John Wesley’s Advice for Kim Davis

I’ve been keeping up with the saga of Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky who went to Jail in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses. Davis did this because of the recent supreme court decision legalizing gay marriage. She stopped issuing any marriage licenses at all, either to heterosexual or homosexual couples. She asserts that she has a right to practice her faith, and she does. However, she does not have a right to hold the position of county clerk when she either cannot or will not fulfill the tasks that the office requires of her.

Please allow me to explain. I’ve been thinking about John Wesley and the advice he gave in his sermon, “On the Use of Money.” In it Wesley warns the people called Methodists not to continue in any employment that is damaging to their bodies, minds, or souls. Wesley says that if they find themselves in such employment, they need to quit and find a new job. He never asserts that they should attempt to change the job to suit their faith, but rather that they should find a new job. I’m morally and religiously opposed to gambling, but this fact doesn’t give me the right to take a job at a casino and then refuse to perform my duties because of my religious objections. Instead, I must find non-casino employment, even if that employment is not as lucrative. Jesus calls us to take up our cross; he does not call us to impose heavy burdens on others.

I think Kim Davis would have John Wesley’s sympathy (after all he lived from 1703 to 1791, a time in which Christianity was united in opposition to homosexuality). But I think that he would encourage her to seek to salve her conscience and save her soul not by refusing to do her job, but by finding a new one.