Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

The Un-Christian Nature Of New “Religious Freedom” Laws

Kristen Powers and Jonathan Merritt had a great article the other day pointing out the hypocritical nature of these new “religious freedom” laws that are cropping up in many states. Such laws are clothed in terms of freedom for Christians, while being incredibly un-Christian at the core. In short, these laws are designed to give Christian business owners the right to decline providing products or services for weddings that don’t meet their stamp of approval– namely, same gendered weddings. The problem that Powers and Merritt point out, is how a refusal to provide products or services for a same sex wedding typically require an incredible amount of biblical picking and choosing, combined with a healthy dose of hypocrisy. And, the reasons they give are completely correct– I discovered this truth not from their article, but because I once was that conservative Christian wedding vendor.

I got through seminary as a professional photographer shooting domestic and international weddings, and still take on a few clients a year though I’ve significantly limited my schedule so that I can focus on writing books. When I was full-steam-ahead in the wedding industry, I secretly dreaded the day a same-sex couple called me, because I had no idea what I’d say.

Would shooting the wedding be an endorsement of the marriage? Would it be a sin for me to be a part of their day? Lots of questions swirled around in my mind, and there were no easy answers. I sought out counsel of Christians I admired (even had a class discussion on it in my Christian Ethics class), but even for them, answers didn’t come easily. However, it was actually a “Christian” wedding that ultimately helped me decide how I would navigate this issue when the time came.

It was a beautiful day when two believing Christians married before God by a member of their clergy, surrounded by their family and friends. Everything met the Christian stamp of approval… until the reception.

As I looked throughout the room at the drunken debauchery taking place on the dance floor, I turned to my assistant (also a Christian) and said:

“Here I am, taking photos of a bunch of drunk people like I do every wedding. If I turn down a same sex wedding because it somehow ‘conflicts’ with my Christian standards, I’ll be the biggest hypocrite ever.”

Looking back, it wasn’t just drunkenness that made me realize I was at risk of hypocrisy, there were plenty of other weddings I photographed that did not jive with my belief system. Most notably, there was the time mystics prayed to “the mediators” (really did not sit right with me) or even Roman Catholic weddings that prayed to Mary (something that still makes me uncomfortable). Truth be told, very few weddings lined up with my personal expression of faith, but I served all clients equally because I was a private citizen conducting business in the public sphere. In the end, I was having a hard time justifying same sex couples as being the only group of people I wouldn’t serve– thankfully, I never did turn any of them away.

Like mentioned in the article I referenced, I realized I had two choices: be consistent in my application of this ethic and basically not participate in any wedding, ever, or (b) be consistent in my role as a private business owner in serving all clients who wish to purchase my services, regardless of my opinion of their marriage.

I went with the later– and I’m glad I did. It was the right choice and the choice that kept me from becoming a hypocrite in this area (and ironically, the time I actually ended up photographing a same sex wedding it was a Christian ceremony without drunkenness at the reception).

For me, I am now able to see this issue from multiple angles– as a theologian, Christian author, and a Christian wedding vendor. In the end, my view from all three of those hats actually harmonize with one another.

You see, I do actually think that there is a clear answer on what a Christian business person should do in this matter:

Serve the clients and do it with all your might as if you’re serving God.

These religious freedom laws are actually Un-Christian, because they are positioned against the central teaching of the New Testament: love your enemies. Of course, gay people aren’t “enemies” (certainly not mine as an outspoken supporter of marriage equality) but they are functionally being treated as such by conservative brands of Christianity, in which case, I think the biblical mandate on dealing with enemies should also functionally apply. The mandate is simple:

Love them.

And, before you say “love means to tell them they’re wrong“, let’s look at what the Bible actually says:

“If your enemy is hungry, give them something to eat. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” Romans 12:20, Prov. 25:21

The biblical teaching? Bake their cake. Take their photographs. Let them stay at your hotel. Love them generously!

Context in the passages on enemy love are important: this audience was actually being hunted and killed by their “enemies”. Yet, the command of Jesus and Paul become: respond with generous love even if it cost you your life.

