Shabbos Goy

Culture, Justice, Media, Religion, War and Politics

“The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order,” Judge Bunning said. “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

When I was younger, I was more strident in my atheism. If I lacked the misogyny and gross prejudice—against Islam in particular—that qualify a person for the “New Atheist” label, then I nevertheless held to their practice of swashbuckling into almost any conversation, dull sword drawn, ready to declare that Holy Books hopelessly self-contradict; all those eternal truths are changeable and historically contingent; the notion of any kind of supreme and omnipotent being refutes itself under the simplest tests of logic; and oh, by the way, the Inquisition etc. were very, very bad. All of these arguments are simultaneously true and facile; faith exempts itself from these little eructations of materialism, which doesn’t make it correct but does make it in a sense immune to correctness as a category. In the last decade, my atheism has both deepened and softened. I suspect that had I encountered the right rabbi at the right time in my early twenties, when my passionate anti-religion burned hottest, then I might have been salvaged by grace. Now I tend to view religion, and at least some of the religious, with sympathy, which puts my soul beyond their reach, although it does sometimes force me to remind people that I know there are no gods and just appreciate the poetry.

This long caveat is to say that I have some sympathy for Kim Davis, though not because she’s in the right in her imagined protest. The idea that an agent of the government can nullify the law and obviate the constitutional rights of citizens due to her own private beliefs is manifestly silly. In the immortal formulation of your Catholic hero and mine, Antonin Scalia, you are entitled to your beliefs but not to your government job. Yes, even government employees, even elected officials, can engage in civil disobedience, but you don’t get to ride the First Amendment freely into your pension, especially not by violating its first clause in the delusional belief that in so doing you’re defending its second. As plenty of folks have pointed out, it was well within her small power to deputize some other row officer to sign off on these Satanic permits; that she refused to do so out of a let-us-say theologically suspect belief in the transitive property of the rendered-unto-Caesar suggests a desire to force the issue to a head. The Supreme Court is ironically responsible for this mess: its sloppy Hobby Lobby decision has convinced every minor divine in America that mere belief in whatever puts diplomatic plates on his prejudices.

But the Supreme Court is responsible, and it seems to me that any reasonably dull person, which is to say most Americans, who occasionally tunes into cable news, could easily draw this same conclusion: that “deeply held faith” abrogates temporal law. Egged on in this incorrect belief by unscrupulous legal counsel, you can just imagine how a person like Kim Davis could come to see herself as a hero and a martyr. Unlike her counsel, I don’t actually imagine that Davis holds any particular animus toward gays in particular, but rather has just a vague, foreboding sense of the inevitable decline of the familiar order of things. I grew up in a dying Appalachian coal town in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and I knew plenty of women like Kim Davis. They went to the Church of Abundant Life and believed that Jews were going to hell, although one suggested to my mother that our family might be among the 144,000 to be bodily assumed into Heaven on the Rapture’s eve. They thought homosexuality was an abomination, but they were on perfectly good terms with the chubby homo who feathered and teased out their hair at Bangz. Democrats hadn’t done shit when the mines closed, so they drifted toward George Bush and learned to blame the unions and weren’t entirely wrong in either case. The Kim Davises of the world can’t do shit about the decline of Eastern Kentucky, but by God, this one of them can take a stand against things bein’ different. Correctness as a category does not apply.

Now, your regional sob story and hopelessly convoluted sexual ethics don’t entitle you to discriminate from your elected office, but I have the inescapable feeling that by holding her in contempt and tossing her in the clink, Judge Bunning did precisely the wrong thing. He was correct to observe that a pecuniary penalty would have had no impact; political allies of her lawyers would have made fines immaterial to her. And yes, courts do need a mechanism for enforcing compliance with their orders. But it strikes me that if Bunning could just wave his federal wand and allow others to issue the permits, then I see no reason why he couldn’t do the same without the cell. Despite her protestations to the contrary—that these certificates are somehow invalid without her signature—no one believes that the boys down at the Social Security Office are going to take her word over the order of a federal judge. I’ve seen some commentary on the convoluted authority to issue these permits in Kentucky, but state permitting statutes don’t trump the constitution, and their misapplication doesn’t invalidate gays’ right to marry.

If anything, to have simply swatted away her feckless protest and instructed someone else to marry the couples in question would have been a more fitting, biting, and deserved punishment. Let her whine impotently from behind the permits & licenses desk down at the county office while the janitor signs off under the authority of the US District Court. She will be neither hero nor martyr, and in a few months, she’ll wonder why she ever made such a fuss. Instead, I fear we’ve created another dumb saint in a country that seems to me to be drowning in dumb sanctimony. We must learn to love our enemies enough that the only punishment we desire in their defeat is their irrelevance. That would suffice.

24 thoughts on “Shabbos Goy

  1. She’ll be LHAOROTG in Heaven (if they have a ground) when Bunning is burning in Hell. BTW, I think you need a app to cash in on being one of the twelve squared grand. It’s called Pascal Wager, but their no Android version yet.

    1. There’s no bet to be had if you truly don’t believe. It’d be like betting on purple in roulette. You could certainly say you bet on purple, but no matter what, your brain knows purple doesn’t exist.

      1. Sure. I think that was the point of the bet: either to betray the agnosticism or reveal a haughty sort of social decadence whose inefficiency should ruffle any non-poser atheist’s sense of decorum.

  2. coulda made her read romeo & juliet, too. deflation over inflation, any day.

    it is the cause, it is the cause. oh the book deals we’ll sign! has Oprah called yet? i don’t think we should underestimate boredom as a cause of the showboating required to be a “martyr.” County Clerk? please. i’m gonna stir up the first bit of trouble i can! And lots of other Christoids get the vicarious thrill of persecution, which, as we know, is a mark of The Believer.

