Forced Gay – Part Two

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Permit me to get out my soap box. I waited a couple days, debating whether or not I should even bring this up again. But the firestorm that I caused in my circles only solidifies in my head that we need to be talking about this…

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be arguing against Evangelical Christians in support of civil rights for same-sex couples I would’ve told you that you were nuts. Yet here we are.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post revolving around the wedding photographers in New Mexico that refused to provide services for a same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that the photographers had violated the couple’s civil rights – and Evangelical Christendom roared.

After a lot of thought about it and an eventual change in my own position, I publicly stated that I think the photographers were wrong to discriminate against the couple and that all Christians should think twice about refusing service to same-sex couples (I’ll post the link to my full post below).

I know that my position would clash with mainstream Evangelical thought, but I never expected the backlash I saw. And, not being one to back down from a verbal sparring, I’m going to write about it some more. I’m convinced more than ever that the Church has got to make some changes in how it approaches the LGBT community – for Christ’s sake. So…here we go.

I am a conservative Evangelical Christian (at least I thought so). I believe that God designed sexuality to be between one man and one woman who are married to each other. This means that adulterous relationships, fornication, and same-sex relationships are not part of God’s intended design. I believe that the Bible makes this case. I believe that nature and human physiology itself bears this out.

At the same time I believe that the Church should not be party to mistreating and discriminating against people – any people. I believe that the Church has been complicit in such discrimination. In my last post I compared the photographers’ behavior to establishments in the south that used to post “Whites Only” signs out front. I received criticism from Christians who told me that I cannot compare the racially charged civil rights movement with same-sex issues. I was told that the gay marriage issue is different from REAL civil rights.

To me it’s not an issue of gay marriage, racial equality, or any other issue. The topic at hand is about businesses refusing to serve certain elements of the public because of a personal disagreement with that element. Who gets to decide who is worthy of service or not? If conservative Christians can refuse to serve the LGBT community, who’s to say that racist business owners can’t refuse to serve other races?

I know, I know. “Racism is different.” That’s what I was told by other pastors. “You can’t compare racism with LGBT discrimination because racists distort the Bible for their own ends while we understand that the Bible is clearly against homosexuality.”

Excuse me?!?

Do you understand what was just said? “It’s wrong for racists to discriminate because they believe the wrong thing. It’s okay for us to discriminate because we believe correctly.” This infuriates me. The whole idea of freedom of religion is that we don’t hold another person’s private beliefs against him. You can believe anything you want and I can believe anything I want and we still come together as citizens in the same nation.

You can’t claim that your discrimination is okay because you read the Bible correctly and say another person’s discrimination is wrong because they misread it. So the civil rights laws step in and say, “We’re going to make sure that all people are treated the same no matter what their status or what your personal beliefs may be.”

If you have a business that serves the public you are not allowed to say, “Well…I won’t serve THOSE people.”  I was told by other Christians that vendors ought to be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples because a gay marriage might violate the vendor’s idea of marriage as a covenant between the couple and God. I agree that marriage is designed to be a covenant between the husband and wife and between the couple and God. Being a vendor does not endorse the views of the couple.

A baker can bake a wedding cake without endorsing the couple. The florist can arrange flowers without endorsing the couple. A Christian waiter can’t refuse to wait tables if it were an engagement party for a gay couple.

A Christian owner of a candle store doesn’t vet her customers to make sure that no Wiccans buy candles. “Excuse me, are you Wiccan? Because I won’t sell these candles to you if you’re going to go conjure up spirits with them.”

In all honesty, I sincerely doubt that Christian wedding vendors are performing background checks to make sure that every couple they serve fits the biblical model of marriage. Would the vendor refuse to provide services for a man who divorced his wife so that he could marry his mistress? They never even ask that question. At least I was never asked about my relationship background when my fiancée and I visited vendors. No one double-checked to make sure it wasn’t an adulterous relationship.

