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.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?