Religious Freedom: a farce

Religious Freedom: a farce

Apr 02
Religious Freedom:  a farce

A man walks into a florist shop.  The owner sees the customer and rushes to assist.

“How may I help you today?” asks the owner.

“I need to buy some flowers,” says the man.

“We have the best flowers in town,” says the owner.  “Before we go any further, I need you to know that this is a Christian business.  Our faith is very important to us.  This means that we cannot support anything that we believe is sinful.”

“I understand and I support your right to religious freedom,” says the customer.

“That’s great!” says the owner.  “I hope you won’t mind answering a few questions for me so that I can be sure I’m not supporting anything that violates my faith.”

“What kind of questions?” asks the man, who is beginning to look very uncomfortable.

“Are you gay?” asks the owner.

“No!” exclaims the man.  “Why do you think I’m gay?”

“I don’t,” says the owner, “but I have to ask in order to be sure.  I wouldn’t want to sell flowers to someone who chooses a life of sin.  Are you married?”

“Yes, I am,” says the man proudly.  “My wife and I have been married for 15 years.”

“That’s wonderful,” says the owner.  “Has she ever had an abortion?”

“WHAT!?” exclaims the man.

“Killing an unborn child is murder and contrary to the will of God,” explains the owner patiently.

At this the man becomes visibly shaken.  The blood runs out of his face.  He is overcome with grief.  Then grief gives way to anger.

“What’s wrong?” asks the owner.

“The flowers are for my son.  He died a year ago today.  My wife and I wanted to place flowers on his grave.”

“Was your son gay?” asks the owner.

****************

I wrote this to illustrate why I take issue with the proposed “religious freedom” bills that seem to be coming out of the woodwork.  The premise behind these bills sounds innocent enough:  nobody should be punished for following their religious convictions.  Thus, if a Christian who owns a catering business doesn’t want to cater a wedding for a homosexual couple, the owner shouldn’t have to worry about facing charges for discrimination.

Take as an example a pizzeria in Indiana.  The owners announced that they could not, with a clear conscience, cater the wedding of a homosexual couple.  The owners were quoted as saying, “If a gay couple was to come and they wanted us to bring pizzas to their wedding, we’d have to say no.”

My first question is “Have you ever been asked to cater a wedding for a gay couple?”  If not, then why make a public statement about it?  Why force something to be an issue that wasn’t?

My next question is how would you know?  How would you know that it was a gay couple?  There are probably some situations where it would be obvious, but aside from that how can you know without asking probing questions?  The only way you could know is to ASK.

In other words, let’s play “Guess My Sin.”

Where should it stop?  For which sins is it okay to discriminate?  Which sins should business owners be asking about?  Should the florist in the story have asked the husband if he had ever cheated on his wife?  What if he was an alcoholic or a drug addict?  What if he was abusive to his wife?  What if he’s prideful or greedy?

What if the florist had unknowingly sold flowers to the drunk driver who killed the son?

Let’s turn it around.  Suppose you go into your favorite store and get interrogated about your sins.  If you’re honest, then eventually they will guess your sin (or they’ll figure out that you’re a liar).  Once they have guessed your sin, they get to determine whether or not they want to provide service to you.

Sin is not a discrete thing where we can say, “Yeah, I sinned a few times, but just those times.”  Sin is not like a speeding ticket where we can say, “I only sped twice, but I’ve been perfect all the rest of the time.”  Sin is a human condition.  We are as incapable of not sinning as we are incapable of going without air.  If any of us are capable of being sinless then Jesus died for nothing.

Take a glass of water and drop a single drop of blue food coloring into it.  How much of the water turns blue?  All of it.  There isn’t any water in the glass that hasn’t been tainted by the food coloring.  Is it completely food coloring?  No, it’s still mostly water, but no part of the water is pure.  The water is obviously blue.

So let’s pretend for a moment that we are each a glass of water.  Not one of us is pure.  Each of us carries a different color based on the different sins we commit.  Suppose I only struggle with “blue” sins while you only struggle with “red” sins.  I will only be blue — there won’t be any red in me.  You will only be red — there won’t be any blue in you.  We might see others who are purple — they have both blue and red in them.  We’ll see lots and lots of different colors, but what we will never see is one without color.  ALL have sin in them.

The religious freedom bills are like hanging a sign over a business that says, “Only blue sinners welcome here.”  Or maybe it’s, “Only non-green sinners welcome here.”

Or maybe it’s “Sinners welcome, as long as they sin the same way I do.”

I thank my God that He didn’t have the same mindset.

Rather that pursuing our “religious freedom” through legislation, I would see us live according to the words of God given to the Apostle Paul:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.    (Romans 12:14-21)

The religious freedom laws do not seek to overcome evil with good.  They seek only to protect us when we choose to be contentious, when we choose to repay evil with evil, when we choose to not live in harmony, when we choose to not associate with people we consider beneath us.

Rather than rejoicing with those who rejoice, we seek to turn their joy into sorrow.  Rather than blessing those who might persecute us, we seek legal protection.  Or worse, a means to persecute them back.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippians 2:3-4)

I cannot see how refusing to cater the wedding of someone because of their sin is in any way glorifying to God or emulating the life that Jesus modeled for us.  Jesus went so far as to die for the guilt of others.  For the undeserving.  Can you really not go so far as to cater their wedding or sell them flowers?  If anything, Jesus had this to say:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  (Matthew 5:38-42)

I don’t exactly hear Jesus saying, “You need to make sure you have legal protection for when you take a stand against sinners.”

