Religious Freedom … Laws?

The recent attempts by Kansas and Arizona to enact religious “freedom of religion” laws raise an interesting discussion.  Why should we have to enact laws in order to conduct ourselves according to our religious convictions?  Wasn’t that the whole point of the founding of this country in the first place?  The problem is that certain groups with agendas against conservative Christians have tried to make this about Christians vs. Gays.  That is not at all what these laws were attempting to re-introduce or re-enforce in our society.  These laws were not singularly focused on, for example, a Christian bakery refusing to bake a cake, knowingly, for a gay couples’ … union.  This would also protect the Jewish butcher from being forced to process some Christians’ wild boar kill into sausage, or forcing a Muslim who works for a company from being forced, against threat of firing, to attend a luncheon during Ramadan.  Nothing in these proposed laws would have protected discrimination in the everyday conducting of commerce and if they did I would oppose them.  In other words, if a Muslim comes to buy meat at a kosher meat market he should be able to.  If a gay person wants to patronize a bakery owned by Christian he should have that right.  Although not a direct application, I have a short story that might apply in a practical manner.  Probably 20 years ago I was trying to secure lodging for some construction workers in Oklahoma City and had called a particular hotel.  In the course of describing our need, the person on the phone said “I don’t think you want to stay here”.  I asked as to why and he informed me that the hotel caters exclusively to gays.  I thanked him for informing me and I secured lodging for our people elsewhere.  I was not offended, didn’t consider a lawsuit or yell and scream.  I was appreciative of his informing me of his objections to my staying there and I simply went elsewhere.

I do not believe I should refuse to sell a Down Under Shelter to a gay person nor do I think a bakery should be allowed to refuse the same general service to a gay person.  I’m not sure what I think about a Muslim restaurant refusing service to an Infidel (Jew or Christian) based solely on the fact they are a Jew or Christian, but I suppose if it is a strongly held religious belief of theirs they should have that right.  This should be about strongly held religious beliefs, regardless of the religion, to not have to violate their conscience in very specific areas of service.  In fact (refer to Does Scripture support don’t ask don’t tell) if a gay person comes to buy that wedding cake and keeps its designed purpose to himself I see no grounds for the Christian store owner to intentionally inquire – bake him the cake already.

I support religious freedom.  But we should not have to enact laws to that effect; our Constitution supposedly already guarantees that.  The problem is there are new laws being proposed and enacted which are chipping away at those freedoms.

And if a church refuses to rent its facilities for a gay wedding they will lose that business and the couple will patronize somewhere else and I believe the church should have that right based on our constitution and not some new redundant law guaranteeing that right.

So obvious that if it were a snake it would bite you – Oh, it did!

Snake handling pastor Jamie Coots died as the result of a snake bite this past week.  Snake handling had been a lifelong practice by Coots who is a third generation snake handling preacher.  The basis for handling snakes by Christians comes from Mark 16:18 in which Jesus is describing the signs that will follow believers and He says “They will pick up snakes with their hands …”.

The clearest response to this practice should seem obvious to everyone and also comes from Jesus’ own words.  In Mark 4 when Jesus is tempted by Satan to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple so angles would “lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”, Jesus’ response makes it absolutely clear that we are not to test the Father that way.

Now I for one sure want to obey Jesus, don’t you?  But picking up snakes is not all Jesus mentions in verse 18 and surrounding verses.  Jesus also mentions “driving out demons”, “speaking in new tongues”, “laying hands on the sick for healing” and “drinking poison and not being hurt”.  But instead of putting snake handling or drinking poison at the top of my “evidence list” I suggest we work on helping people with deliverance, healing and our own personal prayer language first.  Once we, as the church, are fulfilling those characteristics we can then decide if we want to tempt the Father with those last couple items.

Unfortunately this tragedy is being compounded today as Jamie Coots’ son, Cody, is doubling down on this God tempting practice as he will be handling in church this morning the very same snake that killed his father last week.  Can I suggest you might give the snake a break, skip the poison and work on being delivered from foolhardiness?

Does Scripture Support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?

With some of the recent discussion and debate involving, for example, a bakery refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding I have an interesting scriptural story to throw into the mix for discussion.  I want to make it clear that this is not what I am advocating or promoting, but as I have been praying about this particular issue this scripture came to mind.

