Being an expatriate Kentuckian, I’m pretty familiar with the stereotypes my fellow Americans have of residents from the Bluegrass State: uneducated, gun-crazy, holy-rolling Christians, who once a year put on fancy hats to drink mint juleps at the horse track.
Sadly, while those stereotypes don’t really describe my family or other Kentuckians I know, they also contain elements of statistical and experiential truth. Kentucky ranks near the bottom for high school graduation and college degrees, and state funding of public schools — something it’s never excelled at — has consistently fallen over the past few years.
And damn, Kentuckians love their guns. Most of my family had or have them, including my grandmother who kept a shotgun handy for the starlings in her garden, plus the one day she almost shot my uncle for walking around his own barn. I realize it sounds crazy to people who’ve never lived out in the middle of nowhere, but having lived there it’s why my passionate support for gun control comes with a sincere desire for reasonable exceptions based on such things as location and need.
Then there are the holy rollers, my roundabout way to finally mention Kentucky’s most recently famous Christian, Kim Davis. The anti-gay county clerk is the reason so many Kentuckians — including a substantial number of not-gay-friendly conservatives — flinch when they see Kentucky mentioned in the national news. If you’re a Kentuckian in a story that’s not running on ESPN, then it’s highly likely you’re just embarrassing your home state.
As for Davis, I probably shouldn’t throw around a term like “holy roller” because it is derogatory and not entirely fair. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of the far edges of Protestantism, not because of snake-handling or speaking in tongues, but because of the way they treat women. It’s easy to spot the women who belong to holy roller churches: always long skirts, never pants, little to no makeup, and long, uncut, and unstyled hair.
Notably, it’s not so easy to spot the holy roller husbands since they’re allowed to look like everybody else, down to the jeans, dirty boots, and farmer’s caps. I find it pretty rich that Davis, with her religiously enforced and strictly limited sartorial choices, is now being defended by the very people on the political right who want to free women from Muslim rules requiring hijabs and burqas.
In Davis’ church, “sisters wear a veil or head covering during prayer and worship as a symbol of their submission according to God’s order of Creation.” It’s like backwoods Sharia law, but for Jesus, so Fox News is fine with it.
I bring this up late in the game because we’re at the tail end of Davis’s 15 minutes and just coming off the ineptly chosen fight her lawyers and supporters chose to pick with the Vatican. First, it was very odd that a woman from a religious tradition with little historical patience for popery would approach a meeting with Pope Francis the way a tween girl would a backstage hug from Justin Bieber. Second, while the whole affair should remind everyone that too many pro-gay people are cutting the pope too much slack for his quiet “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach, it was also marvelously satisfying to watch the Vatican put the smack down on Davis and force her Liberty Counsel lawyers to call the leader of the Catholic Church a liar.
It’s a fitting climax to a political story that was wafer thin to begin with. Davis has been backed into a corner created by her craven, hate-peddling lawyers. Judging from the reactions of family, friends, social media, and even many politicians in Kentucky, many of the state’s residents have been rolling their eyes at the woman demanding her right to a government job and wishing her Washington lawyers would stop using her and embarrassing the state. It’s time for Davis and her supporters to get back to work.
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