Treating our gay brothers and sisters with less love than we’re commanded to treat people who are trying to murder us, is un-Christian. And that’s what makes these laws wrong– instead of encouraging a love of neighbors or even a love of enemies if you treat them that way, these laws exist to protect Christian business owners who rebel against the teachings of Christ and the New Testament by refusing to love neighbors and enemies alike.

These laws say, “If my enemy is hungry, I should have the right to not feed them”, when both Old and New Testaments command we do the opposite.

These laws say , “If I’m asked to carry my enemy’s shield, I should have the right to not even touch it”, when Jesus says: “Don’t just carry it, but carry it further than what they ask you to.”

Instead of applauding and supporting such laws, the Christ follower should lament such a departure from biblical standards that require a generous, active love of enemies. We should be known as the people who radically love and freely give to anyone (Luke 6:30), as Jesus pointedly commands us:

30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Last night I was reading “Love Of Enemies: The Way to Peace” by Klassen who had a fitting quote for a summary:

“Jesus nowhere prescribes regular church attendance or the tithe. He did not issue detailed instructions on sexual morality for his followers or whether they should drink wine or dance. But, he does tell them that they are to love their enemies. The more this fact comes home to us, the more any form of Christianity which does not take this teaching seriously is called into question. Judged in this light, the most popular forms of Christianity today stand condemned.”

These “religious freedom” laws are un-Christian because they encourage Christians to disobey the clear teachings of scripture to love and give generously. Instead of adopting “stand your ground” laws for marriage, we would be wise to embrace the biblical truth that love gives to all who asks. It bakes the cakes, it takes the photos, and yes– it even goes to the wedding.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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86 Responses

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  2. Just because Christians might need to think through the choices they make, does it mean they should be forced to by law? I think not. They might need to consider how their choices effect others, but still not by being beaten down and demeaned by a new societal norm. I think ultimately, the law should protect people who want to rent to whom they want, to conduct a marriage ceremony to whom they want, or to make a decision to lovingly give an adoptive child to whom they want. That is why this law is necessary… protect those making personal decisions. Christians can still choose to do either with the protection law.

  3. The motivation for these laws is fear. Perfect love casts out fear. The solution is right in front of our noses. Great piece! Thank you for being a bright light in this world!

  4. I’d have to did out my battered copy of The Rule of Saint Benedict to double check but here goes. Part of the ministry of those early monks and perhaps the sisters too, was hospitality. Benedict taught that every stranger was to be welcomed as if he or she was Christ returned. I don’t remember if he told the monks to ask if they were Christians first. I kind of doubt it. And what’s that saying about “entertaining angels unawares?” Who knows who you might meet with if you quit putting labels on people.

  5. We have succumbed to works based thinking, I have a lot of dear friends who are constantly crunching the numbers on where we draw the line and actually participate in the sins of others. This is comparative righteousness, based on works. Neither the one who is judging, nor the one who is being judged is afforded grace. We compare our works to others, and in our opinion, were pretty good, so then we use that standard to judge them. We are now outside the protection of grace and think that we’re good enough to please God and condemn others. If we would focus on our own wretched condition, and receive grace, we would also know how to extend it to others

  6. If these “religious freedom” initiatives are successful, what’s to prevent, say, a secular humanist employer (perhaps thousands of such employers) from rejecting job applicants who believe in creationism, based on the deeply-held conviction that such beliefs are clear evidence of lack of critical thinking skills? Conservative Christians are opening a Pandora’s Box that they will surely regret…

    1. Except that these religious freedom (no scare quotes intentional) actions are only in line with what’s always been considered to be religious freedom in America. The idea that government cannot coerce you as a business owner to go against your religious beliefs has been common throughout our history. For example, apartment owners could choose not to rent to unmarried couples based upon their Christian beliefs, and this was pretty much uncontroversial until the decades after the sexual revolution of the ’60s.

      In other words, it’s not conservative Christians who have opened a Pandora’s box; they’re just trying to keep the rights they have had. And have we so quickly forgotten Clinton’s religious freedom restoration act (RFRA), which aimed to retain the very freedoms that are suddenly so controversial? It passed overwhelmingly and was uncontroversial. We live in extremely different times now, just two decades later.