During a time when many gentiles started joining the early church there were several issues that were discussed concerning what Jewish laws should be followed by those non-Jewish converts.  Because of the importance of having no gods before the Almighty God, it was decided that among other rules, the gentile converts were not to eat meat which had been offered to idols.  But what was to happen if in the course of buying food at the secular market or eating dinner at the home of an unbeliever you are buying or eating meat from an unknown source?  Well, Paul in his instruction to the Corinthians addresses this issue with what could best be described as “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  When shopping in the meat market Paul simply instructs them to not ask as to its source and if invited over to dinner by a non-believer, here is what he says (from the Message)

1 Cor. 10:27-29 – If a non believer invites you to dinner and you feel like going, go ahead and enjoy yourself; eat everything placed before you. It would be both bad manners and bad spirituality to cross-examine your host on the ethical purity of each course as it is served. On the other hand, if he goes out of his way to tell you that this or that was sacrificed to god or goddess so-and-so, you should pass. Even though you may be indifferent as to where it came from, he isn’t, and you don’t want to send mixed messages to him about who you are worshiping.

Now clearly you cannot translate this directly to doing business with gays, but I believe there is a suggestion here which may apply in certain cases.  Faithful committed Christians conduct commerce and associate with gays all the time with little or no problems or conflicts of conscience as it should be.  And if a cake is ordered at the Christian owned bakery and the baker has no idea as to the sexual orientation of the clients’ partner then I suggest that baker is free to bake him a cake as fast as he can.  And this could also apply to the gay couple reserving a night at a hotel owned by Christians.  But if the client goes out of his way to inform the Christian that he/she is gay and the cake or room is for them as a gay couple then, as much or more so for the gay person’s conscience, it may be better to decline the business. This would serve your conscience and perhaps even more importantly it prevents mixed message to the clients as to your scriptural convictions and what could easily be interpreted as validating or supporting a lifestyle that violates scripture.  The reason for this is often lost in our modern society where there is an attempt to remove homosexuality from the category of clearly identified sins listed in scripture and place it in its own category of simply an alternative choice of lifestyle.  But in the eyes of the Christian it is still in the column of sins right alongside adultery, murder and many others.

Side tangent – Christians are not above trying to compartmentalize certain sins as well, take gossip, divorce or gluttony for examples.  Many Christians place these practices in a special category which is not to be scrutinized in the same way as say pedophilia or fornication.  This is because it has become such common practice and there is little interest in “upsetting the apple cart” and offending those who engage in those practices.  This in spite of the fact gossip is listed right alongside homosexuality for which a punishment of death is commanded. (Romans 1:26-32)

So here is my suggestion, if a person orders a cake or reserves a hotel room and you don’t ask and they don’t tell then go ahead with the business.  But if they make the point of informing you that the cake is for a gay wedding or the room is going to be used by a gay couple then I suggest declining the business is consistent with scripture.  It may well be that the gay person is testing your standards and your graciously declining the business will communicate something to him of your commitment to Christ.  It may just as likely be that they are testing to see if you decline the business so they can make a big scene and sue you.

You be the judge, is this a fair application of this discussion from 1 Corinthians or does it not apply in this case?  I am open to discussing this subject.

Kansas’ new law relating to gay “segregation”

Kansas’ new law, which was overwhelming approved by their state legislators, has been termed “anti-gay”.  And I suppose, depending on your point of view, that is one way of interpretation.  “Pro-life” people would never want to be identified as “anti-choice”, it’s just that they believe the baby has a choice as well.  In the same way it is a bit political to call the supporters of this new law as anti-gay.  I suggest people who support this new law are pro-free market place.  The bottom line of truth (if that matters to you) relating to this law is to prevent overzealous or militant groups from forcing private citizens who own a business, participate in a particular religious group or have a club from being forced to do business with people with whom they have a religious conflict of conscience.  If as a Christian I own a cake store and have a moral conviction against selling a wedding cake to a gay couple I should have the right to refuse that service.  As that same baker, I also would not agree to bake a cake for a person celebrating a divorce.  As a Christian I believe it would be giving tacit approval to bake a cake for such events.  Please, I repeat please simply let the free market (there is a reason they call it the free market) take care of itself.  If my cake store is “so insensitive” as to not be willing to serve a particular couple then I will lose their business and presumably lots more by word of mouth and my demise is in the hands of the free public.

