Over the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of debate in the news and in social media over religious freedom and the rights of homosexuals to be free from discrimination. Most recently, the states of Indiana and Arkansas implemented state versions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton during his first year in office. It has been claimed that the law allows business owners who disagree with homosexuality to discriminate against homosexuals by refusing to serve them. In their representation of Christian business owners, the media has been less than kind; an attitude that has sparked angry protests among the homosexual community, both in the street (as was the case in Indiana and other places) and online in various social media venues. Recently, an opinion piece titled “Interview with a Christian” appeared in the New York Times. It appeared that the author was attempting to somehow smooth the ruffled feathers of angry homosexuals by presenting the view of a politically correct gay affirming inclusive “Christian.” Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of Scripture should recognize the oxymoronic aspect of the label.
Therefore, I decided to take it upon myself to present a more Biblical view of the Christian stand on homosexuality and other topics by subjecting myself to (as the NYTimes piece put it) “an interview by an imaginary –– but representative –– member of the press.” Here is how it went:
Reporter: I understand you have some opinions on the RFRA bills recently passed in Indiana and Arkansas.
Me: Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.
Reporter: I trust you realize that these so-called “religious freedom” bills are actually nothing more than a license for bigoted fundamentalist Christians to use their “faith” to discriminate against people whose only “crime” is to be in love with someone.
Me: That seems like a rather biased statement. You have automatically assumed that one, Christians are bigoted fundamentalists, two, that Christians either have or will use their faith to discriminate against homosexuals, and three, that Christians somehow think homosexuality is a crime. So let me answer each of these three topics for you if I may.
Reporter: By all means. I'm curious to hear what you have to say.
Me: First, your statement that Christians are bigoted fundamentalists seems to be based on personal opinion rather than fact, since bigotry is not conducive to Christianity, and fundamentalism simply means that we believe the Bible to be the factual inerrant word of God – which the Bible itself says about itself, and leaving the Bible open to personal interpretation without regard to what the Bible actually says is also not conducive to Christianity.
Reporter: Are you saying that a Christian can't be a bigot? What about groups like the Westboro Baptist Church? They're a Christian church! And I've rarely seen a bigger bunch of hypocritical bigots in my life! And you can't possibly believe everything in the Bible to be literal or even literally true? That just doesn't make any sense!
Me: I agree that the Westboro Baptist Church engages in hatefilled rhetoric, but just because they might call themselves “Christian” does not necessarily mean they really are. The Bible, which we view as the literal word of God Himself, is very clear about this when it says in 1 John 1:5-6, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” and in chapter 2, verse 11 God says, “But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” and in chapter 4, verse 20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Even Jesus Himself said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22) So, while I will not say that those people are not Christian's, since that is God's responsibility and not mine, I will say what the Bible says, and it clearly says that Christian's will not behave that way. Fortunately, those types of groups are few and far between, so it really is unfair to paint with such a broad brush.
As for taking the Bible to be the literal word of God and literally true, yes, I do. All Christians do as there is no reason to believe otherwise. There is plenty of evidence, including extra-biblical evidence, to support the veracity of the Bible. Do we take it all literally? Only the literal parts. Sections that are prophetic or analogous are clearly marked as such so as to avoid any confusion. Plus, as Scripture says, true believers have the Spirit of God to guide them through the Scriptures.
Reporter: I still don't see how you can say that Christians will not use their faith to discriminate against gays who happen to be in love with one another. Or do you believe that gays should be stoned to death as your so-called literal Bible says.
Me: Not only are there no cases of religious people refusing to serve homosexuals, but only cases where those homosexuals wanted to force Christians to participate in activities that strictly violate Christian beliefs; but ff you read the bill, even the original bill before any revisions, you will see that there is no clause in it, nor in any of the other RFRA bills in any other state, nor even in the federal RFRA law that protects religious people or businesses owned by religious people from being targeted by homosexuals for the express purpose of prosecuting those Christians and Christian owned businesses. And I specifically say Christian since Muslim owned businesses have refused to participate in those activities, and they are not prosecuted. In fact, when multiple homosexual owned bakeries were asked to make custom cakes celebrating traditional marriage or that bear the message that homosexuality is a sin, and they refused, there were no prosecutions. Only Christians are being prosecuted for these so-called crimes.
