As I hear discussion about Indiana’s recent “Religious Freedom Act” bill, my mind pictures a restaurant owned by Christian business owners with signs reading “No Gays Allowed,” or something horrific and ugly like that. I’ve been pretty clear in previous blog posts that just because a Christian believes, according to the Bible, that homosexual actions are sinful (the Bible doesn’t say a person who identifies as a homosexual is sinful, only the willful action), it doesn’t mean they should treat gays and lesbians any differently (e.g. on Boy Scouts policy, on gay marriage / civil unions). We Christians should treat them with the same love, friendship and respect as we would heterosexuals who are having sex outside of marriage (which is almost every non-Christian we know), something Christians also consider a sin.
We aren’t to hold people who aren’t Christians and don’t believe the Bible to the same standard that we hold Bible-believing Christians to, Paul himself tells us this in 1 Corinthians 5:12. Logically it doesn’t even make sense to hold someone to the standards of a holy book they don’t first personally and on their own free will sign on to. It is illogical to attempt to hold me to the standards of the Qur’an, as I haven’t signed on in agreement to that as God’s Word for my life. But it makes perfect sense to hold a Muslim to the standards of the Qur’an. So don’t attempt to hold a non-Christian to the standards of the Bible, whether they be Muslim, atheist, gay or lesbian. And don’t judge or stigmatize them when they don’t.
To be consistent (which is the key concept missing in all of these debates), if a law is passed saying I can withhold my business services to gay and lesbians, I also need a law passed saying I can withhold my services from those having sex outside of marriage, those who’ve been divorced, and those who get drunk. These are three sins that Christians who get up in arms about LGBT issues in the public square need to honestly compare their reactions to, because these are extremely similar to the homosexual practice commands in the Bible. All four of these are premeditated things that you are willingly and consciously doing, without making effort to refrain from, and all four of them are widely accepted by our culture. We treat those who get drunk, divorcees and fornicators without stigma, yet those in the LGBT community with extreme stigma–which is inconsistent and wrong.
I have plenty of friends who run small photography businesses, most of them who are Christians. It’s one thing to deny a gay or lesbian service at a restaurant, as I described above. But isn’t legally forcing a photographer to photograph a lesbian marriage the same as forcing them into a political viewpoint or forcing them to participate in and endorse something they hold to be immoral? Some of these people may even vote for gay-marriage because they want to allow legal rights to gays and lesbians, but they still wouldn’t want to personally endorse a gay marriage, and why should they be forced to by our government?
Someone can be okay with something being allowed on a legal level (e.g. gay marriage) without having to participate in it themselves.
If I own a photography business and I have a personal or religious view that polygamous marriages are wrong, should I be legally forced to go to a polygamous wedding and shoot photos of the groom and brides?
It’s actually kind of scary to think about the amount of power our legal system will have over us and the amount of freedoms we as individuals won’t have as this line of thought continues.
If a lesbian couple, or a polygamous family, were to come into my Christian-owned restaurant, I had better serve them good food and treat them extra friendly. I had better show them the love and grace of Jesus, just as I would a non-married couple who is living together, or a couple who has been divorced and remarried.
But this is different than having to bless and agree with their actions as a Christian. Having to attend the act itself and put my name or business name behind it, like the business logo on the front of a little league baseball team’s jersey. If a frat party wanted to hire me as a photographer for their drunken, make-out and stripper filled party, would I be forced by law to oblige?
Would I be forced by law to photograph a porn shoot? It seems I would! If we are being consistent that is…
Or if that example seems too far-fetched, a swimsuit modeling shoot would also make an appropriate comparison. If I were a public photography business, there’s no way I would personally accept a job doing a swimsuit modeling shoot. It would in no way discriminate against the person in the swimsuit photo. That person could walk into my restaurant, my church, or my house with no problem whatsoever. What I’d be discriminating against as a photographer is the practice, which is something businesses do every day based on religious, political, moral, financial, and networking values.
The practice, not the person.
To the LGBT community: I know that to you the “person” and “practice” are indistinguishable and any attempt to make them two separate things hurts and insults you, because the “practice” is as much a part of your identity and is synonymous to you with who you are as a person. What I’m saying is that it’s helpful for Christians to see homosexual persons and homosexual practice as two different things because 1. this is what the Bible says and many Christians teach this incorrectly, 2. it gives freedom for people to identify as gay but stay celibate if they decide they want to live according to the Bible, and 3. it allows Christians to see gays and lesbians in the same light as we see anyone else, which I truly believe is a great step forward for all of us. Meaning: we aren’t saying what you are doing is any more “wrong” than someone who’s had a divorce, is having sex outside of marriage or who gets drunk, and we aren’t going to treat you any differently. You are our friends and a disagreement on a behavior won’t sever that friendship, just as it doesn’t sever our other friendships.
I don’t expect this blog article to fully bridge the gap between Christians like myself and the LGBT community, though it’s an essential cog to this conversation. And the growing group of 100% homosexual, 100% celibate, 100% Bible-believing Christians is going to be a very influential voice going forward because they break the old-school-Christian’s and the LGBT’s paradigm of this being a black and white debate with no complexity, no middle ground and no grey area.
Most of the time, you are screwed if you do or say anything that tries to get people to see this is a complex issue. We don’t like to pause and look at all angles. We don’t like to pause at all. We just like to yell. We load up our verbal and textual AK-47’s and as soon as we hear any of the hot button trigger words we are hyper-sensitized to, we blast away. The noise of our own gun deafening out any opportunity for constructive, loving, helpful conversation. And this gun certainly fires both ways.
See both sides.
Yes, I’m talking to you Christians.
And I’m talking to you in the LGBT community.
Let’s get rid of the pendulum of act and react.
Let’s learn from how we already treat people who aren’t Christians. (With love and non-judgmentalism, not with a stigma)
And let’s hopefully (though I know it’s highly unlikely) move forward with gentleness, respect, dignity, and love.
The current “Religious Freedom Act” of Indiana seems way too broad and general, allowing for discrimination of LGBT people in their daily lives to take place. I will be courageous here and make an effort to try to come up with something that’s fair and just for all involved. I would propose a law that delineates an official marriage ceremony (which has religious, political and moral polarity to it) from a person’s daily life:
No person can be denied any service from a for-profit institution, unless that service involves direct personal endorsement of gay marriage or polygamous marriage by the institution. The denying of services cannot be to simply penalize the persons involved in gay or polygamous marriages (e.g. eating at a restaurant), but are restricted to being used to protect citizens from being forced by the government to put their business or personal name on an official activity they morally, politically or religiously object to. Gay marriage and polygamous marriage are issues to be voted on by the American public, a vote that citizens have the freedom to choose on without the government forcing them to vote one way or the other. Forcing citizens to vote for one side or the other would be unconstitutional, as would forcing a citizen or business to endorse an activity they are morally or religiously opposed to. Eating at a restaurant is not a moral or religious activity, getting married is. America cannot take away a citizen’s right to support what they choose about the religious or moral act of marriage, while at the same time America must protect all individuals, regardless of their moral or religious choice of marriage convictions, from being discriminated against or denied services in their daily lives.
It’s not perfect, but it’s an attempt to do better. Maybe we can do better together?
Grace and peace.
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