“But why do you need to talk about this issue right now?” I was asked in response to my post this week introducing my annual series, Sex/Gender/Identity, that focuses on LGBTQ inclusion this year.
Well, this week was a perfect example of why I’m writing what I’m writing.
I’m guessing you probably heard about the recent RFRA debacle. I’m not a political science major, so I won’t try to explain the legal ramifications. (This Religion News Service piece explains it all better than I can, anyway.)
But basically, the United States spent Holy Week arguing about whether or not businesses could deny services to LGBTQ customers. What?!
Regardless of what you thought about the Chic-fil-A scandal, at least this Christian corporation had the decency to say they don’t refuse service to gay people. The parallels to civil rights opposition in the 1960s, when black people were kicked out of bus seats and forced to leave lunch counters, are too obvious.
The fact that we were legitimately having a conversation about whether a Colorado baker should/shouldn’t make a cake for a same-sex couple grieved my spirit deeply. Would this same baker refuse to bake a cake for a non-religious wedding?
I cried because my religious freedom was being used to infringe on the rights of others.
My Jesus, who comforted the meek and the mourning and the marginalized, was being used defend discrimination. My religion, the one that preaches about the uniqueness of every human life and God-given identity, was being used to deny equality.
And then suddenly it all made perfect sense.
How appropriate it is that on the week that remembers his betrayal, Jesus’s teachings of non-judgmental love were sacrificed again by Pharisees.
That Jesus, handed to the angry crowds for Pilate’s political reputation, was used as cheap political strategy.
That Jesus, the critic of organized religion, was the pawn of evangelical commentators.
That Jesus, the outcast crushed under the power of an oppressive empire, was reduced to the mascot of an anti-gay, conservative evangelical Christian juggernaut.
That Jesus, the servant of sinners, was an excuse not to serve someone with whom a business owner disagrees.
That Jesus, who came to bring us into everlasting union with God, was the justification for people of faith to distance themselves from their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
That Jesus, the Christ whose broken body and spilled-out blood are a feast to a hurting world, was the motivation for someone to refuse a neighbor a wedding cake or a photography session or a rentable outdoor pavilion.
So much for “do unto others.”
But dark as this Friday may be, I have resurrection hope that one day people will realize that their faith does not morally obligate them to exclude or disenfranchise or ignore or reject or, in any other way, discriminate against God’s children.
You don’t have to agree with someone to offer them a seat at the table.
Happy Easter, y’all.
(Side note: As I best understand it, the nationwide Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects an individual from being forced by the government to participate in practices — for example, going to war — that conflict with his/her religious beliefs. I could be wrong on this, but I believe pastors can legally refuse to marry couples for reasons of conscience, which I support. But like these laws would do, I don’t support treating a corporation like an individual.)