Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Conscience, Religious Liberty, and Discrimination
**Warning: Some graphic language and terms are used in order to communicate a point, the language and tone of these examples do not reflect my personal feelings or views or that of The Journey Church or other organizations I represent
A huge issue being discussed right now in the national media and within Christendom is religious liberty versus discrimination. The gay marriage debate is front and center, once again, and the subject now is over religious freedom to decline services to same-sex partners or whether it is discrimination.
I do not pretend that this is an easy issue. But it is an important one.
The debate centers around Christian conscience of assisting or performing services for a same-sex marriage. This is not about whether a burger joint owned by Christians should serve homosexuals at their counters. This is not about whether a gym owned by Christians should allow homosexuals to be members. This is about asking business owners or service providers to provide a service that directly violates their conscience.
For example: there have already been cases around the country of florists, bakers, and photographers being fined by the government for refusing to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies due to their Christian convictions. The government is currently making decisions and legislation that would force these businesses to provide services and violate their conscience.
There has been much written about this as of late. Trevin Wax writes particularly about the violation of conscience here. Al Mohler writes here about the coercion of the government to force people to do things against their religious liberties. Doug Wilson writes here in response to two journalists who write and compare not serving homosexuals as Jim Crow laws. Joe Carter writes here about why the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage is not the same as race and civil rights. You can go and read these articles to gain more understanding of the issues at hand here.
The way I would like to end this post is to share why I'm personally concerned about our trajectory. Our government is rapidly falling in line with the narrative that to decline services to someone for religious convictions is insufficient and only a cover up for discrimination. This bothers me because I can see a day when someone contacts me about renting our church to have a same-sex marriage and/or asking me to perform the ceremony. We would decline both requests for such services. What happens when this is reported to civil authorities as discrimination and/or a hate crime or violation of civil rights, and the church, including myself, are fined, penalized, and even prosecuted?
I am not homophobic. I have friends who are professing homosexuals. I do not agree with this lifestyle based on my religious convictions and worldview. However, I will eat in the same restaruant with them. I will workout on the same machines and equipment. I will use the same pool. I will root for them when they make a tackle, hit a jumper, or throw a no-hitter. They are welcome to attend our church's worship gatherings. However, to ask me to endorse, support, or contribute to their being married, violates my conscience and convictions. But it appears we are on track for the government to say, "Too bad."
Consider some parallel situations and ask whether it is appropiate for services to be performed:
-- a lesbian couple who owns a sign shop are asked to create a banner for an anti-gay rally that says, "Fags go to hell!" Should they be forced to create this sign?
-- a black family who owns a bakery are given an order for a cake that reads, "Happy 150th Anniversary Ku Klux Klan: Death to all Nigers." Should this family be reasonably expected to make this cake without pause or hesitation or are they discriminating?
-- a Jewish family who owns a kosher restaurant is asked to supply an order of smoked ham. Are they forced to violate conscience because they are a public restaurant or are they discriminating against us pork lovers?
-- a feminist bookstore owner is asked to carry a book by a guy who constantly slams women, refers to them as "bitches," and writes insistently on how the only uses for a woman are sex and carrying babies. Should she be made to sell and promote such a book in her store or is she discriminating?
-- a pacifist movie theatre owner is asked to show a documentary supporting and propagating war called "The Beauty of War." Is he to violate his conscience or is he discriminating?
-- a Muslim family who owns a tee shirt print company is asked to produce shirts which read, "Jesus is Lord, Muhammad's a Liar." Is the family expected to go along with this or would it be discrimination to decline?
The purpose of some of these graphic scenarios is position us to see what is at stake here. In each one of these examples, I believe the business owners are within their rights to decline services. I do not believe any of them should be forced to violate their conscience and convictions, regardless of whether the pressure is from the public or the government.
We are not dealing with bigotry and discrimination. I do not know any thoughtful and devout Christians who are homophobic or consumed with making homosexuals miserable. The charge often leveled against Christians is we are consumed with this issue. I'm not consumed with this. I do not desire to spend significant time writing or speaking about it. However, when it is constantly pushed in your face by the media, the gay activists, and the government, then Christians have to speak up. We do not want to violate our conscience. It is not discrimination. It is not a race issue. It is not bigotry. It is about our convictions and the religious liberty to live those. If we do not have that, then our country is but a faint shadow of what we once were, and my own military service to uphold our freedoms seems in vain.
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