Every once in a while you just get a stroke of luck as a blogger. I was thinking about Thomas More because of my post last week, and then the news this week has been dominated by the story of Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk of Courts who refuses to certify marriage licenses for gay couples in her county.
For background: More refused on religious grounds to acknowledge King Henry VIII’s annulment from Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn. He resigned his post as Chancellor because of his refusal to compromise his beliefs. That wasn’t good enough for the King, who ultimately had him executed over his continued refusal.
I’m not even a religious person, but I do kind of admire More’s guts. Somebody really did need to stand up to the King.
Fast forward about five centuries: Kim Davis also refuses to recognize marriages on religious grounds. Is she an outstanding example of defending one’s principles, like More?
Notice the bit above where More resigned. Davis refuses to do that. She is effectively saying that her beliefs trump the rule of law. More never said that–he just said that he would not carry out something that violated his beliefs, and refused to be part of a system that required him to do so. Davis is trying to have it both ways: be part of the system and put her beliefs over and above the system itself.
And that is the difference between being a principled martyr taking a stand and somebody just trying to make a scene.