Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence recently signed a “fix” to the religious freedom law that has sparked so much debate and insanity recently. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, seeing the intense backlash toward Indiana, sent their religious freedom law back to be “fixed” as well before he even signs it. The liberal hounds of diversity (read: uniformity) and tolerance (read: intolerance) have been loosed in record numbers. Things, especially to supporters of religious tolerance and freedom, look a little uneasy right now.
Christians, I hate to break it to you, but enjoy this while it lasts, because this will be as good as it gets for quite a while.
What we are seeing today and in the recent weeks is just a harbinger of what is to greet Christians in the future. Whether the Supreme Court forces gay marriage in all 50 states this summer or the state courts continue to strike down gay marriage bans via the equal protection clause, gay marriage will be in place throughout America at one point or another in the near future.
Christian values, once the standard of this nation and her people, are no longer as widely accepted, having been replaced by moral relativity and the fear of being called intolerant or judgmental. Christians, and especially our values, are looked at as quaint, old-fashioned and out of touch.
Opponents of the Indiana and Arkansas laws, despite their passage, scored a major victory. Their victory came with the “fix”. When both governors pushed for a “fix” to the religious freedom laws, they gave legitimacy to the argument that these laws, and by association, Christians, were discriminatory toward gays and unfortunately will perpetuate and legitimize the insulting notion of bigotry and hate within the Christian opposition to participating in gay marriages.
This is the reality that faces us, and that reality contains more of the demand for “tolerance” at the expense of your religious values and more of the societal and legal punishment for having the wrong point of view.
Welcome to your future, Christians. You might want to buckle up.
With the onslaught of names and attacks against our beliefs, many Christians will be wondering one simple thing – what do we do?
Many Christians, and rightly so, will have far more legal minded people than I come up with legal strategies and solutions to insulate and protect both churches and Christian-owned businesses from the coming tolerant diversity storm. They will be strategic, they will be future focused and they will ultimately fail.
The law is only as good as the people’s will to uphold it. For instance, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Would you say that we are following it more and more, or getting away from it more and more? Probably the latter. Why? The American people no longer demand it be upheld because they no longer value or truly understand it.
The same is happening with gay marriage.
The attitude of the American people has shifted dramatically and is continuing to shift. The law will not be far behind in elevating gay marriage over religious freedoms and has already made grave steps in doing so. Coming up with legal protections today to face a changing law tomorrow may work in the short term, but it will ultimately fail.
Besides this, much of the damage exacted upon Christian businesses and churches is done well outside of the legal framework. Just ask the former Mozilla CEO whether he was protected legally. Ask the Benham brothers about their canceled TV show and whether or not they were protected legally. Ask Memories Pizza about their legal protection and how much good it did when the threats started pouring in.
The strategy for Christians must be so much more than just coming up with a way to beat a legal battle.
So what do we do?
There are three major things that we, as Christians, need to do to prepare for what is coming our way.
The first is the campaign of love. We are labeled as homophobic, hateful, bigoted and who knows what else. It is a mistake to respond directly to these lazy and deceitful claims, you only lend them credibility by doing so. Instead, we simply love those who come against us, not as a direct response to their insults, but as a direct response to God’s commands.
We are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Whether we like it or not, those who despise us and our values are our neighbors and we should love them. Pray for them. Go to a bakery and buy them a cake that simply says “we love you”. Get them flowers with a card that says “God loves you and so do we”. Invite them to church, get to know them as people and rediscover the humanity that is buried underneath the animosity and bias. Have I mentioned the need to pray for them?
No matter how nasty it gets, no matter how personal it becomes, God loves them as much as he loves any of us and our actions must reflect that truth. In fact, the worse it gets, the more we should love.
The second is the pursuit of intimacy with God. Christians, in particular, are under attack partly because there are so many of us who don’t live our faith outside of Sunday church service. When the world sees us acting as well or as poorly as everyone else, it is no wonder why they are suspicious about the motive behind the hard line we draw on gay marriage.
It is easy to convince someone that our opposition to gay marriage is simply hate or bigotry cloaked in religion, rather than a true religious conviction, if it is the only sin that draws such staunch opposition. Until we feel as strongly about any sin; until we are as convicted about all sin and live our non-Sunday lives in that way, we will fall victim to this easy and dishonest attack and continue to lose the battle.
Beyond this, we need to pursue intimacy with God to be more in line with his will. We get so caught up in the events of the day that we sometimes forget who is ultimately in charge – God. I’m not saying that we should forget any earthly measures to this situation, but we need to keep the right perspective that our measures on earth will be far more effective and powerful if they are in line with His will.
Our pursuit of intimacy with God will bring the desires of his heart into ours and help keep our focus on the much larger picture that spans far beyond the next couple of years. In the end, we may lose friendships, jobs, relationships or livelihoods, but His will will be done.
Lastly, we need to decide our position now and band together. If you are outside of the blast radius that is Indiana, then you may not be directly affected by this latest brouhaha. Perhaps you haven’t had to make that awkward and potentially costly decision to decline service to a gay couple for their wedding. Perhaps you haven’t even given a lot of thought to what that decision would be when faced with the immediate consequences.
You should. Now.
Literally, right now. Make a decision on what you would do and stick with it. If you wait until that customer is at your counter; until the possible repercussions are running through your mind, then you will be more swayed by personal survival than by your convictions and principles. It’s human nature, just ask Peter. Make that decision with someone else and hold each other accountable.
As the Go Fund Me page for Memories Pizza shows in amazing fashion, we are so much better together than we are alone. Find other Christians, other businesses or other churches who will support you and who you will support if they or you are persecuted; who will stand strongly with you and you with them when that time comes to declare your position. That time will come, sooner or later, and we better be ready for it.
There are tough times ahead for Christians that will require incredible acts of both love and courage. The free exercise of our religion is no longer free. It will carry an ever increasing price tag on it. While many will look to this with fear and worry, understandably so, I see it as a great opportunity to show the love of God, to grow closer to each other and to grow closer to Him.
Now that I think about it, that’s no so bad…