The new sexual revolutionaries have shifted focus from the legal sanctioning of gay marriage to the elimination of dissent. Around the country, so-called “non-discrimination statutes” undercut the rights of religious believers to live according to the demands of their faith when those demands conflict with the “new normal.” Must people of faith conform to values that contradict their beliefs?
Granted, these laws don’t affect pastors, priests and rabbis. Not yet. The LGBTQ movement is smarter than to go for that now. Instead, they are starting with people like you. Everyday people doing everyday jobs: photographers, florists, bakers. Unlikely combatants in a war they didn’t ask for. The successful attacks on these common people are cracks in a foundational principle of justice and the common good that affects the freedom of every American, regardless of religious belief. Churches will fall in line eventually, or be crushed.
If this sounds like paranoia, consider that even influential evangelical Christians like mega-church pastor Andy Stanley, Christianity Today editor Skye Jethani, and FOX News correspondent Kirsten Powers suggest that Christian conviction requires the faithful to accede to unconscionable acts. “What would Jesus do? I think he’d bake the cake.” Powers summarizes audaciously.
Well, Jesus was a carpenter, so it’s unlikely anyone would have asked him to bake. But do you see him building the altar at which gay men exchange vows? What about the pews for those celebrating the sanctioning of sin? Or the lectern from which a pastor would quote Jesus’ own description of the reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife.
Our LBGTQ neighbors are made in the image of God, and entitled to all the rights due every other human being. The Jim Crow comparison may be an effective talking point, but it has no basis in fact. Racism is a sin. It denies the humanity of human beings; the Gospel elevates their worth. As servants of the Gospel we have no choice but to fight doggedly for a culture that enables every human being to experience the abundant life God promises. Racism is a hindrance to that life, as is homosexuality. The tragic irony is that proponents of no-holds-barred sexuality are condemning others to a life of bondage. My conviction is that I ought to have no part in forging the slavers’ chains.
When I travel the country and teach on the meaning and purpose of marriage I am often asked whether it is right to attend the same-sex wedding of a beloved family member or friend. My answer is always the same: It depends. Then I begin asking questions:
Have you prayed about it? How is the Holy Spirit leading you? Do you feel you can attend the service without compromising your responsibility to be a witness to the Truth? Will attending enable you to continue a Gospel presence in the person’s life? If so, then perhaps you should go.
Or are you merely afraid of telling the truth? Of the consequences should someone know what you believe? If so, then this may be the time to respectfully decline the invitation, and explain why.
Individuals may be led one way or another according to their conscience. One may feel they can provide the service without endorsing or celebrating the event; another may feel the opposite. Religious freedom and the right of conscience preserve the rights of individuals to come to their own conclusions in such circumstances.
Of course not every act of commerce amounts to an assessment of the moral nature of homosexuality. But every so often a creator is asked to use their talents for something their conscience cannot abide. It may be a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony, or a cake in a lewd shape, or a cake celebrating abortion. In those instances, the Bible fails to provide an absolute answer. What is a Christian to do? The answer is a matter of individual conscience. Not whether Christians should or should not do something, but whether they must do something.
Life in a pluralistic society requires us to recognize and respect our differences, and find ways to get along in spite of them. This is a difficult, educational and deeply fulfilling taskif it is allowed. There have been times when we have, as a nation, agreed that certain ideas are undeserving of participation in the public square. The belief that marriage is solely for one man and woman ought not to be included in that list alongside racism and miscegenation, for it is a belief rooted in love. Even if you disagree, you ought to respect that fact. You might even learn of some Good News.
Eric Teetsel is executive director of the Manhattan Declaration.