Monday, February 17, 2014

What Love Does Not Look Like

I've been sitting on this one for a while, mostly because what my native home state of Kansas is doing just makes me want to hurl out a stream of invective not fit for a Christian blog.  So I'm writing this on a holiday in as level a frame of mind as possible:

Kansas's attempt to legalize both public and private discrimination against gays and lesbians is profoundly sinful, and I have to believe that God is judging them.

If you have missed the news, the Kansas House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass HB 2453, a bill that would allow both private businesses and public employees the right to refuse service to gays and lesbians (contrary to what the bill proponents say, there is nothing in the legislative language that limits such refusal of service to gay couples).

We'll ignore for a minute the reality that Kansas already has a same-sex marriage ban written into the state constitution--which would indicate that this bill is simply a solution in search of a problem.  What I want to talk about is exactly to what extent we Christians need our religious liberties to be protected, even at the expense of a minority group like the GLBTQ community.

Let's look at the Establishment clause as it is written into the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The text of the amendment reads, in its entirety: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So let's talk about prohibiting the free exercise of religion for a minute.  Because the logic seems to be that denying a gay person service or turning them away from an establishment on the basis of their sexual orientation is a "free exercise of one's religious beliefs."

My question is this: if that is so, then why do we prosecute anti-abortion zealots who shoot and kill abortion providers for murder?  Many--if not all--of the doctor-killers in the extreme fringes of pro-life Christianity claimed they acted on the basis of their religious beliefs: Shelley Shannon, Michael Griffin, Scott Roeder, James Charles Kopp, all of them cited their religious beliefs that led them to believe they were justified in taking the life of another human being.

None of them were able to successfully cite religious liberty as a reason they should be immune from prosecution.

Now, I can already hear the objection: "But they killed someone!  Religious liberty protection shouldn't extend THAT far!"  Right you are.  And when GLBTQ youth are 2-3 times more likely to kill themselves than heterosexual youth (and when academic research has proven there to be a negative psychological effect that anti-gay legislation has on people), I would argue that HB 2453 likewise represents an attempt to place the value of "religious liberty" over the value of a person's life, because what we are saying, in effect, is, "We value our ability to discriminate over your right to live a happy life."

And I'm not sure how that can be remotely considered Christian, not when the Christ we follow said such inane things as "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you" and "In everything  do to others as you would have them do to you."

(The other question I would pose is this: Suppose a business or a government employee did the exact same thing, but on grounds that you are a Christian.  Would that not constitute religious persecution, which is the same thing the Kansas legislature is trying to prevent?)

Put simply: your right to religious exercise is not unbounded and unlimited.  There must be statutory limits placed on it for the common good.

We are called to love each other, and love does not look like discrimination.  You may say that love is also not supposed to look like two men or two women, and I would say to you that love likewise is not supposed to look like you valuing your expression over someone else's well-being and life.  We Christians would do well to heed the Hippocratic oath that doctors must take: First, do no harm.

Now, to its credit, the Kansas Senate appears ready to declare this legislative and religious atrocity dead on arrival.  I can only hope that ends up being the case.

And in the meanwhile, American Christendom would do well to recall yet another teaching from that annoying, pestering, self-righteous carpenter we call our Messiah, Lord, and Savior:

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me...Truly, truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.

What we do to each other, we do to Christ Himself.  When we discriminate against one another, we discriminate against He who died for us, He who redeemed us, He who saved us.

What a terrible witness to the faith we hold dear.

Yours in Christ,

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