Rather than pretending that we care about God’s ideal for marriage, we should simply admit that we’re picking a particular segment of society to discriminate against. It’s the thing to do. Gay relationships offend our sensibilities more than an adulterous relationship. It’s become socially acceptable within the Church to single out the LGBT community for condemnation.

The natural follow-up question I received: “If you believe this way would you marry a same-sex couple?” And without hesitation I answer all who ask, “No, I would not.” As I said, I believe that God’s design for sexuality is for one man and one woman who are married to each other. It was at this point that I was called a hypocrite, putting myself and other pastors up on a pedestal while calling out non-clergy Christians.

I don’t see it as hypocritical. I genuinely see a difference between a wedding vendor and a pastor. I was told by one Christian that there is no difference between a pastor and any other vendor or justice of the peace. Am I not obligated being licensed by the state to perform same-sex marriages?

Let me clarify in case you did not know: pastors are not licensed by the state. I have never been nor will I ever be licensed by the state. I am ordained by the church. The state merely recognizes the church’s endorsement of the clergy. I am not a vendor – I am a pastor and spiritual care-giver. I do not claim to serve the public through my service. Pastors are not the same as vendors. We’re not the same as a justice of the peace. When I marry a couple it is more than a ceremony. I pastor them – talk to them about what marriage looks like from a biblical point of view. I talk to them about God’s ideal for healthy relationships. I read Scripture to them. I’m not a vendor, I’m a pastor. That might not make a difference to you – it makes a difference to me.

A friend commented to me that any issue combining civil issues and moral issues is messy. It is messy. There is no easy solution or answer to this stuff. But I do see too many Christians behaving poorly. We’re not acting like Jesus.

There were several times in Jesus’ public life that he encountered “sinners”. In these encounters we see him acting the same way. He talks to them. He touches them. He cares for them. He loves them. THEN he tells them to go and stop sinning. Not so much the Church today. Our attitude is often, “Go and stop sinning. Then come back so we can love you.”

I’m ready for the Church to lead the way in loving people. Too many Christians think that loving people means encouraging and allowing sin. I’m not for a soft-sell faith. I’m not for white-washing Jesus. I still believe in the Jesus of the Gospels who proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But we forget that he loved first, called for change second. And, honestly, I think most people in the LGBT community know my position as an Evangelical pastor. I don’t have to beat people over the head with my view of the Bible. I can love them in spite of our differences.

So…call me hypocrite. Quote Proverbs to me. Tell me you think I’m going against sound judgment. Tell me that you can’t believe I’ve fallen away.

Me? I can’t believe the Church has become so coldhearted.REPENT We don’t have to stop preaching righteousness. We don’t have to stop talking about Jesus, the cross, and forgiveness of sin. But we don’t have to discriminate, no matter what our differences may be.

We can still love people, no matter who they are or their type of sin. At least – I think that’s what Jesus would do.

So I’m off my soap box. Please feel free to send this to CNN. Or Oprah. It would be kind of cool to be on the air as the Evangelical pastor who is against gay marriage but for civil rights. But keep it away from Fox News – I don’t want to be crucified… 😉

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!

Related Posts:
~ Forced Gay
~ A Christian Response to Gay Marriage

Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent?

Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you haven’t heard by now let me tell you. New Mexico is a hot mess. Just recently there was a State Supreme Court decision that a Christian-owned photography studio violated a gay couple’s human rights when the studio declined to do the couple’s wedding pictures.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog says:

Under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, it’s unlawful for a public accommodation to refuse to offer its services to someone because of the person’s sexual orientation. The same law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry and gender.

The phrase “public accommodation” generally means public and private places (even retail establishments) used by the public.

As a business used by the public, the New Mexico Supreme Court says that the Christian couple needed to accommodate the same-sex couple with their services. I’ve seen a lot of Evangelicals (my own camp of Christendom – and yes, I know Christendom is an historically loaded word, for all of you theologians and church historians) get their noses bent out of shape about this New Mexico case.

But before we jump on the bandwagon of martyrdom and outrage at the persecution of Christians let’s think through the whole thing. Ready? Thinking caps ON!