As for homosexuals being stoned to death, that would be a specific law for a specific time, a specific place and for a specific people. It is no longer in effect, so no, I do not believe homosexuals should be stoned or physically harmed in any way. In fact, today, it is only certain Islamic terrorist groups and certain Islamic governments that actually murder people simply because they are homosexuals, and they consider homosexuality to be a crime. Christians do not. We believe homosexuality is a sin, and like any sin, if it is not repented of, and the person does not turn to Christ for forgiveness of their sins, then sadly, very sadly, they will be condemned to hell for eternity.
Reporter: Aren't you really just trying to sound pious and non-confrontational while actually trying to maintain some perceived right or responsibility to hate and discriminate? You have to know that Americans have really lost their appetite for that kind of nonsense, and as a country we are trying to move forward as a beacon of tolerance while retaining a form of religiosity that is inclusive and affirming for all, just as other progressive wealthy countries.
Me: Seriously? Would those “progressive wealthy countries” include say, any in the Middle East? Maybe Saudi Arabia, or Iran (whom are government is currently negotiating treaties with)? Countries that express their tolerance by killing homosexuals and beating women and children while denying their human rights?
And your insistence that Christian's are holding fast to their hate and discriminatory attitudes shows that not only have you not been listening to me, but that you actually do not have a clear understanding of what a Christian is, and perhaps do not want a clear understanding due to some sort of preconceived bias against Christianity or God or Jesus. You seem to be saying that Christians are automatically guilty of hate and discrimination simply because they are Christian.
Reporter: I would say that when you enter into the world of commerce here in America, regardless of your “deeply held religious beliefs,” then you have entered into a nondiscriminatory zone and your personal beliefs are checked at the door. Each customer, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, nationality or political beliefs must be treated equally. No exceptions.
Me: So you are saying that a Christian business owner must participate in a homosexual activity even if it violates their faith, and in effect, is the same as saying deny your faith or face prosecution?
Reporter: I am saying they cannot discriminate against gays.
Me: So, following your logic, Muslim business owners must also participate as well?
Me: And Jewish bakeries can be forced to bake Nazi themed cakes, and Black owned bakeries can be forced to bake anti-Black cakes for a Ku Klux Klan rally …
Reporter: I didn't say that.
Me: … And clearly, a gay baker must be required to bake cakes for Christians that say “Just say no to same sex marriage”? Because when bakeries owned by gays were asked to bakes those cakes they simply refused, and they were not prosecuted at all. In fact, some would say that this idea of tolerance you are promoting is really a double standard that protects homosexuals, but targets Christians.
Reporter: There is no double standard when Christians are using a book like the Bible, a book full of hate, to justify their hate and discrimination against gays. If it were up to me the Bible would be illegal!
Me: You mean like in Colorado?
Reporter: Oh, get real! Now you are really grasping at straws. But go ahead and spout your conspiracy theory. It will show people just how loony you people are.
Me: As of November 2014, Colorado Revised Statutes, 24-34-701 stated that the publishing of discriminative matter was forbidden. It went on to say that, no person, whether owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent, or employee of any place of public accommodation –– and “place of public accommodation” is defined as, “any place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the public, including but not limited to any business offering wholesale or retail sales to the public; any place to eat, drink, sleep, or rest, or any combination thereof; any sporting or recreational area and facility; any public transportation facility; a barber shop, bathhouse, swimming pool, bath, steam or massage parlor, gymnasium, or other establishment conducted to serve the health, appearance, or physical condition of a person; a campsite or trailer camp; a dispensary, clinic, hospital, convalescent home, or other institution for the sick, ailing, aged, or infirm; a mortuary, undertaking parlor, or cemetery; an educational institution; or any public building, park, arena, theater, hall, auditorium, museum, library, exhibit, or public facility of any kind whether indoor or outdoor.” In fact, it quite literally means anyplace the public uses, with the exception of “churches, synagogues, mosques, or other place that is principally used for religious purposes.” –– may not “publish, issue, circulate, send, distribute, give away, or display in any way, manner, or shape or by any means or method” … “any communication, paper, poster, folder, manuscript, book, pamphlet, writing, print, letter, notice, or advertisement of any kind, nature, or description that is intended or calculated to discriminate or actually discriminates against any … sexual orientation … or against any of the members thereof … that the patronage, … presence, … at such place by any person or class of persons belonging to or purporting to be of any particular … sexual orientation … is … objectionable or not … desired … .”
