Why Jesus Wouldn’t Want Us to Use ‘Religious Freedom’

It is interesting how all the commotion about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act blew up right before Easter Sunday. Our Facebook news feeds were then interrupted with words of gratitude to our savior for his tremendous sacrifice, dying for our sins. Hashtags were trending, like #HeIsRisen. But by today those sins are likely again held high in the air again. Much higher than Jesus would hold them.

It bothers me. But for this blog post to be truly effective I must share that I also would have held this stance a few years ago. I didn’t want to be an enabler, and I thought that such a stance would have been a “tough love” sort of thing. But now I see it for what it is, misguided.

This past week the storyline took a new shape when a pizza parlor owner, an evangelical Christian, said on a local news story that if she was ever requested, she’d refuse to cater a gay wedding. She sky rocketed from obscurity to a household name.

In the shop owner’s defense and like my former view, I believe she wants to do what’s best for both Jesus and the hypothetical gay couple. Tough love. But what good does the shop owner really do?

Let’s start from the top. More self disclosure: I used to be a drunken heathen. I mocked the church and hit the bars by 4 pm three days a week to drink and party all night. I hit on every woman in the room with a slurred voice. Sometimes I got into fights with the bartender. Unless I was hitting on her. A time or two (or three) the bouncer asked me to leave. By force at least once, though I can’t remember how much more than that.

And that’s the cliff notes version. I was a filthy person. A lawless, reckless individual only interested in myself and feeling good. And I remember all too well the judging glances I received when during those worst phases of my sin. The few times I showed up at church with my shirt wrinkled, my eyes bloodshot and stubble like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, people held their glares a bit too long.

It wasn’t long before I stopped attending. And believe it or not, haughty eyes didn’t get me back in the church doors.

All of this to say that I’ve been on both sides of the debate for or against God. If I was ever outright rejected like the hypothetical gay couple from the pizza parlor, I certainly wouldn’t be writing this Christian blog today. I would have run as far away from God as possible.

Let me just say I have massive respect for gay people who are able to maintain a faith in God in spite of such acts.

Open Arms

Sometimes when I write blog entries they become ingrained in me, and this one sure has. The Easter morning’s church service was especially emotional, because I think I’m finally getting it.

There has been much debate around whether or not homosexuality is a sin in recent years. I am really not ready to tackle that topic on this blog post, but let’s start this discussion from the worst case scenario and say it is. Then how do we handle that?

In the Easter service we read about the prodigal son who returned home. His dad didn’t even ask any questions but was quickly preparing a lavish feast and throwing him a massive party just because he showed up. This father didn’t check out his story first, he just embraced him with open arms.

The father represents our heavenly father, who welcomed me while I was still lustful, greedy, gossiping and judgmental. He didn’t tell me to go get cleaned up first. Instead he threw both arms around me and told his servants to prepare a feast. He also has ever since that day, even though I’m still lustful, greedy, a gossip and judgmental. And news flash: I’m still a sinner.

But as of the day after Easter we get back to our old ways and get all us-against-them about things. As of yesterday $840,000 has been raised for that pizza parlor, essentially by people putting their money where their mouth is. Some of them surely claim it is in support of free speech, and I get that, there certainly is a lot of anger aimed at Christians in our world today. However, there’s a real icky feeling to that dollar amount, because it seems to be symbolical. It seems to say to the LGBT community and its sympathizers, “you’re not going to get away with this!”

This also brings to mind the parable about the unmerciful servant. In it Jesus tells about a servant owes the king 10,000 bags of gold which he was unable to pay. That is an exorbitant amount of money, but after the servant begged the king took mercy on him and wiped the debt clear.

Such great mercy! However, immediately after leaving the king that same servant then remembered that he, too, was owed a debt. Another servant owed him 100 silver coins, a drop in the bucket compared to 10,000 bags of gold. Nevertheless, he began choking the other servant and demanding his money back, and this servant was also unable to pay. Somehow the first servant was unable to see the correlation between himself and the other servant, because though he had his debt of far more completely wiped clean, he had the second servant thrown into prison.

Sound familiar? Are some of us unable to see the correlation in our own lives?

Furthermore, Paul states in Romans 2:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Passing judgment, I feel, is pushing judgment off ourselves and onto others. Overlooking our own sins and shining a spotlight on others’ sins.

Double Standards

Furthering the example of the pizza shop owner, I believe she wants to honor God in this. And, unfortunately, that’s one reason such the walls are getting higher and higher between believers and non-believers. The believer thinks “I’m just trying to help!” and “I don’t want to contribute to a person’s damnation,” whereas non-believers think “can’t you see you’re only making things worse?”

Sure, I used to think the along these lines. But for some reason my judgment was isolated to this subject. For instance, when I used to deliver pizzas I never thought twice about giving an obese man an extra large pizza. Scripture states that gluttony is a sin, and not only that but it can significantly reduce enjoyment of life, cause diabetes and even heart attacks. So where’s the difference?

In fact, the extremely ironic thing about this whole debate is that there is nothing in the bible that forbids a store owner from serving gay customers. Of course, plenty of scripture can be squeezed and tucked until it fits into that molding, but when we take a step back, where the rest of the world may have an advantage over us, we can see clearly that it really isn’t there.