Ideologues: Persecuted for “His” Sake

Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky has lost her battle with the U. S. Supreme Court in her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.  But Ms. Davis claims that she bows only to a higher authority, God, and will not obey this ruling.  She declared, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision,” she said through her lawyers.

Ms. Davis will ultimately lose this battle before the Supreme Court but she will have the consolation of basking in the biblical trope, “Persecuted for His sake.”  For an essential part of fundamentalist Christian culture is the notion that the world is “alien” to them and their task is to convert the world to their “right way” of seeing the world.  When their efforts encounter resistance, they can immediately bask in the delight of knowing that they are being misunderstood and mistreated because of their fervent commitment to their Christian faith; they are being “persecuted for His sake.”   And, speaking from experience in my younger days, I can report of the great pleasure that can be found in knowing that one is being mistreated because of his faith.  What I now realize is that my faith took me in directions that could only lead to this “mistreatment” and feeling of being misunderstood and that the anguish of alienation was meeting some unconscious need.

Fundamentalist Christianity thrives on feelings of “dispossession” and alienation, feelings which were institutionalized in the 19th century when the fury of Revivalism that swept the South and the West, giving rise to what religious historians call our “denominational society.”  Bible verses which emphasized separation were emphasized to the exclusion of those which emphasis on unity.  For example, “Come ye out from them and be ye separate” was a favorite selection from the Apostle Paul.  The Old Testament admonishment to “stand in the gap” was used to teach fundamentalist Christians that it was their job to stand in the breach and stop in the onslaught of “modernism.”  This gave the socio-economically dispossessed the comfort of knowing they were performing an heroic biblically mandated action.  And, once again from personal experience, how wonderful it is to know that one has personally and collectively been divinely chosen for this task!  And, of course, awareness of the narcissism of this mind-set was not allowed to breach this hermetically sealed view of the world of “embedded thinking.”

Ms. Davis provides another example of a person embedded in her own thinking.  And being ensconced therein, she cannot budge for she cannot acknowledge that, though her spiritual convictions are valid for herself, they are not valid for the rest of the world.  But she thinks these convictions are valid for the rest of the world and is willing to jeopardize her job and even fines and imprisonment, knowing that in a worst case scenario she will have the comfort of being a martyr in her crowd of like-minded souls.

I have no doubt this is a good woman.  But good women…and men…can have ideas in which they are entrapped which lead to very bad decisions.  I have wasted decades of my life because of my choice to remain imprisoned in ideas of this sort.  It is wonderful, even exhilarating, to know that one is “right” even though the root cause is a deep-seated, unconscious “knowledge” that one is intrinsically “wrong.”  But this “knowledge” is specious, totally overlooking the Christian message that one is “ok”, an awareness of which would empower one to recognize the same of other people.  But when one is trapped in one’s own binary thinking one must have somebody “out there” who is wrong to avoid his/her anguish over the illusion of being intrinsically wrong.”  When my self-percept is one of being intrinsically wrong, I must fashion a world in which I am “right.”

Poet Gene Derwood once noted, “Big thoughts have got us.”  Kim has been “gotten” by a really big thought, the story of Jesus, and I personally think it is a marvelous and beautiful story of redemption.  But when one is enslaved by any vein of thought, regardless of how meaningful and rich it might be, one has sold his soul and has become a mere ideologue whose life is merely “the toy of some great pain.”



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