Editor’s Note: This article was written and published to Teaching Nonviolent Atonement at Patheos yesterday, before the news came out to clarify the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis. Even so, this article offers a useful perspective on the “scandalous” nature of such a meeting.
By now you’ve heard that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis last week. I’d like to make two things clear up front: First, I love Pope Francis. I think he is making huge leaps in the right direction for Christianity on a global scale. Second, I think Kim Davis was absolutely wrong to deny marriage licenses to gay couples. I firmly believe that her stance against gay marriage is a misreading of scripture and Christian tradition. I believe that Christians can, and should, support marriage equality.
But since we discovered that Pope Francis met with Davis, many Progressives have been in an uproar. Many have tried to explain away their meeting by saying that the Pope didn’t know about Kim Davis or that there was some conspiracy within the Vatican to get Kim Davis a meeting with Pope Francis.
I might lose my Progressive credentials for this, but why are so many Progressives offended that the Pope would meet with Kim Davis? I get that many are concerned that the Pope may have endorsed her actions to exclude same gender marriage, but we just don’t know if that was his intent. Still, there’s another important issue here, and that is purity codes.
It’s as if the Pope has crossed our progressive purity codes. Sure, we love Pope Francis when he hugs a man with boils, meets with prisoners, and advocates for the poor. But meeting with our enemy? Oh that’s too much. So we hunker down to remind ourselves that Kim Davis is the enemy and anyone who fraternizes with our enemies crosses the lines of our purity codes and becomes contaminated with “otherness.”
There’s even this article with the catchy title, “How Pope Francis Undermined the Goodwill of His Trip and Proved to Be a Coward.”
Pope Francis knows that his job isn’t to make us Progressives happy. His job isn’t to get on our program. That’s because our program is so often based in opposition to our enemies. Our purity codes tell us who is in and who is out, who is worthy of love and who we should hate. So let’s just admit it – we hate people like Kim Davis. She makes our skin crawl. Our identity as Progressives is in part based by being in opposition to those we label as Evangelicals or fundamentalists or conservatives. And so we are against Kim Davis.
And many Progressives want Pope Francis to be just like us. Many want Pope Francis to have the same enemies that we have. We want him to hate the same people that we hate. That’s why we’re so scandalized when Pope Francis met with Kim Davis.
But that’s not Francis’s job. His job is to shine the love of God into the world. God doesn’t play by any purity codes, including progressive purity codes. The doctrine of the Incarnation reveals that God isn’t in rivalry with humanity. God didn’t come into the world through Jesus Christ to judge or condemn humanity. Rather, God came into the world to save us from our purity codes that create hostile identities of “us against them.”
The truth is that our enemies are not God’s enemies, because God has no enemies. The highlight of biblical teaching about God is the truth statement found in 1 John, that Jesus has revealed that “God is love.” Period. If that’s true, as every Progressive I’ve met would affirm, then God loves everyone, including those we call our enemies. Including Kim Davis.
Jesus tells us that God’s nourishing sun and refreshing rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. God makes no distinction between friend and foe, righteous and unrighteous. Rather, God loves and cares for everyone.
God loves Kim Davis. The Pope’s most important job is to shine God’s love into the world. That’s what he did by meeting with her. Does God’s love for Kim Davis mean that God endorses everything Kim Davis does? Of course not. Neither does God’s love for me or for you mean that God endorses everything that we do.
As a Progressive, I’m glad that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis. He reminds me, and all Christians, that our mission in the world isn’t to follow our group’s purity codes. Instead, it’s to cross the purity codes that divide us and them. It’s to follow the God who unabashedly loves all people.
For more, see Morgan Guyton’s excellent article, “Jesus would have met with Kim Davis and Gene Robinson.”