Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Gatekeeper

The truth of the recent Kim Davis mess in Kentucky surfaced in a detail, a detail familiar to anyone who has spent any time around churches.

We've been there, all us Jesus folk, when someone decides they're in charge of something at a church.  It could be anything.  It could be the coffee hour.  Or the treasury.  Or the annual Life Day celebration.

This is their thing.  Sometimes, it's because they are doing it for the joy of it.  It's a way of exuberantly sharing their gifts and graces.   Other times, they're doing it with an open hand and a servant heart.

And other times?  Well, sometimes there are...cough...other motivations.

They own it.  It belongs to them.

That part of the life of the community becomes the place of their power, the place that gives them a sense of control over the world around them.  Sure, their life may be a wreck otherwise, a weeping disaster of abandonment and brokenness, failure heaped on failure, but when it comes to determining how the doilies are arranged on the fellowship hall tables, they are the Absolute Ruler of All That May Be Done.

They are the Gatekeeper.

Woe betide anyone who messes with that sense of power.  No-one else is allowed to touch it, to do it differently.  If you are a new member or a fresh-out-of-seminary pastor, it's a thermonuclear landmine.  Mess with their fiefdom, and that Gatekeeper will do everything in their power to destroy you.

Because that role is them, themselves.  And sure, it seems so impossibly small a thing to fight over, such a waste of energy over a tiny nothing,  But that tiny nothing is the source of their identity, and they're as understanding about your touching it as Sauron was with that little ring of his.

This, I am convinced, is why when the libertarian out was offered, Davis did not take it.  Rand Paul, the quasi-libertarian, named it the other day in an interview.  

Just have someone who doesn't object to the law sign the documents, like, say, a notary public.  Then the law is upheld, the freedom of gays and lesbians is not violated, and her freedom of conscience is not violated.  It would also be entirely legal.

That was precisely the compromise offered by the court.  OK, fine, the judge said.  You don't have to do that.  Just authorize someone else to do it.  But that compromise was flatly rejected.

And in rejecting it, the truth of her position seems clear.  It is not just that she can't perform her duties because it would violate her liberty.  It is that she does not want the thing over which she has power done any way other than she wishes it done.  It would violate not her own freedom, but her control over the liberty of others.

She has become the Gatekeeper.

Now, it'd be easy at this point to get all self-righteous about how terrible a person she is, what a terrible Christian, to do such a thing.

But this hunger for power rests in all of us, no matter where we are in the political spectrum.  We all yearn for it, desire it, that place where our will rules over all.  Privilege feeds it.  So does the brokenness of want or powerlessness.  Whenever we are in community, it whispers to us, or rises up in indignant fury when someone suggests that maybe we might try doing it differently.

That desire, for power over the Other, that concupiscence, is the dark heart of human sin.

Our sin.