01 April 2015
WWJD without RFRA?
I tend to try to avoid controversy these days-a reader brought that to my attention. RFRA was a bad move politically and economically for the state. Politically, House Republicans struck while the fire was hot, so to speak, coming off of the 2014 election with super majorities, they wanted to get this controversial bill passed, much like the Ritz bill, as quickly as possible so that people forgot by the next election in 2016....it's a strategy often used, but doesn't make it right nor representational of the people they've been elected to serve. Economically, this was a complete disaster because of the message it sends and has undone much of the economic development advances made in the state in the last several years. The bill is different than other states with similar legislation by the insertion of section 9, and by the fact Indiana does not have anti-discrimination laws protecting non-heterosexual individuals. It can be interpreted to permit discrimination by businesses toward individuals based on the business owner's religious beliefs. Does it say discrimination in the bill? No-of course not, but it could be used for such. For proof, look no further than the bill's biggest proponent Advance America's own website which states it crystal clear (if it's still up), not to mention the governor's own reluctance to simply say "No" when asked that direct question eight times on ABC.
But to me, RFRA is more a matter of faith, not politics, and I wanted to share some thoughts with why some recent events have me feeling really uncomfortable and wondering what is next for the Church in America. So as someone trying hard to follow Christ, and not a politician, I'm just asking for some pondering by the readers. If you believe that Indiana now has an image problem, I believe the Church has a bigger one, or maybe more accurately a heart problem that few in the pulpit are addressing. Recent events seem to make it worse. Last week we saw Ted Cruz announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, invoking God into the 2016 race, I've seen another comment "Pence stands with God", and of course House Bill 101 signed into law.
Let's look at our Biblical belief system more broadly in light of RFRA. If I owned a restaurant, could I refuse to serve obese people on the premise that gluttony is a sin? If I were a florist, could I refuse to cater a wedding if the bride and groom were sleeping together because sex before marriage is a sin? How about divorced individuals? Can I deny a developer the right to develop based on greed as sin? How about the sins of idolatry, gambling, or pride? Well, Dave Ramsey has said gambling's not a sin so we can eliminate that. But the others, I mean, I've got some rights here, right? Maybe even some moral obligation to help set this state straight.
I'm not a proponent of RFRA, not because of the language necessarily, but because of the damage it does to the Church. And frankly, I'm getting tired of defending my faith, not on the basis of Scripture or our model Christ, but on the basis of how politicians have seemed to assert roles as defenders of the faith. As if God needs any help. The depth at which politics has influenced the gospel and our churches should be alarming, but we've bought into it.....we've embraced it, and cheer it on like we do the home team.
God's so much bigger than Indiana, or America for that matter, yet it seems hard to fathom He ever got along so well without us. Do you suppose He's grateful for RFRA? I mean seriously, I bet Jesus had wished he could have had RFRA to fall back on so He could have avoided the prostitute, Samaritan, lepers, or tax collectors, against some there had been strict religious laws. But I'm certain He anticipated a lawsuit and ministered to them anyway. And me, the chief of sinners, I am so glad Jesus didn't have RFRA to fall back on because I would have never known a Holy God's redeeming grace.
Do I think that a preacher, organization, or individual should be forced to provide wedding services to a gay couple? No, honestly I don't. And frankly, this is what I don't get from the other side...........why would they want them to? But I think it boils down to a heart issue of how to engage one's faith. I have friends and family in the gay community that I love and respect, yet I believe in traditional marriage, no surprise there. I think that they understand that's a belief drawn from conclusions of my personal faith, not because the state may or may not be able to define marriage according to my Judea-Christian beliefs. And subsequently, I don't feel like I need the State of Indiana backing me up. If I error, let me error on the side of grace, and if compelled to go a mile.......go two, and give my coat as well.
What truly concerns me is how this law may be misused by interpretation, despite its seemingly innocent language, in this heated and tumultuous environment. The bill has been called innocuous and really "won't change anything". But it will, and it has already, regardless of the prospect of a clarifying statement by the legislature. Sometimes the message sent is bigger than the words penned. It's created division, as I believe was planned, and it cast a long shadow over our state, but I care a lot less about that than the longer shadow it casts over the Church. Only repealing the law will pull the state out of the downward spiral. I'm not sure what it will take to change course for the Church.
This time of the year, between Palm Sunday and Easter, always makes me think of the parallels between those who cried Hosanna and the Church in America. The Jews lining the streets with palm branches were much more interested in a Jesus who could overthrow Roman rule and establish an earthly kingdom....but that wasn't His plan, not at all, and so they left. Too often I think as Christians we try to establish Christ's religious authority in our government, but that's not what He wants. He wants us to follow Him, not try to somehow finish a job He chose not to do. The Church has got to figure a way out of the political binds we find ourselves in, to sound more like Christ and less like angry politicians. But hey, that's our right........not what we are called to, but certainly our right here in the land of religious freedom.