Beyond the Tomb, Beyond the Discrimination

I’m still thinking about Indiana.

I’m glad they came up with a patch to the RFRA law they passed. I recognize gays and lesbians in Indiana (and other states) are still subject to discrimination if they don’t live in communities that have added gender identity or sexual orientation to their human rights codes. (Idaho–Add the Words!) I’m thankful for the corporations and citizens who put pressure on the governor to make a stand for tolerance, inclusion, and civil decency.

I am left, though, with a sick feeling in my stomach about the pizza place that shut down rather than theoretically face the injustice of having to cater pizza for a gay wedding. Here’s one of the owners comments:

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she told a reporter, who had been canvassing business owners for reactions to the law. “We’re not discriminating against anyone. That’s just our belief, and anyone has the right to believe in anything.”

And this “right to believe in anything” has garnered them over $800,000 in online donations about people who are upset about the “persecution” they are facing for standing up for their faith.

First off. Persecution. American evangelical Christians who don’t like gays need to stop talking about persecution. Right now. You are NOT being persecuted. You are just coming up against the reality that the part of your faith that calls you to be mean to people is not acceptable to most Americans anymore. That is not persecution. You are still free to “believe in anything” in your churches.

You want to see persecution?

In Kenya last week, while you were worried that you were going to have to make money by serving pizza to a gay person, a terrorist group killed 148 people.

After besieging the university on Thursday, al-Shabab gunmen lined up non-Muslim, primarily Christian students before executing them in the armed group’s bloodiest attack to date.

If the Christian families mourning the death of those students want to talk about “persecution”, that’s fine.

Thursday's attack was the country's worst since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi [Getty Images]

Thursday’s attack was the country’s worst since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi [Getty Images]

Need another example?

Read this article about the way Christians are treated in Syria, and about other religious persecution around the world.

In Syria, as in much of the Middle East, the Christian presence is becoming a shadow of its former self. After three years of civil war, hundreds of thousands fled the country desperate to escape the ongoing violence perpetrated by the government and extremist groups alike. In the city of Homs the number of Christians dwindled to as few as 1,000 from approximately 160,000 prior to the conflict.

And as a pastor who has just spent the last week immersed in the story of the Christian Holy Week, I have a few other thoughts for “persecuted” American Christians who feel their religious freedom extends so far past the doors of their sanctuaries and into their public interactions.

Did you not notice that Jesus conquered death? Did you not put on your proverbial Easter bonnets and hear the story on Sunday about the empty tomb? If your Christian faith so clearly defines your life that you’re using it as an excuse to exclude people you don’t understand, then surely you were paying attention on Easter, of all days.

Because here’s the thing. Jesus doesn’t need your defense. You are not protecting him by your defense of homophobia.

He is the risen Lord. He defeated death itself. Do you really think a wedding cake could threaten him?

By all means, if you want to privilege a few verses out of thousands of verses of scripture and continue to believe that loving, caring same gender relationships are icky, then fine. Go ahead and preach that exclusion in your churches and continue to keep your doors closed to people who need to hear the Good News.

I promise nobody will ever force you to marry a gay person.

I hope you’ll look at the list of corporations who spoke out against the first version of that Indiana bill, though, and consider, “hmmm….if NASCAR, Mormon-owned-Marriott, American Airlines, Angie’s List, Wal-Mart, etc, are all opposed to this,  what does that say about how I am choosing to defend my faith?”

I promise. You can step back from this ledge on which you’re perched. And Jesus can still be the king of your life and the risen Lord. The rest of the nation is ready to move on to other issues and let the debate about whether or not gay people are people go on to the scrap pile of history. We’d love to have you join us. There is room for us all to live together on the other side of the divide.

Lots of Christians have already gotten past it and you know what we do now, on this other side of the issue?–we gather in worship, we feed people, we welcome folks in Jesus’ name, we serve God in the world. You know? Just like Jesus called us to do?

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8 thoughts on “Beyond the Tomb, Beyond the Discrimination

  1. Thank you for your continued fight against this discrimination. You voiced your opinion more direct (harsh?), but it needed to be said and I feel ashamed that I was not able to be as clear as you are when I discussed the pizza owner’s response.

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  3. Hi, Marci.

    Thanks for some perspective on the amount of persecution in America today. I think that you would also have to agree that the discrimination against homosexuals in America today is likewise minimal compared to the torture and executions that homosexuals face at the hands of the same regimes that are killing Christians elsewhere: it’s a different thing to be asked politely to go to a different bakery than to be thrown off a four-story building, yes?

