We learned this week that while in the U.S. the Pope had a secret meeting with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Apparently, he offered her support for standing up for what she believed. (Later reports say it was not a private meeting and the Pope does not back her position). But we also know this Pope has reached out to gays and lesbians more than any other pope. When asked once about a gay person’s condition, he responded, “If he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
So, why are evangelicals so quick to judge gays and lesbians? We get the answer in the recent ABC interview of Kim Davis.
KD: “The whole situation has never been a gay or lesbian issue for me… it’s all about upholding the Word of God… For me it’s a heaven and hell issue, for me, if I issue a license…”
ABC: “You feel you would go to hell?”
KD: “I would be participating in that act…. I’m here for a short while, in preparation for an eternity… and my eternity—that’s what we’re here for… It’s a heaven and hell issue for me. …When it comes down to it, I will answer for my actions and my reactions, and so will everybody else. I am prepared to pay my consequences and I’m prepared to stand in judgment.”
Kim Davis, when asked about her prior marriages and divorces, says she is “a normal person that’s been touched by the grace of God and His mercy.” So one wonders why grace and mercy can’t be extended to gays and lesbians, who harm no one by practicing their sexuality? The reason is Davis and evangelicals see it in terms of “upholding the Word of God.” It’s a “heaven-and-hell” issue to them. They must be prepared “to stand in judgment.”
The core reason is that people under the spell of evangelicalism have a major problem with the image of God. He sends people to hell with no hope of pardon. He makes laws and punishes us, often times eternally, if we break them or indirectly “…participate in the act.” If laws against homosexuality are in the Bible, the “Word of God”—even when they are culturally distant, are in the context of shrine prostitution among pagans, are tainted by mistranslations, don’t explicitly condemn (Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality), and ignore modern, mutually-loving gay relationships that harm no one—we must obey them blindly. So everything becomes “a heaven and hell issue.” The underlying motivation is fear, not love.
Moreover, God only forgives under the right circumstances. Heaven is illusive, dependent on right behavior (the right “actions and reactions”). Hell is looming, our default destination unless there is a proper religious response.
Kim Davis has received hate mail and death threats for her stand. That’s outrageous and worse behavior than what she is accused of. So what is the proper response? The Pope may be right to honor someone who stands up with courage for what she believes in. But in this case, that belief is based on unhealthy and false fear—the fear of disobeying the “Word of God” despite its confusing and conflicting message on the topic, the fear of legalistic judgment, the fear of eternity in hell. The proper response to Kim Davis is “I admire the courage of your convictions and condemn the actions of those who threaten you, but your God is too small. And small-minded. You are under a spell of ungodly fear. Like the Pope, God does not judge those of good will who harm no one. Love is the fulfillment of the ‘Word of God,’ not ancient laws out of context.”