“Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
In the media and on social networks, there is great controversy surrounding the discussion of proposed legislation in Kansas, Arizona, and my home state of Tennessee that would give business owners legal permission to deny services to an individual based upon the individual’s sexuality. Certainly these laws have been proposed as a reaction to recent lawsuits against Christian business owners, such as florists, photographers, and bakers, who have refused to provide services for homosexual weddings. These proposed laws seem to be attempts to protect religious freedom, yet they are hotly contested and even compared to segregation-era Jim Crow laws.. I’m not going to comment on the merit of these proposed laws, that has been done, but I would like readers to consider the following two questions:
(1) Why should Christians make a big deal about sexuality?
(2) Can those who oppose such legislation imagine being asked to violate their religious convictions?
Why Should Christians Make a Big Deal About Sexuality?
As Dr. Craig makes clear in this clip (from a lesson about the doctrine of Salvation), the marriage relationship is a picture of the church’s relationship with Christ. Craig states, “The Marriage relationship is a living parable, as it were, of this mystical union that is the subject of this lesson, and that’s why, I think, the marriage relationship is so sacred to God and must not be violated. This is why adultery or homosexual activity is so abhorrent to God, because it is a profaning of this symbol of the union of God and his church.” How do you feel about sexuality? Are you casually dismissive or sexual sin, adultery, and divorce? Do you engage in sexual sin unrepentantly? If so, how does this color your political stance on homosexuality? You stance should align with God’s. Christians should make a big deal about sexuality; God does. We’re all desperately wicked sinners in need of God’s grace so don’t be the pot who is afraid to call the kettle black. This is just how, the accuser, Satan wants you to feel. Rather, Christian brothers, realize that you have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.
“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” – Paul, Colossians 3:9-10
Can those who oppose such legislation imagine being asked to violate their religious convictions?
I seriously wonder about the answer to this question. I wonder if people who are sympathetic to or even encouraging of homosexual unions have serious religious convictions at all. If so, such convictions certainly are not grounded in a right understanding of scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote to Roman Christians regarding, (sexual) immorality: “although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” When it comes down to it, one has to have religious convictions to fear that they will be violated.
I Have Religious Convictions
I’m not a florist, baker, or photographer but I could potentially provide a wedding service…as a minister. I couldn’t imagine being asked by any of my gay friends officiate a homosexual wedding, given that they understand my convictions and respect me as a person (as I do them). My friends would likely just ask someone else to officiate their wedding. I think this is what reasonable people do in a free society. Why is it, then, that florists, bakers, and photographers have been sued? There are innumerable service providers in our economy. Couldn’t reasonable homosexuals just have respected the religious beliefs of objectors who didn’t want to service them and find someone else? They could and, I imagine, many do.
Some sued. Some are out to make a point at the expense of the religious convictions of others. How long until a (state-licensed) minister of the gospel is used over his religious convictions. Before you write this off as fantastical speculation and fear-mongering, consider this actual question that I was asked by a pastoral search committee at a church in none other than the state of Arizona.:
“Would you perform either a “same sex” marriage or a ‘civil union’?”
Here is how I answered:
“Appropriately, the phrase ‘same sex’ in quotation marks above. A ‘same sex’ marriage is a logical impossibility on the same level of a ‘square circle’ or a ‘married bachelor.’ There is simply no such thing as a ‘same sex’ marriage. Therefore, it is impossible for a pastor to perform a ‘same sex’ wedding. God ordained marriage to be the union of one man and one woman. It is my understanding that Article 30 of the Arizona Constitution recognizes the institution of marriage as God ordained it. Of course, state recognition is subject to change has no bearing on the authority of scripture. So my answer to the question, ‘Would you perform a ‘same sex’ marriage,’ is an unequivocal, ‘No.’
As I understand it, Arizona State Law does not currently allow for civil unions, though some cities…have legalized them. Although I do not know the specifics of the local laws, I think it is reasonable to conclude that a civil magistrate, not a Christian pastor, would be expected to perform a civil union. Being unfamiliar with the local Arizona ordinances regarding civil unions, I cannot speak to their economic benefits. I could imagine, for example, a situation, where two widowed sisters who owned a family farm could be recognized as an economic unit by the government for the purposes of taxation. However, incentivizing any non-marriage, personal union between two individuals engaged in a sexual relationship should never be condoned, regardless of whether or not that relationship is between homosexuals or heterosexuals. I would not, were I ever to find myself in the capacity of a civil magistrate, perform such a union.”
