Forced Gay Part II—My Hypocrisy

Permit me to get on my soap box. I waited a few 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 or two 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 few days ago I wrote a post about Xians refusing to provide services for a same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that some photographers had violated a same-sex couple’s civil rights – and the Evangelical Xian community 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 Xians should think twice about refusing service to same-sex couples (I’ll post the link to my full post below).

I knew 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 Xian (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 bear 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 Xians 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 Xians 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. But 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 Xian waiter can 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 Xian 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 Xians.

I don’t see it as hypocritical. I genuinely see a difference between a wedding vendor and a pastor. I was told by one Xian 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 see too many Xians 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 Xians 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. 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 share this with CNN. Or Oprah. It would be kind of cool to be quoted 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… 😉

Related Posts:
~ Forced Gay: The Battle for Straight Xian Rights

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6 thoughts on “Forced Gay Part II—My Hypocrisy

  1. While I respectfully disagree with your understanding of “biblical model of marriage” I whole heartedly agree with you on this!

    • I’m not really sure I’ve ever heard anyone say that they disagree with the understanding of a biblical model of marriage… That’s a new one. Perhaps we can give the Rev some lessons on that.

      At any rate, I think your post is good and I would add this: If Howard Shultz (CEO of Starbucks) got fed up with conservative Christianity and decided not to serve anyone on Sunday who looked like a churchgoer, would that be okay with the Christian community?

      Oh, h*ll no!

      That’s the problem with allowing businesses to discriminate–they would begin discriminating against whomever they wanted. The government has an obligation to its people to defend freedom and civil rights regardless of religious and personal objections in the business world. The government does not have the ability or the legal recourse to regulate every religious or objection that a business may have.

      Gone are the days of “We have the right to refuse service to anyone.”

  2. Thanks for addressing the topic. I’ve heard many different angles on this before, and wanted to throw something your way. Some who hear “serving isn’t endorsing” disagree on the grounds that it isn’t about serving gay persons, but about being forced to participate in a Gay Wedding, which would violate their conscience. Any thoughts on this?

    • Good question. People who offer a service to the public aren’t allowed to refuse service based on another individual’s lifestyle, race, gender, etc.

      I’m not sure the conscience card can come into play. The vendor isn’t the one getting married. The vendor is not even a necessary element. I fail to see how the vendor’s conscience is an issue.

      The vendor might disagree with the couple’s choices, but that’s not a conscience issue. The vendor would still take photos of a couple who were heterosexual sinners. The baker would bake for the heterosexual sinners. So we’re not really talking about conscience (that I can see). We want to pick and choose which sin we will play along with and which sin we will distance ourselves from.

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  3. (I have to apologize at the start for being so incredibly long-winded. For reasons you’ll see, this issue is one that I have problems being brief about. I pray for your indulgence!) I always find it a little amusing that I find myself on the opposite position from individuals like you. I’m a homosexual Christian, but as you might guess, I’m not in favor of the position you advocate, nor do I believe it’s de facto discrimination against LGBT individuals for a wedding business to choose not to do business with a homosexual couple.

    There was an article, that I wish I had now, that sums up my feelings on the matter, and I’d like to sum it up with a few points. Firstly, knowledge does change things. You use the example of Christian vendors not vetting their customers for adultery or their religious beliefs or not, and as far as that goes, that makes sense. However, if you truly believe, as you say, that marriage is between a heterosexual couple, then we run into a bit of a problem. That is, the vendor may not know- and may not have the means- to ‘vet’ each heterosexual couple. Indeed, one can argue that even if the marriage doesn’t fit every Christian criteria, that it’s still an improvement- following at least part of God’s plan is better than none at all, if one will. However, a homosexual marriage is always, in all circumstances, an endorsement of all aspects of the couple’s union, which means that it is always a matter of sin. We must never forget, when talking about issues of conscience, that questions of degree do matter.

    Secondly, we must also remember that this particular argument cuts both ways. If we assume that Christians can’t discriminate against any people, then it is to any people that we must not discriminate. That’s not a slippery slope argument, that’s moral incongruity. We could sit down and think of a rather long list of individuals that any Christian vendor would prefer not doing business with- shall we then say that there must not be discrimination? The comparison to race is one that’s far overdone- let me say right now that there is absolutely no comparison between me having the ‘right’ to marriage or sexuality and the right to vote or be treated as a full human being- and not really appropriate to the discussion. More appropriate would be in terms of other alternative life choices. Polygamy immediately jumps to mind, and indeed, I could make a far stronger Biblical argument for supporting that kind of marriage than one of my own. Shall we then say that a Christian who truly disagrees with such an arrangement must not discriminate?

    Thirdly, and as a corollary, let’s remember where our roots of conscience. In Romans, Paul states that anything that’s done opposite to conscience is sin, because anything that’s not done in faith is sin. The context is similar to this discussion- is it okay to do what the pagan world is doing, and so endorse their position? Paul essentially says that, since we are Christians, we are free to do as we please. But, if someone with a weak conscience acts against it, then that person sins.