    Kim Davis sounds a lot like my mom. appreciate the sympathy for her, JB.

  3. It’s a more salient issue to me that the state is uses a religious institution as a social engineering tool. It’s a direct line from the feudal lord having to give his consent. I’m not even a libertarian and I think a country with an Establishment Clause in its constitution should not be involved in sanctioning marriages. There are other ways to collect fees from people…

  4. “….against Islam in particular….”?? Hogwash. This gratuitous and telling “Look, I’ll be honest with you” interpolation signifies the opposite, really—now, and as I suspect, then. Islam gets a functional pass from the Western left because Muslims are credentialed geopolitical victims mired in a trying stage of development, like disadvantaged or misunderstood teens.

    Meanwhile, it’s heartening to see the same folks suddenly cleave to the Rule of Law over Kim Davis. Obama’s executive eel-pulling may be sui generis, inapposite, or in Con Law terms a “political question”, but today’s cry of “Do Your Job!” has been conspicuously absent from liberals where for instance sanctuary jurisdiction sheriffs and police chiefs are concerned.

    At the end of the day, though, even I must concede that Davis and her cause well earn all those boos and hisses from our establishment melodrama audience as she’s trotted out as a civil disobedience martyr-hero. She’s no wholesome, all-American type like Michael Brown or Freddie Gray. Nor are her supporters as cool as the Freedom Rioters and local officials arrested in solidarity…

    1. give inkberrow a shotgun & he’ll hit everything in sight! muslims are in a “trying stage of development.” yeah, like when they text & drive at the same time and are obsessed with acne. or maybe it’s the muslim world’s first menstrual period? wtf?

      1. You should really try to follow the Net-Age updated old adage on this and refrain from comment. The likes of the ‘Stain spun zOz to new heights of frustrating madness — filling in the holes of vacuously erudite argumentation by someone who will always be better than the rest at shifting the pale in circles.

      2. You’ll want a shotgun too once you find the barn.

        WTF? For most modern Western liberals, orthodox religious observance is at best an atavistic, obsolete nonage, or coping mechanism; at worst, a delusional, philistine, and even radioactively savage and coercive escapism. Judeo-Christianity, goes the, um, dogma, is one of the most pernicious forces in human history. From these same collectivist global levellers, however, Islam gets a hall pass, even tolerant, patronizing short-bus treatment.

        Why? Politics. Because the persistence of the pan-Muslim rage-boy collective can be ascribed to the nonpareil, bullying greed of the Anglo-European Judeo-Christian capitalist-colonialist West,, that dread supervillain; and not coincidentally to Muslim nations being stuck in that developmental stage before materialistic, secular humanism inevitably supplants superstition by means of a smartphone in every paw and a Jobs Council on every corner.

      3. no davidly, inkberrow is the source of wit in others.

        Words, words, words, inkberrow. let me hit you with something that transcends the muslim/christian/secular/religious/etc. paradigm you are proposing:

        object permanence. i’m not enough of a liberal to believe that when i put my beer can in the recycle bin it magically disappears into a carbon-free either.

        nor am i obtuse enough not to recognize there were no libyan refugees till 2011. or are libyans (etc.) just fleeing neo-colonialist rhetoric dropped in flyers by NATO bombers? we handed iraq & afghanistan a democracy & all we got was a bunch of dumb ragged fugees threatening to infect us with their muslim atavism? (funny i cracked open The Economist & NYT on the refugee crisis, & couldn’t find a word on any conflict prior to today. The refugees show up like some poor unwanted loser relative who you know is just there to steal your tires and drink your booze.)

        to end with a classic, what the fuck are you talking about?

    2. There is more to permanence than objects, just as there is more to history and causation than recent events in recent years. even if that happens to be when some of us have paid attention to detail.

  5. I grew up in poor, rural Appalachia, too, and I say we nuke the place from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. (I kid, but I also never go back there until my mom’s demands that I visit become unendurable.)

    Nothing to do with Blue Tribe/Red Tribe stuff. I gave up my credentials in the former years ago, and never belonged to the latter. Nor is it my atheism: I’m mostly indifferent to religion, but I will say that, if there is a God, I doubt He is any more sympathetic than Dean Wormer to the fat, drunk, and stupid.

    1. Hah! I love it! “There prolly isn’t a god, but if there is, I’m sure he judges the same people I do!” You DO sound like a christian!

      1. Christians are commanded not to be judgmental. Me, I’m happy to exercise that most basic of human social faculties.

      2. To a non-believer, specific Christian beliefs are axiomatically or at least electively “petty”. Nor are non-believers any less susceptible to pretensions to moral certitude proceeding from a navel’s-eye perspective.

  6. I have, over time, come to realize that there is very little benefit to being An Atheist of a Certain Kind. The angry types hate you, and the religious always try to peck away until they can get you to give them the very thing you never can: believe in that old buzzard in the sky.

  7. Stopped by after a long absence to see if anything’s changed around here; greeted by gratuitous and bigoted New Atheist-bashing within the very first paragraph (impeccably expressed, as always). Plus ca change….

  8. I honestly hadn’t considered the situation in this particular way (I self-identify as an agnostic, so I find that I have to be careful about which religious fights I enter), but I find myself agreeing with you on a lot of points; rendering her complaint functionally irrelevant would have been the equivalent of sucking the oxygen out of the room. Her complaint is nominally met, but actually sidestepped, and none of the religious right finds a battle-ground to die on. At least, not in this particular situation.

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