  7. This post made my allergies act up. Thank you for writing it. I learned something today!

    I want to say this too, please: A huge swathe of Christians don’t care at all about loving anybody if it means they can’t make absolutely sure their enemies know they are hated and disapproved of–and often under the guise of that abusive, punishing, controlling, hateful form of “love” modern Christians have warped the word to mean. The real tragedy is that they think that hating, abusing, punishing, and controlling people IS loving them–they have no clue in the world anymore what love and hate even are, it’s gotten so bad in that religion. It’s all about dominance and control to them. It’s downright disgusting. But outsiders know very well where the misunderstanding lies, and we are not fooled.

  8. I’m so happy to find an article written by a Christian whose against those laws! The proposed Arizona ones discriminate even more by any business being allowed to “turn away the gay”, and I thought I was the only one who felt that being inhospitable is unchristian and discriminating is rightly unlawful. Thank you for this!

  9. Bravo. It’s not so hard to follow the way you were taught, but much harder to turn around when you discover the way you were taught was wrong. And now the question is, would you photograph a Jewish wedding? 🙂

  10. I just got into (sigh, and my bad) an internet discussion with someone who said “It’s about religious belief nothing more nothing less. Government mandate of my religious beliefs crosses the line. Bible says to stone the men when they are found lying together. Seems you want to ONLY use verses that fit your views.” So I totally agreed with him that I do only use verses that fit my views, and quoted the ones above: Love your enemies.

    Meanwhile, it occurred to me that the true response to all of this show God how much you love Him by showing Him how much you hate His enemies is that God doesn’t hate anyone – he loves each and every one of us. I hope this some day gets through to all of us.

  11. Excellent piece. Isn’t it interesting how far some forms of Christianity have drifted from the actual way of Jesus?

    1. I think all of us, due to the very fact that there are so many interpretations of Christianity, “make God/the Bible in our own image” to some extent… smaller or larger extent for some.

      I know I do. And I’ll be honest about that. I wasn’t there when Jesus was. All I can do is try to make my own interpretations and come to my own understandings, and hope & strive that it is the correct one.

      I suspect those who “have drifted” have spent too much effort remaking their religious beliefs to be in line with the beliefs, or even the hate, that they were taught.

  12. Ummm… wow. I see these “debates” on Facebook and elsewhere ALL the time, and they are generally NASTY “debates” with hate spewing everywhere.

    Instead, here, I see debates (notice NO quotes) and people discussing their opinions, listening to others, and responding back and forth. Wish I’d found this place a lot sooner. So glad to have finally met you all…

    Sorry, I know I’m off topic, but a conversation as what’s going on here, seems difficult to find in this world. Which is sad, because I think conversations like these are the path to the solutions this world needs.

    1. Thanks for going “off topic” on that one– encouragement is always welcomed! I do have to admit, I do think that I have the best audience out of anyone on the scene 🙂 They’re really great dialogue partners.

  13. A wedding is a celebration. Celebratory activities like weddings, not all, usually include an extra glass – or three – of one’s favorite adult beverage.

    You lost me when you judgmentally and unnecessarily condemned this seemingly normal aspect of how many people express their happiness, especially when celebrating at a wedding.

      1. So, after your dark night of the soul over “tolerating” an “icky” gay wedding, you would still condemn Grandma to burn in hell for having an extra half-glass of wine at her grandchild’s wedding? Something is out of balance…

        NEWS FLASH: People get drunk at weddings

        Don’t steal their joy and simply call them a cab.

        I applaud your journey but some of your fundie-ness is still showing.

        1. I know people get drunk at weddings, I’ve been to more than 400 of them. I’m not stealing anyone’s joy– wanna get drunk? Have at it, I’ll call the cab.

          And, I didn’t bring up hell or condemnation.

          I was simply expressing theology– that excessive drinking isn’t permitted for the Christian. Affirming that, isn’t fundie-nes. Leaving fundamentalism doesn’t mean that I must take a relativistic stance on all things– I certainly don’t on violence.

  14. I must say that I’m confused and struggle with the plethora of issues around this subject. I can honestly say that I’m not quite sure how I feel. My position vacillates quite a bit.