I leave you with this statement, another from the Apostle Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul (Galatians 2:20)
Exactly! So if a gay or Muslim doctor has to treat a Christian in an emergency room, they should also have the right to refuse any and all services!
Let’s get the segregation handbook out and make this really fair. Anyone has the right to refuse services to anyone, and I do also mean Catholics to Protestants and vice-versa.
Think twice before you order a pizza, it might get thrown in your face.
E.B, I have to wonder if you watched the clip and really considered the context of my statement.
I don’t see how, if you understand my argument, that you would compare marriage services to medical care or pizza delivery. I’m speaking of marriage in terms of the Christian’s mystical union with Christ. As Dr. Craig stated, homosexual activity is “abhorrent” to God. Providing medical care and delivering pizza is not. Those are good things.
Do you have any critical commentary on the subject matter of the post itself (from within a biblical context)?
To chase the rabbit you present, I have to say that no Christian could make a sound biblical case for denying medical treatment to someone just because they were of a different religion. Just consider the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus makes it clear that we are to care for anyone of any religion.
Since Jesus is considered a respected prophet in Islam, I can’t imagine a faithful Muslim denying medical care to someone just because he is a Christian. The hypothetical scenario you bring up just isn’t tenable. Nor, can I imagine a white ER doctor turning away a black patient in need of live-saving care, even in the days of segregation.
Your examples are straw men and they are off-topic.
I understand that your sexuality is likely something deeply personal to you, as is mine. It’s not meant to be mean or hurtful to talk about certain kinds of sexual activity as “abhorrent”. Please keep the context in which these statements were made in mind. They are from an “in house” discussion…a Sunday school class. It’s not meant to put anyone down.
Off topic? I’m talking about refusing service on religious grounds. Catholics, for example, don’t consider marriages which happen outside the Catholic church valid. That’s how/why a divorced man like Newt Gingrich was allowed to marry his 4th wife in the church. To the church none of his previous marriages were ‘real’.
That being the case, should a Catholic hotel owner, for example, be able to refuse to rent his establishment to Protestants, Muslims or Atheists for them to conduct their weddings?
I don’t think you are addressing the topic with right degree of theological scrutiny.
I’m not a catholic theologian but I don’t think that the catholic church sees the marriages of non-catholic men and women as completely invalid or “unreal.” For example, I don’t think the priests and bishop here in the dioceses where I live would consider my wife and I to be fornicators because we were not married in the catholic church. They recognize that we are married and, thus, don’t engage in sexual sin would we engage in the marital act. (I welcome correction from a catholic clergyman.) At the same time, if my wife and I divorced and I converted to Catholicism, they would have not trouble allowing me to marry a catholic woman in the catholic church.
Why is this? My previous marriage, while real, was not of a sacramental nature. To the catholic church, catholic marriage is a sacrament done in the church which confers grace from God. There is no such understanding in non-catholic marriage. (such as the previous marriages of Newt Gingrich).
In any case, since I’m not catholic, I can’t answer for the religious convictions of a catholic hotel owner. However, I don’t think a catholic person could make a sound biblical case for refusing to provide shelter for someone in need of a place to stay (renting a hotel room to him). However, perhaps the case could be made for refusing to host a wedding party that conflicted with his beliefs.
In these last two correspondences, you haven’t shown a thorough understanding of Christian theology. You seem to be proposing very general “gotcha” questions. I think you would do better, if you want to really understand the Christian perspective (rather than just trip up unlearned people who have a political disagreement with you), to study scripture from the perspective of the Christian and try to understand the Christian worldview.
I know it might be hard to do so, given that you may be under the impression that Christian hate gays or can’t understand them. I assure you, these are not sound Christian views.
Christians are called to love and we can certainly understand having a sinful nature…since we have such natures. Christians are called to love like, our Lord, Jesus. We are also called to be His witnesses to a lost a dying world. Part of being His witnesses involves speaking as we do on the issue of sexuality.
The Catholic church is extremely particular about its rules. “Catholics are bound by the Catholic requirement that Catholics be married in the Catholic Church. Otherwise the Catholic Church will not recognize the validity of the marriage.” In fact if a protestant couple gets married, then later becomes Catholic, they must be re-married in the Catholic church.