The whole idea of disallowing businesses to refuse service to people is actually a good thing. It was a critical piece of the civil rights movement. It’s the piece of the puzzle that tells restaurants, ”You cannot refuse service to colored people.” It’s the piece that says landlords cannot refuse housing to someone based on a personal agenda. It’s a good thing…until we feel it is working against our own beliefs.

When we get called on violating someone else, rather than respond with humility and an apology, we get all in a huff. HOW DARE YOU TREAD ON MY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! Slow down, turbo. Think about it. Let’s ponder the case of the photographer.

The business didn’t want to be seen as supporting a cause they disagreed with. I understand that – I really do. But I have a hard time believing that they only serve good Christian folk. Would they take pictures of an atheist wedding? Would they take pictures at a reception where people would be getting hammered? Do you really mean to tell me that this business weeds out all sinners and only serves the perfect elect?

Hi there. Welcome back to earth. I really don’t see that happening.

It doesn’t matter that the couple was able to find another photographer. If my wife and I tried to eat in a restaurant and were denied service because we’re a mixed-race couple IT DOESN’T MATTER IF WE CAN EAT AT THE SUBWAY DOWN THE STREET – IT’S WRONG! Was I clear about that? Unfortunately it still happens. As recently as 2004, Cracker Barrel was discriminating against brown people (segregated seating and giving colored people poorer service). This is not the stuff of theory – this is too true in our “modern” society.

On the flip side, the law also protects Christians. It means that we can’t be denied service from an atheist shop owner/operator simply because we’re Christian. The law is geared to protect ALL people. We don’t get to pick and choose to apply it to some people and then exclude others. Otherwise any shop can turn down anyone for any “belief” the owner has. And there are some crazy beliefs out there. We don’t want personal beliefs dictating service.

So let’s get off our moral high horses and recognize that we goofed this time. If you can’t do it, then I’ll do it for us.

To everyone who has been denied service from an Evangelical Christian, I am saddened that you were treated in such a manner. You did not deserve to bear the brunt of discrimination.

To the rest of us – we can do better. Jesus said that we’re to treat people the way we want to be treated (that thingy called the Golden Rule?). We don’t get to treat people based on whether or not they fit our preferred profile.

So like this post and share this post with the world (shameless plug, yes?) because there are too many of us out there that think we can pick and choose who we will be decent to; who we will serve or cast aside.

And that’s really not Christ-like, you know?

How about you? Have you had to face discrimination for any reason? Anything you are able to talk about?

Related Posts:
~ Forced Gay 2: A Response to Critics
~ Jumping Into the Fray: A Christian Response to Gay Marriage

Why We Love to Hate Miley

Degradation

Social media seems to have erupted into a ball of fury against Miley Cyrus. At least in the circles in which I travel online. And I’ll be honest, most of my connections tend to have a faith background of some sort. So Miley’s behavior on the Video Music Awards (VMA’s) the other night was met with outrage, disgust, and a lot of judgmental attitudes.

I think it’s time that the “Christians” who have been complaining about the raunchy performance needs to consider a couple things:

1)      Stop putting blame on Miley’s parents for their parenting skills and personal values. No matter what, there comes a time when we are each responsible for our own behavior and actions. As much as I love my kids and try to instill values and manners into them, they are human beings with free will. They have to choose on their own the path they will walk.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is from the Old Testament. Israel’s leader, Joshua, is reminding the nation about everything God did for them. Then he puts a challenge to them – he says that they have a choice on the path they will follow. He tells them:

“Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

No matter what her parents did – even if they were the most fantastical and splendiferous parents into the whole gosh-darn world – Miley makes her own choices. I think she has made some crummy choices, but that’s ultimately on her, so stop judging her parents.