    What interests me is how the subject of gay rights is driven in our society the last few years. It is every where you turn. It has become the cause celebre. The fact that it is such a predominate issue is what really intrigues me. Take the Olympics for example. There was some discussion that the US should boycott the Olympics because of the position the Russian government held toward homosexuality. It was viewed as a violation of human rights. Forgive me if I’m incorrect but didn’t we just have the summer games not that long ago in China, one of the worst violators of human rights on the planet.

    I also remember not that long ago that Muslim cab drivers were unwilling to transport individuals that they felt were drinking alcohol. There was support for the Muslim cab drivers based upon their religious beliefs. There seems to be selective moral outrage.

    Now let me just say that I think these religious freedom laws are ridiculous, but if someone owns a bakery and he doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding then he should be allowed to refuse. It is his loss. I’m sure another baker would be fine with making the sale.

    1. What a great idea! And if a Southern Baptist doesn’t want to serve black people in his diner because the bible clearly indicates that black people are farm animals, why should the government be allowed to deny him religious freedom? When will christian racists get to have their religious rights restored? [/sarcasm, but if any of these laws are ever passed, I give it six months before we hear this argument made without a hint of irony]

        1. I agree with you, but the Baptists who raised me do not. Given that we’re talking about letting people get away with violating anti-discrimination laws on the basis of personal religious belief, I don’t see how it’s possible to allow some discrimination on that basis but not other discrimination. Unless the conservatives who are in favor of these laws want the government to decide what is and is not a “real” religious belief. Given the conservative attitude toward the government in general I find it hard to believe that’s what they want, but you never know.

        2. Benjamin, the Bible “teaches” many things. Note the quotes. It is interpretations that matter, thus making Lamont correct. The repercussions of interpretive use of “The Curse of Ham” are a good example.
          As a matter of fact, the KKK base their hate off the (their interpretations of the) Bible. As does the Westboro Baptist Church, as does Paul Cameron who wants to see gays killed. And Scott Lively who’s been the cause of or impetus behind numerous international anti-gay laws and murders.
          Such arguments have been made before, and will be again. There is one particular state in this country, that has “biblically” supported beliefs behind their greater than 40% belief that blacks should not be able to marry whites.
          Sad reality, yet reality nonetheless… people’s interpretations vary wildly – something you already know.

          But I think the part we all need to remember is, most people of religion don’t see it as their *interpretations* but instead as *The (not their, but THE) Truth*. 🙁

  15. Well said. Just a couple of comments.

    First, while some of these laws deal only with wedding ceremonies, others are FAR more broadly written, and would apply not just to a refusal to take pictures or provide cake at a wedding. Instead, they would provide an exception to non-discrimination laws for all providers in all situations. The proposed law in Kansas even went so far as to allow government workers to refuse to provide governmental services to gays if they claimed it violated their religion. So this isn’t just about same sex weddings. Arizona’s law would likewise allow any business to refuse to provide any good or service based on religious conviction. As you eloquently put it, this is in direct violation of the command to love and show grace to our enemies. (Assuming that one considers gays to be the enemy in the first place.)

    Second, I agree with your approach, and would use it myself. I have played violin as part of a quartet at many weddings over the last couple of decades, and have had some similar quandaries. One that comes to mind is the Catholic/Mormon wedding where the families were feuding. (We didn’t know it until partway through the gig. A Catholic family member requested we play Ave Maria, which we did, only realizing later after the references to the Sealing Ceremony the significance of the request. I hope the Mormon side was able to enjoy Schubert anyway…

  16. Anyone who serves the public should, of course, not be allowed to discriminate against anyone; but I would also like to know who the haters and bigots are so I could take my business elsewhere, and support those who deserve it.

  17. Fantastic post, thank you. I think more folks are moving in this direction. Christ’s message was pretty clear… we only need read the red letters to get it…

    1. So, I am not the only one who thinks the best way to show love for God is by showing love to others? 🙂

      I’ve had debates with people on that subject a number of time, and found a few who seem to think that hating everyone is ok, as long as one loves God. My interpretations (and yes, I will always freely admit that’s what they are) was of course different, as I mentioned in my first sentence. Glad to know someone else feels the same.