Not forgetting that there’s no possibility of divorce.
What you’re ignoring is that historically Catholics and Protestants have refused each other service based on the different interpretations of each religion. In fact in some countries (like Spain) non-catholic services were not permitted publicly for much of the 20th century.
And if we add the Jews to the equation then we have things like Pope Paul IV’s Cum Nimis Absurdum which included things like:
§ 6. Nor may they incriminate Christians in any way, or promulgate false or forged agreements.
§ 7. And they may not presume in any way to play, eat or fraternize with Christians.
There’s nothing ‘gotcha’ about what I’m saying, but there is something very gotcha about what you’re proposing. The same style of law you propose to exclude gays has been used by religious groups throughout history to exclude each other. They’re still used in authoritarian countries.
What I find surprising is how you’re willing to bend logic and not recognize that by singling out one group you’re opening the door for all types of discrimination. If free citizens can be denied service for their ideology/identity, then be prepared that at some point your identity could be the one that’s targeted.
The concept of freedom of religion is the right to choose and practice a religion freely. It’s not the right to force others to follow the tenets of one religion. Going down that road is how women are forced to wear veils under penalty of law despite their personal desire.
How about a Muslim business owner only allowing women to enter their establishment with burqas?
I agree with you that the Catholic church is extremely particular about its rules (at least about what they are). I see you’ve quoted some catholic doctrine here:
“Catholics are bound by the Catholic requirement that Catholics be married in the Catholic Church. Otherwise the Catholic Church will not recognize the validity of the marriage.”
What’s your source? As I said, “I welcome correction from a catholic clergyman.” I don’t know whether or not you have a catholic background (I don’t) but I do know that you don’t believe in Catholic doctrine. I’m not a defender of catholic (or Islamic) doctrine by any means, but I do feel that it should be properly represented. (This isn’t a matter of “twisted logic”. In fact, I challenge you to take an argument that I am making, present it fairly, and show where it is logically contradictory.)
For example, your statement about the protestant converts who need to get remarried is an example of just what I was talking about previously…the sacrament of marriage coming through the church. What about the case of a married person who converts but his spouse does not. Is his marriage invalid. The biblical teaching on the condition of having a non-believing spouse doesn’t seem to indicate that it would, therefore, I’m not inclined to believe that the catholic church would think such a convert was living in sin.
Let’s look at your question about the Islaimic business owner. I don’t think it demonstrates an understanding of Muslim theology. For example, where is the business? Is it in Kabul? I’d expect to see the veil requirement. Is it in America? Given the doctrine of taqiyya, I’d expect not to see one. You’ve presented another untenable hypothetical situation here, one that is grounded in an apparent ignorance of a specific religion’s theology.
I can tell you this, if I my wife and I were to go to an Islamic culture, she would wear a veil, if only for the purpose of not needlessly offending anyone…just for the sake of being polite.
I’m certainly not “proposing any laws” to “exclude gays.” Can you show me where I am?
Here’s where it comes down for me. It’s not unreasonable for me to expect to be discriminated against in public against because of my religious stance. I think it’s happening to people right now with these lawsuits about cakes, flowers, and photos.
The Bible says that I should expect to be persecuted for what I believe, so I expect it. I appreciate the religious freedom I have in America and I think my country has done well to respect it. If it changes, then so be it.
If Catholics and Muslims want to discriminate against me, then they can have at it. If a secular society wants to do so, it can have at it. I ultimately trust in the Lord for deliverance.
I’m not sure this is something that you can understand. You don’t have any religious convictions. Can you imagine being asked to violate them at the expense of your business or livelihood? Is there any belief you have that is so fundamental to who you are that you can’t sacrifice it?
What I like about the American economy is that it can operate without asking people to violate such deep beliefs. I think, by demanding via lawsuit that florists service their weddings, that some gays are trying to impose their worldviews on another.
I don’t think it’s a violation of someone else’s religious freedom to tell him, “No, my religion prevents me from serving you in this wedding.” I think it is a violation to say, “You must serve me, I don’t agree with your religious objections.”
To not serve someone is to exclude. Do you think those signs that said no blacks, no jews, no dogs had notes on the bottom saying that if someone was a non-practising jew they could go inside?