2)      The music industry in our society has been about shock and awe for a long time. Miley is merely another performer in a long line of performers who seek to shock audiences with  crass and sexual performances. Madonna, Cher, Britney Spears, J-Lo, Lil Kim, Shakira…the list goes on and on. Don’t be upset about kids watching the show and what they had to see. It’s not like they were sitting down to watch Leave it to Beaver. It was MTV’s Video Music Awards. Really…what were you expecting?

Let’s not kid ourselves – America tunes in to the VMA’s because we want to be titillated. The reason why many are expressing shock is because they never expected Hannah Montana to be the one doing the titillating. This is what we remember – what we WANT to remember:

America's Sweetheart
America’s Sweetheart

Don’t fault her for buying into the culture (a culture you were supporting by watching) – fault the culture that desires to tune into that behavior and refuse to engage with that culture. As difficult as it seems, Christians are supposed to remain a certain distance from the world. In it yet not of it. The Bible says:

Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Don’t be surprised when people in the world behave like worldly people. Don’t be shocked. Someone without Christ has no reason to behave according to biblical standards and values. That also means we can stop judging (there’s a lot of that going around) Miley. We don’t have to judge and condemn her. Pray for her. It’s tragic to see people making horrible choices, but judging a worldly person on their worldliness really does no good at all. Well…maybe it makes us feel a little better about ourselves, right?

We can be better than that.

For God’s sake.

For ours…

Related Posts:
~ Miley, the Morning After

C’mon Baby Make it Hurt So Good: Persecuted Christianity

The Faith Will Survive
The Faith Will Survive

It seems the world is going crazy. In Egypt, churches are being burned and Christians are being shot at. Read one story here – it is overwhelming.

The Apostle Peter once wrote to the Church ~

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9)

BE PECULIAR

Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). That is a mandate, not a recommendation. Invest in eternity!

People in our society are wealthier than any civilization in the history of man. Sadly, they rapidly squander their blessings on things that cannot last. If our treasure reveals the condition of our hearts, this generation is in serious spiritual trouble. Our buying habits show little concern for anything of eternal value.

Perhaps the saddest observation of all is that the spending habits of people in the church differ little from those of the world. The lifestyles of most professing Christians are not substantially different from anyone else’s. Too many in the church have adopted the world’s attitudes. It is as if the church has forgotten Christianity’s call to be different, to be peculiar.

But it’s not just about money. It’s about being comfortable. It’s about being satisfied. When we are in a place of comfort we tend to minimize our need for God. Hosea 13:6 sums up this tragic disparity:

Being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore, they forgot Me.

When we become prosperous, we become proud. Then we forget God. Frankly, for the Church, persecution is easier to endure than prosperity.

PECULIARITY BRINGS PERSECUTION

A Christian faith free from persecution grows soft. We become complacent. We begin to feel entitled. Then, when we do feel some twinge of persecution, we have a hissy fit and take to the streets with signs and campaign our little hearts out to get fair treatment! Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about persecution and the Christian faith:

Romans 12:14 ~ Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not.

Christians, from leadership to lay person, are responding with indignation and wrath towards those that persecute or cause us inconvenience in any form. The rallying cry becomes unite; fight; we have our rights too; and stop the persecution against Christians. Some Christians seem to feel Christians are failing in their duties if they do not protest vigorously against various atrocities and persecutions. They see these acts of persecution as offensive and contrary to their goal of the world’s acceptance of Christianity. They want people to take political action in some form.

Should we be rallying, protesting and demanding the State or the United Nations intervene to write and enforce laws that “may” stop persecution towards us? Can that remove unwarranted persecution against Christians?

The Bible speaks of the attitude and responses Jesus taught we are to have towards persecutions.

Matthew 5:43-45 ~ 43

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44″But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

PERSECUTION MEANS WE’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!

Peter writes again ~

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter:12-16)

Christians have a clear course for understanding persecution. We are not to view persecution as wrong or something to be feared. We are to view it as part of God’s plan for our lives, and to count it a blessing to suffer for our Lord. Jesus. The apostles wrote these guidelines for us out of their own experiences with persecution. Jesus underwent greater persecution than anyone else. His response is noteworthy and clearly something to be remembered, as the servants are not above the Master.

