The sin of smugness

September 9th, 2015

Last week, as news broke about Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple due to her religious convictions, I began to pay close attention to the rhetoric from my progressive Christian brothers and sisters, as well as my own internal reactions. While I disagree with her behavior and her reasoning for it, I noticed that my internal commentary and the commentary from some of my friends were anything but Christian.

When more information began to surface, the self-righteousness intensified. Her modest, conservative appearance and dress as well as her publicized romantic history came under fire, and a version of Kim Davis began to take shape. As a self-identified Southerner, I cringe at the media portrayal of people like Kim Davis. Had a similar incident occurred in New York or Oregon instead of Kentucky, perhaps the level of vitriol would not have been so high. Instead, Kim Davis appeared to personify some people’s unfavorable ideas about the South — a hypocritical, Bible-thumping hick taking a stand against the federal government.

“God, I thank you that I am not like this county clerk, with my Divinity School degree and my open-mindedness,” I thought to myself. And then I caught myself. My reaction to Kim Davis, or at least the media portrayal of Kim Davis, brought out my inner Pharisee. And if I’m honest, my inner Pharisee is not hidden that deeply. I might not be standing in the temple listing off all of my spiritual accomplishments to God like the Pharisee in Luke 18, but I do have a tendency towards being one of those “that trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt” to whom Jesus tells the parable.

Hopefully, it should not come as a surprise to people that their ordained leaders have not reached spiritual perfection, that we too are working every day towards becoming better Christ-followers. God is not done with me yet, thankfully, and I pray that gradually my pride will be replaced with humility. But the more focused I am on the splinter in some else’s eye, the less I am willing to notice or admit that there is a log in my own.

Even though Kim Davis and I might disagree politically and theologically, the fact remains that we are both part of the Body of Christ — a body so diverse and awesome that it can contain many different types of people who proclaim Jesus Christ as their God and Savior. She is my sister in Christ, though I may initially be hesitant to claim her. In the culture at-large, this is not a popular viewpoint. Our political culture, and often our Christian culture as well, is more concerned with defining who is right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out. We are more interested in drawing lines in the sand than drawing a circle around us all, in vilifying other points of view rather than discovering what we might have in common.

Ultimately, it is not our differing viewpoints that divide us but our inability to acknowledge our own pride and smugness at being right. As Christians, we need to re-discover and remember who and what ultimately brings us together: Jesus Christ.

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