got older and my grandmother got too weak to take me, she would have me put on my suit and go to any church of my choosing.
In my neighborhood, there were lots of churches. So to say I got a wide range of religious beliefs early on would be putting it mildly. Once, a neighbor took me to her church and there was so much shouting, people running down the aisles and some people lying prostrate on floor that I begged my grandmother not to make me go to church with her again.
However, in all of the sermons I heard back then, I don’t recall one about gay people. Back then, gay men were called punks and sissies. We all knew they were out there, but they were quiet and life went on.
Now, decades later, gays, lesbians and those seeking same-sex marriage are visible and demanding their civil rights. Their presence has fostered the belief by some in the religious community that the end of the world, as we know it, is creeping closer. Hogwash.
Now comes the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who claimed her religious beliefs would not let her sign marriage certificates for same-sex couples.
She ignored a judge’s ruling to sign the certificates and then was ordered to jail to think about it. Her case became a fastball right down the middle of the plate for the religious right who have claimed their religious freedom is being attacked.
In this case, though, Kim Davis hit a foul ball.
After six days in jail, she was released into the arms of lagging-in-the-Republican-presidential-polls former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. He used the glow of her 15 minutes of fame for his own bombastic rhetoric.
Huckabee told Fox News’ Sean Hannity recently, “I’ll tell you what’s coming, Sean. Next, it’s going to be your pastor, the head of your Christian school. Who else is going to go to jail before this is over?”
My answer: anyone who violates the Constitution and the legal rights given to the people of this country.
Let’s look at this with some sense. First on the skittishness that gay marriage causes some folks. If you have a problem with same-sex marriage, don’t date and marry someone of the same sex. Your problem on that issue is solved immediately.
Next, I find it strange that folks who say their religion bars them from marrying same-sex couples don’t find fault in killers, rapists or thieves getting married. Those are all sins, as I recall. Only difference: You can’t see it.
With all of the religious folk who leapt to Davis’ defense, here’s something else. My religious beliefs instruct me not to kill people. However, if I sign up to fight in the U.S. military, I’m signing on to kill people. So what if 50,000 of us reflect on our religious upbringing and conclude that we can’t kill people? Would Huckabee, Ted Cruz and his ilk come to our rescue?
Davis signed up and swore to obey the Constitution and to fulfill the obligations of the very position she chose to run for and was elected to serve. Then the three-time divorcee decided she would cherry-pick the religious belief she couldn’t disobey.
Then she and her supporters became washed in the tide of national media attention her case was receiving.
I can’t say this better than Kayla Lemmon said in a column titled “Sorry but Kim Davis does NOT represent my Christianity.”
Davis, she said, is like so many of the mean-spirited, holier-than-thou Christians who think of themselves this way: “Thank God there’s someone like me.”
That pretty much says it all.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.