It’s all over the news. Kim Davis is in prison for refusing a court order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Conservative Christian Americans are lamenting this as a loss for religious liberty, and some are even saying this is persecution. But let’s think about that for a minute–a woman wants to deny a legal right to someone based off her own religious beliefs (that are not equally held by all professing Christians, I might add), and she’s the martyr in this situation?
We Americans love our rights. Don’t get me wrong–human and civil rights are a good and necessary thing, but what happens when Christians care more about our own rights than the rights of others?
Our own rights have become our idol.
Christian Americans have become so obsessed with religious liberty that we have completely forgotten the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. We have forgotten that the man we claim to follow willingly gave up all rights he had for every person in this world.
We have forgotten that Jesus said, “The last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
Americans really like the first part of that saying, in theory–that those who are underprivileged would have the opportunity to stand with us in the front of the line by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and by working hard.
But we really hate that second part of that saying–that those of us who are overprivileged would have to give up our rights and our need to be right. That we would have to willingly hand over our privilege to someone else. That we would be called to sacrifice our excess and our space in the front of the line for someone else. We’re actually called to let them cut in line. Go check out Matthew 20. Jesus is telling a parable about a landowner that hires multiple workers throughout the day. The last worker, who works only an hour, gets paid the same as the one who worked all day. That’s what it really means for the first to be last. That’s true justice.
Are we really willing to sacrifice our rights like that? The case of Kim Davis isn’t a case of martyrdom or persecution–it’s a standoff because someone wants to exercise a perceived right while denying rights to someone else.
And in the meantime, while we rant about our rights and bemoan the “persecution” Christian Americans face, millions of Syrians are seeking asylum in anywhere that will take them. Hundreds of thousands have died.
We are seeing the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. It’s the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Immigrants are literally dying, attempting to escape their homeland. They’re starving, drowning, and wandering.
Perhaps we should quit trying to defend our own rights and start being the church. Let’s refocus our anger and energy into raising up the least of these, welcoming the stranger, and sharing our privilege, instead of idolizing our own rights and sick desire to be right.
Perhaps we should consider whether our perceived rights are hurting others. Maybe it’s okay to say Kim Davis isn’t being persecuted. Maybe it’s more important to show love, grace, and mercy to the LGBTQ community rather than disdain, disapproval, and disrespect. Maybe it’s not up to us to decide who “deserves” certain rights because we’re all made in the image of God.
Instead, maybe it’s our job to be reckless with our grace and mercy. Maybe it’s our job to be considered foolish by the world’s standards, by how we care for people. Maybe we should be known for our love and hospitality rather than our petty exclusivity.
I would much rather the world know us by how we have aided in the Syrian crisis rather than our rants on Facebook about how Kim Davis’s imprisonment is the beginning of religious oppression in America–because it’s not.