    At the same time, I don’t think it’s wise to completely dismiss the concerns of persecution in America, either. If the Indiana pizza parlor did in fact receive death threats, that’s a significant bit of mental anguish; and the same would be true if a same-sex couple received death threats. Likewise, to be threatened with a business-ending lawsuit for holding to one’s belief is a form of coercion, whether one agrees with the beliefs or not. To lose one’s livelihood is no small matter.

    I am curious as to why you accuse opponents of same-sex marriage of being phobic. In the resurrection accounts, Jesus is quick to tie His death and resurrection to the forgiveness of sins. Many who oppose same-sex marriage do so because they believe it is sinful, and they are concerned about the souls of those involved. Whether or not you agree with that belief, how is concern for souls phobic? Opposition is not synonymous with a phobia. You wouldn’t consider yourself afraid of those Christians whose beliefs you oppose, would you? I’m not sure why you apply the term “homophobic.”

    Thanks,

    Tim Pauls

    • J trust you don’t mean to argue “since we aren’t throwing you off a building, you should tolerate us not offering you the same products and services we give the rest of the public”?
      Because that would be horrible.

      And the word phobia seems to apply because nobody (including you in previous comments) has ever been able to say why THIS ONE SIN is worthy of denying public accommodation when so many other biblical sins (divorce, being a woman in public, greed, disregard of neighbor, lying, taking God’s name in vain, etc) get a pass.
      There is no persecution of evangelicals in America. They own the Republican Party. They are free to worship whenever and wherever. They are on popular TV shows. The pizza owner isn’t being persecuted for her faith. She is being criticized for her abysmal failure of polite social behavior.

      I really do wish you well. As I mentioned previously, you won’t be persuading me of your viewpoint. I’m sure your efforts will be better spent on another blog. I won’t reply again.

      • Marci,

        I’m not sure you realize how you are coming across here. Sadly, I can only agree with everything that Tim Pauls attempted to communicate, but your ears seem closed, and you have stated you have cut off communication.

        I don’t think Tim was saying, “since we aren’t throwing you off a building, you should tolerate us not offering you the same products and services we give the rest of the public,” but he was trying to show you that your argument is analagous. You seem to be saying, “Since we aren’t kidnapping you or killing you, but only making death threats and suing you into oblivion, you should tolerate us forcing you to participate in a pagan ritual.” Is that what you are saying?

        Because that would be horrible.

        You talk a lot about tolerance, but you won’t tolerate a conversation with Tim Pauls, and I venture to guess, me either. You want others to “get over it,” but you seem to have made your mind up–are you open to being wrong, or do you know everything already? You want everyone to have humility, but this blog post has a very self-righteous tone. Your blog is supposedly about “God’s abundance,” but instead you seem to be talking about politics and how much you hate Republicans. You have so much sympathy for certain groups of people, but you don’t seem to make an effort to understand other groups, and it seems to be divided on political lines, which seems like a form of compromise, not religion.

        Do you think that everyone who reads your blog feels loved by these words you write? Would anyone who read these words assume (however wrongly) that you hate conservative Christians, and anyone else, such as Muslims and Orthodox Jews, who also refuse to participate in gay nuptials? You judge conservative Christians, because they assume they know the hearts of gays, but how can you know who has a fear of gays, and who just has a conviction that to participate in an unholy marriage might send them to Hell? “Let no man be condemned by what he approves.” Are you fit to “pass judgment in disputable matters?” Rom. 14

        Do you practice what you preach? That is my question for you, today, though I’m sure it will go unanswered or deleted, since I’m one of “those people” you see fit to reject. Anyway, God bless, and I hope you find peace and learn to show love to all Christians, not only the ones you agree with.

      • I had a conversation with him. He heard nothing I said either. Because he kept trying to make his points as if I hadn’t spoken. (Much of this conversation happened on another blog post.) As I said in the post, I have great tolerance for Christians to be exclusionary in their religious practices.
        Owning a business that serves the public is not a religious practice.
        And continuing to argue persecution when you can actually practice your religion freely in your churches is what I have zero tolerance for.
        Blessings to you.

      • Marci, is that the standard you want to apply to yourself. “You are only free to practice your religion in church?” Or, is your religion inseparable from your lifestyle, and no matter where you are or what you do, you want to be allowed to be a Christian?

      • Well, the Bible teaches me to show hospitality to strangers, to go two miles when they have asked me to carry a burden one mile, and to welcome the least of these in Jesus name. So yeah, I can do all of those things and make wedding cakes for people who disagree with me.
        The real question is why is your faith calling you to violate those scriptural commands?
        And the determination in society at large is that no one religion will be privileged over another in the public square and in the government. Why do you keep demanding “freedoms” that reveal your Christianity to be painful and harmful to those it meets in the public square?

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