4.15.2016

Coming to Terms

"Religious liberty" vs. "Anti-LGBT" is destined to go down as the "Pro-life" vs. "Pro-choice" term wars of our generation.  My friends tend to skew left and non-Christian, so I personally am hearing a lot more repudiation of anti-LGBT legislation than defense of religious liberty legislation.  Where am I on this?

It will come as no surprise that I see merits to both sides.  If you are a product or service provider who is of a faith that believes that homosexuality is a sin, it can feel like you are being forced to do something that is against your religious beliefs.  On the other hand, if you think that religion is not allowed to hold such beliefs in a pluralistic society because to do so is to judge or discriminate, then it can seem utterly backwards to allow laws that preserve such "rights."

I'm not a lawyer so I'm not going to wade into the technicalities of various state laws.  I'm sure there is a lot of complexity that is getting lost in Facebook headlines and news blurbs.  My primary consideration, from my own personal point of view, is what advances what I believe to be transcending truths, and what does so in ways that are true to what I belief, honoring to people's dignity, and respectful of the fact that different people have different worldviews.

If I am an outwardly Christian baker, and one who does not believe that same-sex marriages should be considered marriages, and a same-sex couple approaches me as a potential customer, it seems to me there is a middle ground between either refusing service on the one hand or offering service with no regard to the conflict between what I believe and what I am tacitly supporting through my service provision.  It seems to me that there is a way to not discriminate, in a pluralistic society that allows all kinds of beliefs and practices, and to render the service that I am business to provide, and to do so at high quality and with cheerfulness, even if I do not personally agree with the lifestyle choices of my customer.

If I am an outwardly Christian counselor, and one who considers his faith to be the guide in offering good counseling, and someone in the LGBT community approaches me as a potential customer, it seems to me there is a middle ground between either refusing service on the one hand or offering service that is not true to how I normally counsel.  It seems to me that just as my customer is free to choose me as their counselor, I am free to express what I believe to be the path to being a whole, flourishing person, inclusive of what I believe is right and wrong.

Maybe I am being naive or disingenuous or slippery, and I am certainly still open for arguments on either side, but it seems to me that if you are a practicing person of faith, you can have your religious liberty and render your services to all who seek them, rather than choosing one or the other.  It seems to me that, in this country, to refuse service is discrimination.  And, it seems to me that, for people of faith, to render service in ways that compromise what you are fundamentally about is an even worse offense.

Quite frankly, I'm doubly irritated at my Christian brethren.  I believe in the same absolute truths as they do, but I also acknowledge that we live in a pluralistic society and have to make accommodation to those differences in beliefs, not as a compromise to what we hold dear but as a ticket to inclusion in such a society and the conversations that shape it.  And secondly and related to that point, I believe that our calling as Christians is to be an influence on those around us, particularly those who do not share our beliefs, so I find it absurd that we are arguing for the right to not have to serve those different from us rather than jumping at the chance to do so.

Let me say that again for effect: I find it absurd that we are arguing for the right to not have to serve those different from us rather than jumping at the chance to do so.  In the term wars, I ask my Christian brethren to not be anti-LGBT, and to use your religious liberty to engage and influence rather than to exclude or distance.  Jesus was far more committed to absolute truths than any of us ever will be, and yet He was found way less in touch with the day's religious leaders and societal saints than with its most irreligious and suspect.  Should we not demonstrate our adherence to the same absolute truths in the same engaging way?
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