Let me start by making something very clear: your Christian values do not excuse your bigotry. If anything, Christian values condemn your bigotry.
Now that being said let me explain where this is coming from. There are laws in a number of states that effectively allow a business owner the right to refuse service to someone based on the business owner’s religious convictions. Recently one made it through Indiana that has made a lot of noise and press. I don’t want to talk about politics though, I want to talk about religious convictions. Specifically, Christian religious convictions, and the example that always comes up is the one of the Christian florist asked to sell flowers to a same sex wedding.
It is not uncommon to hear people quote scripture to explain their convictions. I for one am a great proponent of forgiveness so I might quote Matthew 6:14-15 “if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” or I might say “You are to forgive seven times seventy times.” Similarly I believe in the active ministry of the Holy Spirit so I might quote Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received freely give.” Now both of these examples are ones that I have done serious study on and are verses that I feel provide me with some kind of guidance and instruction in how to live my life. Now I’m sure there are people who disagree with me on the second of my two examples but most likely that person is a Christian and we can live together and even worship together because despite our differences we can call on Jesus together and in our shared love of Christ we can love one another. What is key however, is that scripture is used to define convictions.
I cannot express how completely enraged I become when people manipulate scripture to defend their own convictions. I’m talking specifically about the Christian response to homosexuality/LGBT. Never mind how many Christians have a damaged view of sexuality (for whatever reason), I’m talking about people who think it’s ok to refuse to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. I’m talking about a florist who refuses to sell flowers for a gay wedding because he or she is a Christian and has gotten it into his or her head that same sex marriage is an abomination and he or she should have no part in it. Now if scripture is used to defend that conviction the conversation is over. But what happens if we allow scripture to shape our convictions?
- Jesus allowed a prostitute to wash his feet (Luke 7:36-39)
- Jesus touched lepers, some of the most unclean people of the day
- Jesus ate with ostracized tax collectors and “sinners”
And when faced with a woman who had committed adultery, a sin which Jesus himself preaches violently against (see sermon on the mount) Jesus does not stone her and in fact saves her from execution. Then he says “Where are those who have brought you here? Is no one left to condemn you?” The woman answers “no one, sir” and Jesus declares “Then neither do I condemn you.” John 8:11
Now we can argue that the woman repented and left her adulterous ways, but that’s really beside the point. In this passage as in so many others we see Jesus coming into direct contact with sin, with a person who has sinned but the contact bears no risk for Jesus. His holiness is not defiled by such an act but rather magnified as it shines upon those who so desperately need a touch of the divine.
Consider also the following verses.
- Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me
- They will know you by your love
- Love your neighbor as yourself
- Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement… anyone who says “you fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell
- Love your enemies
Now these last ones are written specifically for the Christian. These are the precepts that Jesus set out for his followers to obey. Based on these the Christian florist has no religious right to refuse service to anyone. The florist may have moral objections to homosexuality and same sex marriage, but she also has a religious obligation not only to serve them (the least of these) but to love them and to be joyful that they are to be married. In short, it doesn’t matter if it’s a gay wedding, a black wedding, an interracial wedding, or a wedding between a Klingon and a Vulcan, the Christian florist DOES NOT HAVE religious grounds to refuse service.
Read more on Contentious Christian Issues Part 1, 2, 3, 4