Jesus said you are already free.  He died to set you free from sin.

If you want a life free from persecution then you shouldn’t be a Christian.

11 comments

  1. Scott

    The point is better illustrated with this example. A man sells firearms at his store. Another man walks in. “Can I help you?” the owner asks.

    “Certainly,” the customer replies. “I need to kill my wife and children, and I need a gun and some ammunition.”

    “Of course,” says the owner. “I have just the thing you are looking for here.”

    The point is that when the customer explicitly volunteers that the services are being solicited for something bad, the owner (Christian or not) has a duty to not provide those services. Yes, it is a point that rises to the level of absurdity, but the underlying point is that if a business owner believes their customer’s behaviors to be wrong, they are not beholden to facilitate those behaviors.

    This could be about cheating on taxes or defrauding someone or having an affair or any other bad BEHAVIOR and the point would be equally valid – a Christian business owner who has been explicitly told that the services will be used in sinful behavior should decline to provide those services.

    • If that’s the case, Scott, then the laws should be worded along the lines of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” so that if customers do not inform you of their business and intent then you cannot refuse them service.

      However, I don’t believe that’s the intent behind these laws at all. In the city where I live, there is a movement to remove “sexual orientation and gender identity” from the list of things which cannot be discriminated against.

      To the bigger point, Jesus made it clear that sin is about more than just bad BEHAVIOR.

      • Scott

        The issue is that usually a same sex couple comes in and asks for services for their wedding. There is no need for don’t ask, don’t tell, because these same bakeries, florists, etc. serve homosexual couples and all manner of sinners all the time, but when someone comes in and says the services are for a homosexual wedding, there is no room for doubt.

        When a couple requests a wedding cake with two men or two women on top, there is no room left for doubt. When a photographer is asked to photograph the bride and bride or groom and groom, there is no need to ask. When a florist has to provide two bridal bouquets, etc., there is no question. This is why it becomes an issue with gay marriage, because this is an instance where it is unavoidably obvious that it is to support a homosexual relationship.

        • CrystalLynne

          Scott, maybe it just takes an atheist to see that there is a glaring difference between your example and the OP’s: one is regarding a religious rule and the other is *also* a ‘law of the land’. I wonder, can you discern which is which ? I doubt it, so I will spell it out, just for you.

          By ‘religious rules’, I am specifically referring to the supposed “sin” of homosexuality (which I’m not intending to debate w/this [Christian] crowd). Murder falls under the category of ‘laws of the land’. It is *illegal* to sell firearms to anyone not in their right mind (I think people who are premeditating murder certainly fall into the crazy category, but I expect someone out there to suggest a demon is really to blame, but I digress).

          Note that I emphasized the word ‘also’ in the first paragraph. Just because something such as murder is universal (one that religion and laws of the land generally agree are bad for all). However, homosexuality is *not* illegal, at least in the U.S.

          If I were to play devil’s advocate (sorry, I could not resist – color me red for evil), I would argue that gay marriage is illegal. Therefore, homosexuality *is* illegal. This is a loophole, at best. Why is there no clear cut law ? Could it be because it is deemed unconstitutional, at least in the U.S. ? Indeed.

          Make no mistake; I have nothing against theists. To a certain extent, I believe god; rather religion is necessary in any society, really. However, I cannot suffer ignorance in its more blatant forms (here I am referring to your response, Scott) and I feel equally compelled to commend the OP on how he has presented a well-reasoned, religious perspective.

          Although I am an atheist (specifically, a Taoist), I believe that Jesus, regardless of whether he was flesh and blood and/or transcended into heaven or exists merely as an allegory, is the embodiment of compassion; an ideal we should all strive towards.

          • Thank you for sharing your insights, Crystal! I hope to hear more of your viewpoint on other posts.

  2. Noel

    This is well written and generally excellent!

    So much so that’s all I’ll say about it.

  3. Rick Guyer

    Well said, Chris…well said!! We are so prone to picking and choosing among the sins over which we will be offended, just as long as it’s not MY favorite sin.

  4. Flo Williams

    Chris I could not agree more!

  5. Terri

    All businesses already have a right to refuse service to anyone for whatever reason. The way I see it this religious freedom thing is just for attention. “Oh my, I’m being forced to do something I don’t want to do.” No, you’re not. “Oh my, I’m being discriminated against.” No, you’re not. It’s a way for people on either side to get attention. That’s all it is. I had a customer one time at my catering business that was a complete jerk! His fiancée loved my food wanted me to cater their wedding. He came in to talk about it. He started talking about how he went to other businesses & would nit pick everything they had done for him & he would get some or all of his money back. He gave me examples. And, yes, after the honeymoon here he came. I listened to him & told him there was nothing I could do. They(he) didn’t complain the day of the party & all food was eaten. He did not bring in a sample of what he didn’t like. I told him he was to leave & not come back. He told me he was going to forbid his wife from ever using me again. I laughed & said that was fine. He did come back in a few months later, his wife wanted her birthday cake from me only! I told him no, only if she came in to order it. I refused service to him because I had that right already in place. She did come in for her cake & apologized for her husband. She knew what he does to businesses but she can’t stop him. I didn’t accept the apology because SHE had done nothing wrong, but I did appreciate the thought.

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Terri. It seems that these laws are “a solution without a problem.”

      • CrystalLynne

        I love that line, “a solution w/o a problem.” So succinct !!

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