Saturday, March 29, 2014

Religious Freedom and Marriage

A lot of folks who oppose same-sex marriage claim they are protecting their religious freedom in doing so. We are told they aren't opposing rights for LGB people, but are protecting traditional marriage.

I'll admit that logic mystifies me. Opposing marriage equality for LGB people to protect your own traditional marriage seems like protecting your children's education by opposing equal education for other children. It doesn't help your own children and it harms others.

Furthermore, establishing a legal precedent that gives state-sanctioned preferential treatment for one religion or set of religious traditions-- even if that religious tradition is yours-- endangers all religious freedoms. This is because it places in the hands of the state a power it should not have-- the power to dictate religious belief, to sanction some faiths and oppose others.

One needs only look at the history of the shifting oppression of Catholics, then Protestants, then Catholics again in England, as well as the Colonial American religious persecution of Quakers and those of differing Christian beliefs by the Puritans, to see that belonging to some branch of Christianity does not guarantee freedom for Christians within Christian states. Go look at the online comments of Christians to any contentious issue within the modern-day church and how often they accuse those of a different opinion of not being "true Christians." Then imagine giving the power to decide whether your beliefs are orthodox to a government official.

One of the most contentious issues today is the definition of marriage. Marriage, by its nature, is an expression of a person's most profoundly-held beliefs. Atheists do not seek a full Catholic wedding mass. Catholics do not find a Muslim imam to marry them. Muslims don't find a Pagan high priestess to perform a hand-fasting. Those who marry outside their faith believe such unions are acceptable. Those marrying a person of another race or nation sincerely believe interracial and/or international marriages are not immoral. Likewise, anyone marrying a person of the same gender holds to a faith or belief that recognises such unions.

When we insist the state should only recognise some marriages, but not others, we are asking the state to dictate religious belief. We are trying to hand the state power which it cannot and should not wield if we wish to remain free to exercise our own religious beliefs. We are asking the equivalent of that stranger on the internet to decide if we are a "true Christian."

I'd much rather protect my traditional marriage by defending the rights of LGB people to marry according to their own beliefs, and not mine or anyone else's.

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Gay Couple Walks into a Christian-Owned Bakery: The Problem of Refusing Service on Religious Grounds

In the news is yet another Christian-owned bakery that has refused service to a gay couple for their same-sex commitment ceremony, claiming, "As artist [sic] we must find the inspiration to create something special for our clients. When asked to do a cake for an occasion or with a theme (alcohol explicit in nature) that is in opposition to our faith, that inspiration is not found."

This happens with sickening regularity with bakeries, inns, restaurants, and other businesses. For those Christian owners of businesses who would consider doing this to a client, let me tell you in no uncertain terms that this is not what Jesus would do.

Jesus was very clear on how we are to behave toward everyone. We are to love our fellow Christians. We are to love our neighbours (and that includes everyone-- not just those of our faith or nation). We are to love our enemies. In fact, we are to go above and beyond for our enemies and those who force us to do things we do not want! We are told to give more than is demanded, to go the extra mile. (Didn't know that was from the Bible? Look it up.) While most of us would hesitate to label someone with whom we disagree on some religious matter an enemy, this still sets a model of Christian love, compassion, and humility.

We are called to do for others as we would want done for us. If you were to go into a bakery run by someone who had been hurt by Christians so much that he or she believed that Christianity was immoral, and if you asked for a cake to celebrate your child's baptism or first communion or confirmation, would you want to be told that the baker didn't bake cakes for Christian events because he or she didn't agree with our beliefs or lifestyle? How would you feel?

Would it be right for a bed and breakfast to refuse to honor the reservation of a honeymooning interracial couple because they sincerely believed the Bible says that mixing races is a sin?

Many Middle Eastern Christians shop in grocery stores run by Muslims because it is the cuisine they know how to prepare. Should the Muslim store owner refuse to sell to Christians because he does not agree with their beliefs?

Our Christian witness is so very badly damaged when we act loving only to those who share our beliefs and discriminate against those who don't. We are seen as hateful and prideful and hypocritical in ignoring certain sins and only refusing service based on others to which we are not subject.

Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me." In Romans, Paul instructs us, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Our efforts on behalf of people with whom we disagree should be exemplary, our absolute best.

Let it be said of us all, on the judgement day, "I needed a wedding cake, and you baked the very best one you could. I needed a place to stay, and you welcomed me so warmly. I needed a pleasant meal and time spent with my beloved, and you made sure my evening was perfect."