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.


Anonymous said...

To many right wingers at the statehouse!

Anonymous said...

If the bill only protected the rights of Muslin to refuse service to a Jew, you would have heard crickets, if it only protected the rights of black citizens to refuse service to KKK members, even more crickets.But the bill protects the rights of anyone (to the media this means whites only) to refuse service based on PROVABLE religious conviction. If you want to blame anyone, blame the real problem, the hype hungry media for misrepresenting anything that might sell a newspaper regardless of facts. I think the bill is silly, the rights of private business owners should never be in question. I also think that refusing to take a patrons money, especially when the economy is in the tank is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

In the last blog I misspelled Muslim, that was a mistake and I apologize.

hoosier reborn said...

I think the most troubling thing is the contrast this week between supposed persecution of Memories Pizza and true persecution of the Christian Kenyan college students. Puts it into perspective, especially when Memories is walking away with nearly a million dollars thanks to the Blaze.

Duncan Mitchel said...

I'm a lifelong Hoosier, originally from the Plymouth area but living in Bloomington since the 1970s. (I happened on your blog while looking for information about Higbee Corner.) I'm also gay, and I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of your post and the position you take. Thanks for that! But I'd like to quibble, gently, with one passage:

"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?"

A lot of people have said the same thing, which reflects some serious confusion about this issue. On your first point: what the Supreme Court ruled this past summer was about civil marriage, and has no legal effect on preachers or churches. It entitles same-sex couples to get marriage licenses and get married at the courthouse, or by a Justice of the Peace. It doesn't entitle them to a church wedding. Churches aren't required by the law to marry any couple, straight or gay, who don't meet their sectarian requirements. A Roman Catholic church doesn't have to ratify the wedding of a Catholic and a non-Catholick for example, or allow a Catholic who's gotten a civil divorce to remarry in the church. (My parents had to jump through the right hoops to get a church wedding back in 1950, since my father wasn't Catholic; the same went for some other members of my family since then.) So no church will be required by law to preside over a same-sex wedding if they don't want to. I've known some gay people who don't get this, which only shows that we are not, unfortunately, smarter or better informed than anybody else.

Which brings me to the second point: "Why would they want to?" you ask. Well, because many gay (and lesbian and bisexual and trans) people are religious. I mentioned early that no church can legally be forced to preside over a same-sex wedding if they don't want to. But quite a few churches do want to. I hope you're aware that numerous major denominations have been discussing and praying over and arguing about the status of their gay members since the 1960s at least, and some of them now recognize same-sex unions or even marriages. (Yes, this goes against a lot of Christian tradition and biblical teaching, but so does the increasing religious acceptance of heterosexual divorce and remarriage even in some of the more conservative denominations -- even though Jesus specifically spoke against it.) So it's not unreasonable that many gay people, perhaps more than you realize, would want a church wedding. But they'll have to work within their churches, as they have been doing, instead of bringing the government into it. I'm an atheist myself, so this doesn't affect me personally, but I am involved in sexuality education down here and I often have to educate my fellow gay people about what they can and can't do.

Duncan Mitchel said...

Once you get outside of this part of the issue, you get situations like Kim Davis' in Kentucky, the county clerk who refuses to issue civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That constitutes trying to force her religion on others, even other Christians. No matter what your beliefs, you can't impose them on the civil law; if someone can't do that -- a clerk, a JP, whoever -- they need to find another job. That's an issue that goes way beyond marriage or gay rights, as I know you realize. It means respecting the rights of non-Christians -- Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and others who are entitled to religious freedom as much as Christians are. Or even respecting the rights of other Christians outside one's sect. Since you're knowledgeable about US history, you'll know about Protestant hostility to Catholics in the US. That's why we have civil rights law.

Sorry for the long comment, but I'm an educator (and a blogger) and I do run on. Thanks for your blog and your post, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.

hoosier reborn said...

Thanks for your comments Duncan, I also hope you learned everything you cared to know about Higbee Corner. I understand how religious freedoms are extended to churches and pastors-I guess that wasn't so much my question on why would gay couples want them to provide services at a wedding, I was really thinking more along the line of situations of florists, pizza joints (though I'm still baffled by the notion of a pizza-catered wedding), etc. When my wife and I were married, I certainly wasn't going to contract with anyone who either didn't like us, or thought we shouldn't be getting married. We didn't have any situations like that, but I can think of other couples who have.

My personal beliefs would lead me to respond in this way: I may not agree with what the couple is doing, but if you want me to bake a cake or take photos, I'm going to honor God by doing the best I can with the talents He's given me. I do have a small business, and I have provided services to a few gay couples over the years, the services aren't anything related to weddings but the thought never crossed my mind that even what I do offer somehow ran contrary to my beliefs. More than anything, I want people to see Christ in me...and sadly, I just don't think we have much of that in the church today.

Thanks again for visiting Hoosier Happenings. My blogging has slowed to a mere trickle, but I hope to be back at it after the first of the year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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