    Please, please, be careful on this topic. If someone truly believes that their conscience won’t allow them to take part in such a marriage, and they do so anyway simply because of your pressure? Then they have sinned, and you have had a part in it. It may be right and proper for you to support it, and not right or proper for another. In such cases, I think we both know what the injunction is, for the one with the stronger conscience.

    Fourthly, and this is on purely practical grounds, don’t think that this will be the end of the matter. You may say that we can continue to preach righteousness and love people despite their differences, but… in practical terms? Not really. We see this in a fair few other countries- I’m thinking England, in particular- where this pattern has played out. There are a lot of folks in my community to which nothing less than full acceptance will be enough. There are plenty to whom any sort of disapproval- be it from the pulpit or from a neighbor- is a de facto hate crime and thus should be punished. That’s the harsh reality about conscience protection- there’s always a good reason to infringe on it, and once it’s gone, it can’t really be restored.

    And that, in the end, is what really bothers me about this particular issue. It’s all well and good to tell people like you that you love me, but let’s consider the issue. If homosexual intercourse is sin, and the Christians are not allowed to opt out of such things, is that not forcing them to take part- however minor- in that sin? If the laws of the land trump the laws of God, does that not put the Christian in precisely the opposite position than they should be? For that matter, if you believe that God punishes sin, and yet you support the requirement of vendors to take part in such things, and thus use their God-given talents for something that they truly believe isn’t right, then are you not leading to greater punishment for both the couple (for their intercourse) and the vendors (for going against conscience)?

    I appreciate your heart on this matter, let me say that. And I do believe that the church does need to reapproach the LGBT community and find a way to reconcile with a group that has been deeply hurt by the church in the past. But I don’t believe this particular means is the right way of going about it, and I definitely don’t like where this moral and legal reasoning leads us. As a creative (well, kind of,) individual myself, I have to say that there is no such thing as separating myself from my work. You can sympathize with this, being a fellow writer- it is a part of you on the screen, the result of thought and hard work and your own perspective. A wedding photographer is the same way, as is a baker or the like. Every creative endeavor has, at its core, a creative individual putting themselves and their talents into whatever they’ve made. If such a person feels no compunction about the matter, then that’s fine. But if it does, we should be very careful in what we abridge.

    For me, I care more about the heart and the soul of such individuals than I care about eating their cookies or having my picture taken with their cameras. That certainly isn’t a popular view at the moment, but I would implore you to think again, long and hard, about what the church’s role in matters such as this should be. Think of the danger of a mixed message, think of the damage done to the consciences of believers, and think of what the current dangers facing both of my communities are. Again, I appreciate your heart and what you desire to do… I’d just like to ask you to consider, once more, whether what you advocate will actually lead to that goal.

    • And as an addendum… let’s also be sure we draw a distinction here. There is another reason why the comparison with civil rights for the African-American community is not appropriate. The reason for that is the same difference that, I believe, you do not believe that homosexual marriage is valid under God, and yet don’t see that as an inherently hateful statement- which a fair few individuals, again, would disagree with.

      It’s because there is a difference between what someone does, and who they are. Denying someone service because of their skin color is wrong, because that is denying service to someone because of who they are. Likewise, if we want to put a fine point on this issue, denying service to me because I’m homosexual would also be wrong- it’s who I am. Likewise with gender or things like that.

      But ah, you still say that same-sex relationships are not part of God’s design. If it is wrong for a Christian photographer to discriminate against me because they believe that, and it doesn’t matter, then it should follow that it is wrong for you to discriminate against me on those same grounds. If expressing moral disapproval, and discriminating thereby, is illegitimate for one person, it’s illegitimate for all- that’s the foundation of civil rights, they apply to all people and for all people.

      But, manifestly, the comparison doesn’t ring true, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s because what a homosexual person does is not inherently a part of their civil rights, whereas a person of color’s skin tone or a woman’s body is a part of their own.

      Thus, the argument that a Christian vendor is being hypocritical or otherwise in an untenable situation simply because they don’t check for every kind of marriage is also a muddied conclusion. In that sense, the act that is being done (marriage between a man and a woman) is morally acceptable to them, even if the people involved may not be. But, as I mentioned in my previous post, there is no situation in which their consciences would allow them to support a homosexual marriage, because that act is not permitted by Scripture, as you say yourself.

      To sum it up, then, there is a difference between a store refusing to do business with me as a homosexual person (which is based on my orientation, which is a part of me, which is then wrong,) and refusing to do business with me because I want a marriage with another man (which is based on a decision I/we have made, which is not a part of me, and thus is not wrong.)

      Sorry about the kind of rambling responses and the edits- it’s late and I wanted to get these thoughts out before I went to bed. And again, I just want to emphasize that I really do know and appreciate what you’re going for with posts like this. I just want you to put your thinking cap on again, and see if my perspective (since it is a bit unusual, I’ve found,) causes you any changes of mind. Even if not, though, please don’t think for a moment that I consider you backslidden or hypocritical or anything like that.

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