There is a growing tension in our nation where each side is desperately battling for freedom. With each new ruling, one side feels their freedoms have been taken away, and the other sees a victory for freedom and civil rights. The battle erupts at least once per month, and the lines are drawn in the sand once again. One news outlet reports on discrimination, and another reports on religious freedom. Half the nation declares the other is hate-filled bigots, and the other declares themselves the victims of religious persecution from their living rooms. One incident occurs, everyone is outraged, everyone feels the victim.
Religious freedom versus gay rights…it is THE culture war of our times.
Can we ALL please acknowledge four things:
- RELIGIOUS FREEDOM | There are people with privately owned businesses with legitimate religious beliefs who are being forced to do things with their privately owned business which violate their religious beliefs.
- THE LGBT COMMUNITY HAS FACED SERIOUS PERSECUTION | Up until very recently, people with same-sex attraction have faced extreme persecution in our society. In some places and in many ways, they still do. They have been discriminated against. They have faced actual bigotry.
- THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE HAS ALIENATED THE LGBT COMMUNITY | From their perspective (and rightly so), Christians only seem concerned with passing laws and refusing service against them. If, as Christians, our actions have caused people to hide in metaphoric and literal closets, we have done something very wrong. If, as Christians, our actions have created a scenario where the church is the last place someone with same sex attraction would turn for help, we have done something very wrong.
- CULTURE’S RESPONSE TO THE CHURCH HAS LEFT LITTLE ROOM FOR DISCUSSION | Each time one of these incidents unfolds or a celebrity makes a statement which does not directly support the LGBT community, words like “hate” and “bigot” are quickly thrown out. It creates an environment where discussion is hampered because it is immediately labeled as bigotry. In an article titled, “A Fleeting Tolerance,” Kevin DeYoung put it this way, “We should not expect our ideas to be debated fairly when it has already been concluded that there are no ideas to consider, only bigotry to suppress.“
If all of us would acknowledge that there are real people with real experiences and real beliefs on each side of the issue, we would have COMPASSION for one another. Compassion leads to something stronger than tolerance, acceptance.
Right now, everyone pretends to tolerate each other while behaving very differently.
- How is drawing lines in the sand being tolerant?
- How is assuming people’s motives tolerant?
- How does passing selective laws communicate tolerance?
- How is calling people bigots being tolerant?
- How does ignoring the discrimination against others communicate tolerance?
While TOLERANCE may be one of the highest values of our culture, it’s not very good standard. At the root of the word is “tolerate.” Having someone “tolerate” you isn’t exactly a pleasant thing. The word is laced with negative connotations.
A far better word and value to strive for is ACCEPTANCE. I can accept you as a person while disagreeing with your beliefs and actions. I don’t just want to tolerate people I disagree with, I want to accept them.
Our lack of COMPASSION and ACCEPTANCE for one another has led to an ever escalating culture war.
Religious Freedom Versus Gay Rights
Consider the events of the last few years:
A lesbian couple went into a bakery in Oregon in early 2013, hoping to purchase a wedding cake. The Christian owners refused to bake a cake for their wedding for religious reasons. Within days, the story exploded into another battle in our culture war.
Here are two different headlines about the exact same story:
- Christian bakers face government wrath for refusing to make cake for gay wedding – Fox News
- Bakery risks large fine for anti-gay discrimination – USA Today
One is a story about government punishing Christians, and the other is about discrimination against a lesbian couple.
Now, I don’t know this couple who operates the bakery. I don’t know if they truly are bigots. I also don’t know this lesbian couple, and whether or not they were trolling for attention. Here’s what I do know: I have had people ask me to perform their wedding, and I turned them down. It wasn’t because I hated them. It wasn’t because I was a bigot against people in their situation. It’s because I did not feel comfortable officiating a wedding for people in their situation on religious grounds. For that reason, I naturally have compassion for the position of the bakers (assuming they aren’t actual bigots).
The way the story unfolded, the bakers faced extreme media scrutiny, their kids received death threats, their shop closed, and they faced a fine of at least $150,000.
- Who was tolerant in this situation?
- Who was accepting in this situation?
- Who showed compassion in this situation?
CURRENT CULTURE WAR
Fueled by the bakery situation and the Hobby Lobby debacle, numerous states across the nation decided to pass Religious Freedom Acts. The purpose of these bills was to ensure that private business owners could refuse service on the basis a legitimate religious grounds.
This past week, the nation was set ablaze over Indiana’s SB 101 titled the “Religious Freedom Act.” The language of this particular bill enraged half the nation.
Within days, countless businesses and celebrities responded about their plans to boycott Indiana.
LIST FROM WIKIPEDIA PAGE ON SB 101
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com described the bill as an “outrage” and announced that the company would cancel all programs that require customers or employees to travel to Indiana.
Angie’s List announced that they would cancel a $40 million expansion of their Indianapolis based headquarters due to concerns over the law, that would have moved 1000 jobs into the state, and the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle have boycotted official travel to Indiana. Connecticut announced they would ban state-funded travel.
The Disciples of Christ have threatened to move their annual conference out of Indiana over the bill.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced they would pull their October conference out of Indianapolis.
The band Wilco cancelled a concert at the Old National Centre and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally cancelled a tour stop in Indiana.
The governors of Connecticut, Washington state, Vermont and New York banned state-funded travel to Indiana.”
George Takei, of Star Trek and Facebook fame, and LGBT activist, wrote an editorial piece for MSNBC where he said this:
“Gov. Pence [of Indiana] shamelessly pandered to the right wing of his party, perhaps because he is eyeing a run for the White House, or perhaps because he simply does not understand that bigotry, cloaked as religious protection, is still bigotry.” – George Takei“
In light of the pushback, the Governor of Indiana started to back peddle a bit. Likewise, the Governor of Arkansas released statements indicating that he intends to veto similar legislature in his own state.
Naturally the defenders of religious freedom had a lot to say. Conservative and Christian blogger Matt Walsh chimed in with this.
The Republican Party continues to sicken me. I’ve never before seen such a flimsy group of trembling little wimps. In fact, I recorded this podcast after the Indiana Republican retreat on religious freedom, but now I’m hearing that the Republican governor of Arkansas has bowed to gay mafia pressure and pledged to veto their own religious freedom bill because — and I’m paraphrasing — liberals are scary when they get mad and all this controversy makes his tummy hurt.
…And the worst part is that they have such an easy job. It should be EASY to explain why religious freedom is important. Maybe not easy to get liberals on board, but you should be able to communicate and defend these ideals, for God’s sake.
One side declares the other bigots. The other side uses terms like “Gay mafia.” These are just quotes from two people, but they represent far more people.
Which side is being compassionate? Which side is trying to ease tension? Which side is trying to close the divide?
Is it just me, or are we all handling all of this entirely wrong? Everyone keeps digging their feet in deeper. No one is listening. Everyone is playing the victim card.
- We have two sides that keep butting heads.
- We have two sides who think they’re the victim.
- We have two sides with no compassion for the other side.
- We have two sides with no ACTUAL tolerance for the other side
- We have two sides making no effort to accept the other side with love.
Why are we so unable to disagree without getting defensive or hurling insults?
What if, instead of fighting culture wars, we had conversations where we listened to each other? Right now, we deal with these tensions using war language. It’s a culture war where battles are fought. Each ruling is a victory for one side or the other, but no one ACTUALLY wins. Let’s talk to each other and, more importantly, let’s listen to each other.
These topics are too divisive and too personal for us to keep acting this way. Love and compassion are very powerful things that our nation desperately needs.