Sep 10, 2015
In the fifth century before Christ, the Greek playwright Sophocles wrote the tragedy entitled Antigone. The protagonist, Antigone, is one of theater's most powerful women. Antigone faces a conflict that is profound and poignant. The newly crowned King of Thebes has forbidden a proper burial for her brother. Does she obey him or does she show the proper respect for her brother?
Antigone places conscience above human law. She refuses to obey a man-made law. Instead, she insists on obeying the law of the gods. Not even the threat of death deters her. In the figures of Antigone and the king, Sophocles has immortalized the conflict between personal freedom and state control. In the character of Antigone, he has given us one of the oldest depictions of civil disobedience.
In the course of history, many courageous individuals have defied unjust state laws. They have chosen civil disobedience as a way to remain faithful to their conscience. Gandhi in India, the playwright Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia's 1989 Velvet Revolution and Nelson Mandela in South Africa's anti-apartheid, to name a few. Not to mention the early Christians who chose to die rather than to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar. God before the state!
Most recently, a county clerk in Kentucky has made the headlines for her civil disobedience. Kim Davis openly defied the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision redefining marriage. Immediately following the court's decision this June, as county clerk, she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The response to her civil disobedience has been swift, dramatic and somewhat confusing.