I want to be clear, I do not believe in discrimination based on race as race does not come into play when it comes to moral values (or at least it shouldn’t).  But I should not be forced to associate with a customer or any other person for purposes of fellowship or commerce if I have a moral or religious conviction which is violated in doing so.  Scripture gives room for disassociation for moral reasons (in some cases requires it).  Scripture is also clear that it is to be done without hate or malice (sadly many Christians omit this part).  The gay community in particular wants to try and control or force very specific association on others while at the same time demanding the freedom to associate and marry as they please.  In other words, they want to have their wedding cake and force you to eat it too.

We kicked our own son out of our house when we learned he was selling drugs.  We own a rent house and we could not, with a clear conscience before God, rent it to a gay couple or an unmarried couple.  We would sell our rent house before forced to do that.  Sadly, people have been sued in exactly those circumstances and this new law would prevent those lawsuits and others like it.  For me personally, it’s not about associating with gays or anybody for that matter.  I was the lone straight guy in a local gay choir for 3 years.  It’s about enabling, giving tacit approval or supporting moral activity which violates traditional moral values or diminishes the multi-millennium old institution of marriage which I believe was instituted by God Himself.

Unfortunately, this new law is a feeble attempt to hold at bay an agenda by certain groups to bring activities long held as on the fringe of society to the mainstream.  I say feeble because this battle is most likely already lost and trying to legislate morality rarely has significant success.  And if you think it will stop with “legitimizing” homosexuality, you are sadly mistaken.  History will inevitably repeat and this is only the tip of the iceberg of morally challenging activities which will find their way out of the closet and into the headlines as the next practice that must be embraced if you are to be considered someone who embodies sensitivity and equality.  Ironically the much used term for this progressive process is called “being on the right side of history”.

College Bum!

My youngest son works at a local higher end restaurant as a server.  For Valentine’s Day, they had a wonderful fixed menu which had this very popular place booked solid for that special date.  It has always galled me how people either tip nothing or very little to servers (Christians have the worst reputation for this practice).  Are there really people around today that don’t know that servers are only paid $2 per hour and that the vast majority of their income comes from those tips?  Because the servers often have to “tip share” (as is the case with my son) with food runners, the hostess and the bar tender, if someone doesn’t tip it can actually cost the server out of his or her pocket to serve these … (this is me breathing and trying to think of words I can actually publish here to describe those kinds of people)…. selfish, uncaring, entitlement mentality and thoughtless people.  One such case that happened Friday night had me speechless (not for long as evidenced by this writing).  A young couple had a wonderful meal totaling $136.  They wrote on the top of the ticket “Excellent Service!!!!!!” in large bold letters.  They then wrote “College :(” on the tip line and added no tip.  If you can afford a more expensive restaurant, you can afford a 20% tip or least you can spend $20 less and give it to the server instead of indulging your selfish gut.  I don’t only rant about this practice, on my Valentine’s Day date with my wife; I tipped $15 on a $56 tab.  My son has no mouths to feed, but everyone of those self-centered leaches returning no tip, low tip or “College :(” tickets should be countered with “food from my kids mouths”, “electricity for my laundry”, “gas for our hot water”, “rent for the roof over our heads” or “College”.  I’m just saying!!!

The Huffington Un-Post

I don’t usually tip toe into very many secular debates and try to stick to helping exhort myself and the Church to get or keep its own house in order but I took a short side trip this week and it proved to be very telling.  There was an article about a 15 year old boy who had decided he was a girl and had won a court case allowing him/her/? to use the girls bathroom (brilliant – why didn’t I think of this tactic when I was an adolescent young boy? But I digress).  This was touted as a case that had to be won for the sake of the comfort level of the young … human and his/her feelings.  I wrote a comment suggesting the argument had been turned on its head asking why for the sake of the 1 in 10,000 transgender person the other 9999 have to be the ones who are placed in the position of discomfort knowing that a biological opposite gender might be going to the bathroom right next to you.  Sure because of stalls and such this might not be a huge issue, but then why not require the transgender person to simply use the biologically appropriate bathroom using that same argument?  The Huffington Post summarily deleted my question along with 2 additional comments of a similar nature in which I tried to actually enjoin the subject with legitimate questions.  This re-taught me a lesson I have known in the past but had set aside in hope of change.  That lesson is that the LGBT community has no interest in intelligent debate or discussion on issues like this.  Because they have influentially placed members in the media, they simply control the debate through deleting or ignoring any counter thoughts.

P.S.  This a a biological boy who has not gone through any sex change.