What you’re proposing is the opposite of civilization. For a very long time wise men and women have been trying to create a social system where people can live alongside each other in harmony. Where everyone can co-exist despite religion, skin colour, political affiliation or financial background. That was the aim of the intelligentsia behind the late 18th century revolutions and it’s only now, two centuries later that we’re approaching that ideal.
It’s every individual’s right to apply the teaching of their religion to their own life. The second you start telling anyone they also have to follow your religion, then you cross the line. Your religion in particular doesn’t say ANYWHERE that you’re entitled to marginalize anyone from society. To take that position you have to ignore verse upon verse that is conciliatory and kind.
We should not be aiming for a world of ghettos where each group is an island. We should be mature enough to accept there will be differences and if there is reckoning to be had it’s between each individual and their chosen god or whatever belief system they choose or choose not to subscribe to.
I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would be so crude as to tell a client I refuse to work with ‘people like them’.
It seems like you’re tied to the mantra that if I refuse to participate in some act with or for someone that I am imposing my religion on him. I just can’t see how this is so. For all of your historical review about civilization, you certainly haven’t shown that it is.
What you’re really doing is just saying some agreeable things such as how we shouldn’t be aiming for ghettos…while implying that I’m for such action; I’m not. You haven’t made the case that Christians like myself want to put anyone in ghettos. If there are people put in a metaphorical ghetto, it is Christians who are being sued for refusing to violate their religious convictions. You’re in England right? There is a gay couple suing the church there right now for the right to get married in the church. That’s not getting along and respecting the religion of others.
As we both know, civilization existed long before the 18th century. I don’t think it’s fair to just say that what I am “proposing” is the opposite of “civilization.” It’s really false on it’s face. What am I proposing exactly? You haven’t pointed that out. It seems that you just keep building straw men and tearing them down according to whatever your agenda is.
Also, I think that maybe you should consider whether or not the vision of the intelligentsia is feasible. I suggest you read “A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles” by Thomas Sowell.
Can you really not imagine refusing any client? (I’m not exactly sure what you do but I have a rough idea) Would you do design work for a company that is tearing down the rain-forests or for a man who runs a sex slavery operation? I think I might refuse service to such a client.
I can tell you that I have prepared tax returns for a gay couple. I teach college classes on the side; I wouldn’t refuse to teach a gay student about accounting. As I’ve pointed out, such services are different than marriage.
It seems strange to me that on the one hand you talk about civilized you are in who you choose to provide services for (make money off of). Where exactly do you conceive of this heinous pizza delivery man is going to come from to throw pizza in my face. He can’t be a Christian because that particular religion doesn’t entitle an adherent to marginalize anyone in that way. To be honest, it doesn’t sound like a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist either. It doesn’t sound like the actions of any devout adherent of any religion I know.
So which is it? Is society so out of control that its being ghettoized with pizza-throwing delivery men or is it so civilized that you’d do work for anyone? The impression that you are giving me is that you feel that you are morally superior to me. Is that the case? I have to say that when people are put in ghettos, they are put there by people who feel that they are superior to them.
And who are these “people like them” to whom you refer? Is it gay people? I think gay people are just regular people like me. They are a part of the human race just like I am. To, differences in sexual preferences seems so superficial as a way of defining a class of people. I just don’t think we should do that.
As atheist, you seem to be working with the presupposition that one can just pick a religion as if he were buying it at the grocery story. That’s not a presupposition with which religious people work. God could choose you, for example. Further, this idea that religion is completely private is antithetical to Christianity. Yes, ones relationship with God is personal, but it is expressed outwardly in how one treats others and how one carries himself in public…and it can’t be forced on others…but refusing to engage in a transaction with someone isn’t doing so.
Can you honestly not see the conflict between (1) having the right to free religious expression and (2) engaging in every transaction anyone asks you to engage in? As someone without a religion, I don’t think you can appreciate the conflict. It’s just not your problem is it?
Lastly, let me say this…You’re making a lot of claims about what my religion/scripture teaches. Do you really understand it? For example, this post is about the doctrine of salvation.
What do you think I believe about salvation? How does one attain it? Why does one need it? I honestly want you to tell me what you think I believe on these matters.
I want to know if you really understand my beliefs or if you are just framing them in a way in which they can be dismissed as part of your larger agenda. I’ll leave you with this video clip of me. It’s a couple of years old. It’s my thoughts on marginalizing gays from a haughty religious perspective…
(go to the 12:16 mark if it doesn’t start you there)