The Pope’s visit with Kim Davis doesn’t matter that much

Kim Davis represents the fracturing of American society. She is a small town, old school southern Democrat-turned-Republican caught up in a vortex of social change that her dogma refused to let in — not just in her heart but in her government office. It’s hard to tell what the biggest offense was: that she held these views, or that she executed these views through her elected, taxpayer funded office. Both are abhorrent.

However, I really don’t care that she met with Pope Francis, because it is wholly unsurprising and progressives seeking a pure idol in the Holy Father were doomed to find it.

To be clear, this isn’t a “hammers find nails” approach. This has history. The Catholic Church is one of the most powerful, enduring forces in the world, and it has absolutely no precedent for being in lock-step with American progressivism. Francis, whose first steps ever in the United States took place seven days ago, is no exception.

I don’t want to defend Pope Francis for meeting with someone as misguided as Kim Davis, a self-righteous symbol of the homophobia that controls much of this country. But doesn’t it make sense? Pope Francis doesn’t truly care about the American system of government, he cares about the Bible and church doctrine. All of his dogma is rooted in that. And because of this, he’s firmly pro-traditional marriage, and also firmly pro-forgiveness. So even if he found Kim Davis abhorrent, as I do, he would have no problem kissing her forehead and praying for grace.

In Pope Francis’ speech to Congress, I was surprised by how he pulled no punches on climate change, death penalty abolition, poverty and the refugee crisis. These are all Progressive American values. It is also important to notice how he held back on two very real, very polarizing issues: abortion and same-sex marriage. Francis never mentions them by name, but on the other issues he trudges through the mud to tell us how God will judge us.

This is the definition of progress. This is moving a two-thousand year old rock miles from where it used to be. The lack of eternal damnation, the promise that we can do things because we are in the image of God and not in the snares of the Devil — this is pouring water on fire and brimstone. Being afraid to call the “demons” of social change by name because society has revealed them as angels, the same way heliocentrism, birth control, and divorce came to be regarded as fact and not dystopian fiction, is a sign of hope.

What happens now? Conservatives hit progressives who loved Francis with a “gotcha.” Progressives hit other progressives who loved Francis with a “gotcha,” and in the mix of the shame we are pushing on those who fell for Francis’ words of hope, we forget that so many of viewed his remarks as partisans firsts, believers (if at all) second.

If we were attracted to his politics, that was our own undoing. He does not exist to weigh in on the 2016 primary debates, your gubernatorial race, or the affairs of local American government. For this point, I rely on Michael Gearson’s column in the Washington Post last week:

But those who were happy about the speech because it supported their political views, or unhappy because it did not, missed the point entirely. To focus on the pope’s economic or scientific views is like describing a picture of a barn and leaving out the barn. Francis is offering a spiritual perspective on our society and our lives that transcends the normal ideological framework.
U.S. politics takes place in two dimensions. It is a flat world where one axis reads left and the other reads right and all of us fall somewhere in the field these ideologies define. Francis adds a third dimension. Every one of us flatlanders, he says, can look upward and be in a transforming relationship with God. And God regards us — all of us, proud and broken, wounded and whole — as equal in value and dignity. Francis described “the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.”

The meeting hits our core because of how defiantly terrible she was juxtaposes how perfect we thought Francis was, forgetting for a moment that he was a human with highly religious convictions.

It is misguided to demand penance from those who held Pope Francis up as a light in the dim world. It’s as misguided as holding him up as a progressive, conservative, or American. He exists outside of these axes, and that notion naturally makes us uncomfortable.

And we tend to get a certain way when we’re uncomfortable.

Is this meeting disheartening? Of course. Is it surprising? Not in the least. It’s not on us to forgive or absolve Kim Davis, or Pope Francis, because the threat that we as queer people face is real. But if we take Pope Francis’ words seriously, and find a “more progressive” Catholicism, maybe forgiveness should be on the menu.

But who am I to judge?