I can’t bring myself to hate Kim Davis. I don’t agree with her position on marriage equality, and I think she should have resigned when she realized she could no longer do the job she was elected to do, but I don’t hate her for that. She believed in her heart that what she was doing was right, and she was willing to go to jail for it. I admire her for her courage, although I agree that she belongs in jail for what she has done, or rather, for what she has refused to do. I hate the decision she made, and I hate it that she has hurt so many people who simply wanted to marry the one they love. But as a human being who was just as surely created in the image of God as I was, I can’t hate her.
If you know me at all, you know that you can usually find me way left of center politically. And I’ve noticed, lately, that it seems like every week we liberal/progressive types find a new person to hate--whether it’s a police officer who kills an unarmed black kid, or a politician who says offensive things about immigrants, or a county clerk who refuses to marry gay couples when it's her job to do so. We seem to thrive on having someone to hate. Because we perceive ourselves as open-minded, loving people, our hate must be justified, so we demonize the object of our hatred as someone who is pure evil, through and through. But folks, there is no truth in the demonization of others. The truth is, there is evil in each of us, just as there is good in each of us.
The demonization of Kim Davis helps otherwise kind people rationalize the venom they spew about her. There are tweets going around that have supposedly been sent from the person who works next to her. They are shared as if they are proof that the woman is crazy. I’m having trouble understanding how that might justify hating her, even if it were true. A lot of folks have made a huge deal out of the fact that she was married four times. It’s viewed as a sign of her hypocrisy about what constitutes a Biblical marriage, and that may well be. But if we’re going to start hating everyone who is hypocritical, we’d better avoid mirrors. As a person who has been divorced twice, when I heard she had been married four times, I felt compassion for her. No doubt, as someone who considers herself a Christian, her divorces are a source of great shame in her life. Attacking her shame is certainly an effective way to hurt her, if that is the goal. Those of us who have been publicly shamed by others know that all too well.
All summer long I have been rehearsing with a local chorus as we prepared for a concert to benefit two organizations that are working to fight against bullying: the Tyler Clementi Foundation and Time Out Youth. Both organizations are particularly concerned with bullying that has been, and continues to be, so damaging to LGBT kids. It seems that everyone who is a part of the gay/lesbian/transgender community has been a victim of bullying in some form, and they feel strongly about it. It angers and hurts me that people I love so dearly have to endure this; I would do anything to stop it, if I could.
Last night, I floated home on the love that had filled the auditorium during our glorious anti-bullying concert. Then I sat down at my computer to look at my Facebook feed ... and my heart sank as I read one hateful post after another about Kim Davis. You have to understand that I don’t get Facebook posts from people who disagree with me. Those people are quickly unfriended. So these posts were from my tribe: progressive Christians, liberals, LGBT folks and their allies. As I read them, I felt sick inside because I realized that I have often hopped aboard the hate express, too. But I can’t get on this time. Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe spending an entire summer singing songs about bullying has affected me. Or maybe pastoring a congregation whose motto is “Loving Not Judging” is changing the way I think. But I just can’t bring myself to hate Kim Davis.
I want my friends to know that I love you enough to remind you that the solution to hate is never hate. I understand that it may feel good at the time to lash out at those who have hurt you, but hatred never leads to healing. It only leads to more hatred. Those of us who are so opposed to bullying especially need to notice the blind spot we ourselves may have when it comes to bullying others. I pray we all can step outside our own hurt just enough so that we don’t become the very thing we hate in others. The world can become a more loving place when we practice love with those we could so easily hate. Jesus had a lot to say about that, and I'm convinced he was right.