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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  1. You would have fit in perfectly 50+ years ago arguing against interracial marriage. You would be holding up the same book using the same "logic" against interracial marriage. You'd be arguing that businesses should have the right to not serve blacks. Hell, your book got the greatest moral question of ALL time, slavery, WRONG. It endorses slavery and was used to justify slavery. So, tell us why anybody should listen to anything you have to say since your whole world view comes from a work of fiction that got such huge things wrong?

    And to answer your question about the above scenarios, they would never happen. Every single one of those businesses would accept the money of these people. Why would they? Because they aren't living an irrational life by following the rules in a book no more truthful than the Harry Potter series. No homophobe is going to go to a known gay business to give them money because homophobes, like you, are hateful people. No KKK member is going to a black owned business to order a cake because they are hateful people. Those types of people hold hate in their heart and are irrational, spiteful people. And if they did, those businesses would gladly take their money because they have a business to MAKE MONEY not promote a world view.

    Also, keep in mind that your brand of religion isn't the only one out there. There are hundreds of religion. Should each and every one be given this "freedom"? Should Christian Scientists be able to discriminate based on their religiously held beliefs? What about Jehovah Witnesses? Muslims? Or should only Christians like yourself be allowed to discriminate?

    1. I am confused, by the above logic. Since when is behavior, personal choice and equivalent comparison to intrinsic qualities such as skin color, ethnicity, being male or female, etc...? There is no right to a behavior. Sexual activity is not an uncontrollable compulsion, it is a behavior, a choice, a conscious decision. Your argument makes no sense at all.

      Try again.

    2. Except science doesn't agree with you.

      Also, please tell us what day you chose to be heterosexual? A decision of that magnitude should be memorable.

  2. Dear, "Anonymous"

    You should be willing to identify yourself since you are posting your opinions.

    For someone who wants to appear so tolerant, you have demonstrated the most intolerance. You don't know me at all, yet you want to tell me what era I would fit in with and what I would have done or been for. How arrogant.

    You also demonstrate an unwillingness to engage with what I wrote. I find it terribly convenient that you choose to dismiss my scenarios as "would never happen." Says who? You? Are you the authority and lord of what happens and how people would act. Christians business owners being asked to provide services for a gay wedding are violating their conscience. They are not being asked to make a birthday cake. They are being asked to support a wedding. It should be their right to decline based on religious conviction. Just like everyone in my scenarios should be in their right to decline services as well.

    Btw, the Amish community is not forced to pay social security in America. Did you know that? You know why? Because it is a violation of their religious conscience and conviction and they choose to live separate from society. Guess what? The government doesn't make them. Nobody seems up in arms about this. But if a Christian voices their opposition to something, the hate abounds. And it is not the Christian doing the hate.

    Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. Next time be willing to identify yourself.

    1. Why should I be willing to identify myself when your side is made of people with a tenuous grasp on reality? Why would I want to take a chance angering the lunatics?

      Ah yes, the 'ol pointing out your intolerance is ACTUALLY intolerance on my part. Get real. Anybody who is intolerant, as you and your followers clearly are, should have no tolerance directed towards them for their irrational beliefs. You are a deeply religious individual. You clearly would have been against interracial marriage 50+ years ago as most deeply religious individuals were. Times may change and circumstances may shift, but once a bigot always a bigot.

      Should a business be allowed to decline business with divorced people? An unwed mother? How about people who are wearing clothing of mixed fibers? Men without beards and/or short hair? People with tattoos? Women who wear jewelry? How about the whole thing about not uncovering your head? Should I go on or do we just ignore those things from the bible because they are inconvenient in this day and age? Are you "enlightened" enough to let those things slide from your holy book? If so, why those and not homosexuality?

  3. Dear "Anonymous" -- go read some more on how to understand Scripture, particularly on how to make sense of OT commands on food and dress. These are old, outdated, and uneducated remarks.

    In addition, I'm not worried about defending myself to you. I'm not a bigot, nor are those I know who hold my position. This is the classic case of name-calling in order to silence people. You have yet to engage my argument or intellectually answer the questions I raised. You have name called and demagogued.

    Your responses on here show you probably have not even read what I wrote carefully, nor took the time to follow any of the links I posted that addresses some of your questions of other things Christian business owners should refuse. This is not surprising though. In our country now, instead of engaging in discussion and intellectual exchange of ideas and debate, folks like you revert to name-calling and appeals to emotion.

    Btw, I love your insistent posture of how I would have been against interracial marriage. You must have Doc Brown's time-machine to be so wise about what I would have believed. I have several interracial marriages in my family, I'll pass the word on to them about how lucky they are they didn't run into the 1960's Erik.

  4. Ahh, so you're a pick and choose Christian. Gotcha. Typical of your kind. Hypocritical, bigoted, and intolerant. Yeah, you're not bigoted just like all those southern gentlemen 50 years ago weren't bigoted. It's just the way it was, right? I'll take solace in knowing that you're on the wrong side of history.

    By the way, I revert to name calling because that all your kind deserves. You are not arguing from a rational position. There is no intellectual conversation going on. There is you rambling about your belief structure based on a work of fiction that contradicts itself at almost every turn being used to support your intolerance. And then there are people like me who can't comprehend how anybody could be so gullible as to base one's life and world view on a work of fiction written over 2,000 years ago. Based on that, why should I give your argument any credence or credibility? It's a joke, really.

  5. So Matt McPeak has resurfaced! First it was Facebook talking and now your blog. Matt, just agree to disagree and stop trying to pick a fight.