Jesus once had a conversation with a Roman governor that went like this:

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:35-36)

Jesus also said:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (John 15:18-21 ~ 18)

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22 ~ 22)

Some are deeply offended and angry when persecution takes place. The reaction is to retaliate in one way or another. They desire their “rights” and are not willing to lose any of their “possessions”, but would rather rally and try to force some confrontation with the issue, and obtain what they feel are their just dues. Some seem to feel that to suffer in any manner goes against being a Christian. Many want to be accepted and treated the same as non-believers. We are not the same. We belong to God. If we become offended or retaliate, we are being disobedient. These actions can also point to something more than just disobedience, maybe also a turning away from God.

The issue is not how to stop persecution. The issue is recognizing that persecution will indeed happen if we belong to Him. That understanding leads to depending on Him as to how we deal with those circumstances and allowing Christ to be glorified through it all.

Jesus, be glorified in our lives and our behavior, even as your Church endures difficult times.

Fighting the War Against Christianity

You can't fight it...
You can’t fight it…

Dear friends,

By now many of you have seen that there is a cultural war going on – a war between Christianity and the rest of the nation. More and more it seems that it is becoming unacceptable to voice religious opinion if it disagrees or interferes with non-Christian life and behavior. Here are three recent news stories about Christians in the military facing trouble for voicing their beliefs: 1, 2, 3.

While three particular stories don’t speak to the entirety of the conflict between Christianity and the world, they are indicative of what’s going on in our culture.

For 1700 years Western Christianity has enjoyed the peace and calm of being an official part of culture (thank you, Constantine). Our view has been the prominent paradigm for so long that we have forgotten what it is like to be the underdog in culture. But it seems that the tide is turning. Culture is shifting away from a Christian paradigm and turning towards a vision that embraces all faiths as equal (if not completely neutral).

In an odd turn of the tables, non-Christian Americans are using Constitution to argue for rights and demanding the ability to say and do whatever they please free of the restraints of Christian morality. At the same time they demand a voice for their platform they seek to silence the voice of the Christian platform. While I’m not a Constitutional scholar, I do believe this to be quite a hypocritical position. Christians should be allowed to voice their opinion without fear of reprimand just as anyone else is allowed to do so. But we seem to be moving towards a world where we are allowed to hold our beliefs…as long as we hold them silently. There are several things we should consider:

1. Christianity IS exclusive. The Bible is clear that salvation comes through Christ alone. There is no other path. All religions are not equal. If we believe the Bible then we believe that God’s desire is for all humanity to be saved through faith in Jesus. There is no compatibility with other faiths, and any synchronizing of faiths does damage to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Just because Christianity is exclusive doesn’t give us freedom to belittle, degrade, and be rude towards non-believers. Even in a changing paradigm, let us strive to be decent. Moral outrage does us no good. James 1 tells us that human anger doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. So let’s scale back the tone and animosity towards those who don’t agree with us. We can be decent no matter what others believe. We can be decent no matter how others treat us.

3. We cannot stay silent and keep our faith to ourselves. Jesus tells us in Matthew 28 to “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” If we stay silent we disobey Jesus. If we truly believe then we will give voice and action to our belief.

4. The Western Church might do well to suffer as underdogs in culture. It will actually make us think about what we believe and live to those beliefs. The early Church was no stranger to it. The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:14-16 –

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

I really don’t see our cultural paradigm shifting back to the old one. We will continually move further and further away from Christian ethics and values as the norm. Secularism will end up being the majority opinion and voice. It’s going to be a painful shift, but only because we haven’t been used to it. Christians around the world face it every day, and the Church does just fine.

No matter what happens, no matter how things shift, and even if our Constitutional rights are removed and trampled upon, Jesus is still ruler of the universe. Let us hold fast to the faith to which we have been called. Let us not be silent in speaking about God’s will and design for humanity. We will not be the darlings of society.

But then – we were never supposed to be….