You have to be living under a rock not to know anything about Indiana passing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) this week.
Depending on which media outlet is your favorite you will have heard a couple different slants on the thing. MSNBC has labeled the legislation as an “anti-gay law” and even a “right-to-discriminate” law.
Saturday Night Live was even taking shots at Indiana.
Here’s the thing: the title of this post reflects the belief many seem to have about this law. But it’s not the case. The Gospel Coalition has put together an excellent look at the RFRA. The highlights:
– The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a federal law introduced by a democrat and signed into law by President Clinton (so it’s not about the religious right and conservative Christians)
– The RFRA gives religious objectors a statutory presumptive entitlement to exemption from generally applicable laws (subject to strict scrutiny).
– 19 states already have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act and 10 other states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar (strict scrutiny) level of protection.
– It does not give anyone a “license to discriminate,” [and] it would not undermine our important civil-rights commitments.
The law protects ALL religious people from behaving in ways that conflicts with their religious beliefs as long as there is not a greater compelling need to comply. So it covers Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. Of course that’s not how it’s playing out in the media. Liberals are proclaiming this as an attack against gay marriage and Conservatives are heralding this as a moral victory for Christian businesses (and a sign of a Christian nation).
Regardless of how you view the law, I think the controversy has sparked needed conversation about how Christians businesses interact with a secular clientele. Never one to miss the bandwagon, here are my two cents on the subject.
Jesus interacted with sinful people without condoning their sin.
Some people act as though any dealing with sinners is going to taint us – especially when it comes to business dealings. We also act as though providing goods for behavior with which we disagree is an act that condones the behavior. I’m not one who holds that view. I think that selling goods to people is about providing stuff for a cost. Candles, flowers, cakes, tuxedos, thank-you cards; these are all things that are associated with weddings. Do we really think that selling a gay couple any of these things is an act that condones gay marriage?
It’s just STUFF!
And let’s be honest – we don’t run background checks on other customers to see if selling them our stuff would violate our notion of sinful behavior. That means we’re cherry-picking homosexuals and ignoring other sinful behavior. We’ll sell to adulterers, fornicators, idolaters, drunkards, gluttons, and on and on, but HEAVENS forbid we sell to a gay couple. I can just see Ebay listings:
Collectable Star Wars Action Figures (will not sell to homosexuals).
We’re masterful hypocrites, aren’t we?
Of course the question I’m always asked is, “Well, would you marry a gay couple?!?”
And my answer is, “No.”
I believe there is a difference selling stuff to people and the act of participating in & officiating the ceremony. Officiating the ceremony WOULD be condoning the marriage. Selling my stuff doesn’t condone anything the buyer does. Stuff is stuff. Refusing to sell people stuff because we disagree with their behavior IS discrimination.
When we think about the Bible’s call to act in loving ways towards people, and when we examine the way Jesus interacted with sinners he didn’t condone, I think it is safe to say that conservative Christian attitudes toward selling stuff to gays is deplorable.
Our stuff is not holy. And since there are no sin-free people, you’re always going to be selling to sinners.
It’s time to get off this train and treat people decently. Don’t discriminate – sell your goods to any buyer regardless of sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baker, dress-maker, or anything else.
Stuff is stuff, and stuff can’t be holy or Christian.
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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!