This law effectively bans the publishing, issuing, circulating, sending, distributing, giving away, or displaying any Christian Bible because it clearly states that homosexuality is objectionable. This means that it is illegal to have a Bible in a public library in Colorado. It is illegal for a chaplain in a convalescent home to hand out a Bible in Colorado. It is illegal for the owner of a barbershop to leave their personal Bible out in plain view in their own shop in Colorado, or, for that matter, any employee of any business to carry a pocket New Testament in their shirt pocket while working. In any public place in Colorado, other than a house of worship, the Bible is illegal.
Reporter: I don't believe you.
Me: Whether you believe me or not is irrelevant. The law stands as I have said. Look it up yourself. Colorado Revised Statutes, C.R.S. 24-34-701. It is readily accessible online.
Reporter: This still doesn't answer the question of, why should Christians be allowed to discriminate against gays?
Me: Actually, I have already answered that question. Repeatedly. Christians are not discriminating against gays. For example, take Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman for example. She owns Arlene's Flowers …
Reporter: I know who she is. She refused to sell flowers to two men simply because they are gay.
Me: Well, that's not exactly true. In fact, one of those men, Robert Ingersoll, was a long time customer of Miss Stutzman. The simple fact that she had sold him flowers for an extended period of time proves that she was not discriminating against him. The issue of his wedding to his male partner Curt Freed came up during a conversation, and Miss Stutzman simply said that she could not participate in that wedding by designing custom arraignments for it. This was not a case of a Christian refusing to sell flowers to someone because they are gay, especially since she had been doing that exact thing for some time. Rather it is a case of she did not want to participate in that wedding, because doing so would be a violation of the Christian faith by giving tacit approval of sin. Scripture is clear that a person cannot do this and be a Christian, and doing so is a grievous sin in itself and indicates a deep seated wickedness (Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:19-23; I Corinthians 8:9-13). To force a Christian to do this is tantamount to forcing them to deny their faith – and, in effect, to deny Christ Himself. A Christian cannot do that. And yet, this is exactly what the state Attorney General is attempting to do by requiring Miss Stutzman to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any government law respecting an establishment of religion, or impeding the free exercise of religion. This is exactly what the Washington court has done.
Reporter: Your argument for the First Amendment doesn't wash. It just doesn't hold up anymore, at least not in today's society. While the First Amendment was originally intended to protect individual freedom of religion, America is shifting away from the individual rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment. This shift may be recent, but it is here and these sorts of cases are becoming more and more frequent. You might as well get used to the idea that your personal religious opinion doesn't matter in America anymore, and it will never usurp another person's personal liberty.
Too many people in this country have an unhealthy obsession with what other people do in the their bedrooms. You Christians need to mind your own faith and your own business and allow other people to define their own relationships with a god, if such a thing exists, or another person regardless of their sexual preference.
Me: You mean, allow people to sin, and don't warn them about the spiritual consequences of that sin. Isn't that what you really mean?
Reporter: Call it whatever you want, but if people want to sin, that's their business and none of yours. In fact, it is exactly that same kind of self-righteousness that is causing the problem in Indiana right now with that pizza joint. They are flat out denying services to same-sex couples! Outright!
[Tomorrow the remainder of this "interview" will be posted.]