“And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side”
– Bob Dylan
If patriotism is, indeed, the last refuge of scoundrels, special insight into the mind of God can usually be counted on as the first and last refuge of the mean-spirited.
Recent events surrounding a mean-spirited and illegal refusal to issue marriage licenses in Kentucky are, in fact, small potatoes in history’s long-simmering stew of bigotry, discrimination, violence and murder justified in the name of certainties about their deity or their absolute faith in the all too odd opinions concocted by their co-religionists.
In the lifetimes of most of us, some notion of God has been called on to justify: slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation; anti-semitism, expropriation and the holocaust; misogyny the denial of voting rights , property rights and divorce to women; the harassment of women seeking abortions, and the murder of those providing them; 9/11, beheadings and honor killings.
In each and every case the mean-spirited injustice of it all, not to mention the all too often unspeakable harm inflicted, is justified either by self-serving misreadings of scriptures or, more often than not, a pseudo-Calvinist perversion of “justification by faith,” taking the form of “I’m-not-sure-why, but-I-know-God’s-on-my side.”
In Kentucky the syndrome reared its ugly head once more in the form of a Clerk of Court who cited her “faith” as an excuse for both her bigotry and her refusal to carry out her legal duty to issue marriage licenses.
Most Christians think she’s forgotten the Sermon on the Mount.
Most jurists think she’s in contempt of court.
Most ethicists think she should never have sought the post of Clerk of Court in the first place.
Most bosses think she should have been fired.
Yet, many of our fellow citizens on the right who share her prejudices have praised her “courage, ” comparing her to Martin Luther King, or to pacifists who refuse to bear arms, or others who turned to civil disobedience to right wrongs.
She, and they, of course, have nothing in common with any of them.
What’s sad, and dangerous, is they really don’t know why.