  18. I was a wedding-vendor, too. In the mid-1970s, when I was in high-school and my first year of college I worked with my mother, making custom wedding-gowns. At that time, the “Christian” issue was divorce. No-fault divorce was new and most Christians disapproved of it. Some Christians then, like now, believed no divorce was ever justified.

    I worked on dresses for brides who my mom and I were sure weren’t ready to marry. I worked on dresses for marriages that were doomed from the get-go, for shotgun weddings (custom dresses to hide that bulge!), couples who fought constantly, brides marrying for money. We were often there just before the wedding, sometimes to help set up for photographs, sometimes for final fittings. (Really! I remember one bride who my mother threatened to follow down the isle in her wheelchair sewing up the hem, if she missed one more fitting.) I remember working on dresses for bridal-parties where pretty much everyone, florists, photographers, caterers and all, were muttering in the background, “I give this marriage two months.”

    Not one vendor in all that time said, “This marriage is a mistake, it will almost certainly end in divorce. I don’t want to be part of your sin, so I won’t work for you.” Never, not once. We simply didn’t regard it as any of our business. We were hired to make a gown, not approve of every aspect of our customer’s life.

    One time, with a clearly mismatched couple, I do remember asking my mother if we should be working on a wedding we were sure was a mistake. She said, “That’s not your concern. We were hired to make a dress. Our only concern is making a beautiful wedding dress that our client likes. The only judgement we need to make is weather or not her check will bounce.”

    This belief in the need to approve of someone’s beliefs, politics or lifestyle in order to do business with them is brand-new. It’s also foolish. If you’re in business, do your best for every customer, if not out of love for humanity, out of respect for your own bottom-line.

    1. Well, not entirely brand new. I often wonder that so many today really seem to not know, or if old enough, were unawares or have forgotten, just how bad it could be for the divorced, especially divorced women, even worse, that had children and could not therefore ‘hide’ their past. Through the mid to late 60’s, as a very young divorced mother of 2, I was not only turned down for housing rentals, but was made aware in advance, by such restrictions openly listed in rental ads, “Christian married couples only.” One baby sitter lasted one week, because when she told her pastor about her new baby sitting job the first Sunday after she began, he told her that exposing her own young children to my children, children of divorced parents, she would be teaching them divorce was acceptable. I was actually told not to bring my children, ages 3 and 5, back to a church, because I could not prevent them mentioning my ex-husband’s new wife that he lived with instead of with us, and as they explained, that confused their church children. I actually met a couple divorced mothers that had gone to the trouble to have faked death certificates and even faked newspaper obituaries and news stories about their “late husband’s demise” to show potential landlords and even employers, so as to hide being divorced mothers, creating instead a “respectable” identity as widows. Presently the pubic focus is most on homosexuals, but the church as always done this to various categories of people that have been marginalized and ostracized. And many might be surprised how strong the prejudice against the divorced and divorced/remarried still is in some denominations, and among some individual Christians. or that public awareness has receded, those still present attitudes and even institutional discriminations against them for that can take those that might be newly entering churches by surprise, something they never expected. A few years ago, I had attended several local churches of a major evangelical denomination different from the one in which I was raised, which I knew excludes divorced from any position in the church, for a while, before bothering to get and read their denominational literature, regarding beliefs, requirements for membership, etc. Having been previously divorced and remarried not once, but twice, and neither time with a court ruling of my spouse being guilty of adultery, being no-fault divorces, nor personal witnesses within the church community to testify to their knowledge of that to the church, I was virtually ineligible to be considered for membership. I backed out quietly, but wondered, how would someone such as me feel were they to express interest without know that, only to be rejected for it.

      1. I’m sorry you experienced that kind of treatment, Jenell. I know that kind of judgmental stuff regarding divorce is less common than it used to be, but it’s still out there. I was speaking in the limited sense of working at weddings for couples who weren’t likely to make it. However, this was in the mid to late 1970’s, a bit later, and in the Pacific Northwest, one of the most un-churched regions of the country. That may have been a factor.

        As I said, I never saw anyone unwilling to take a couple’s money in exchange for a cake, photos or a wedding dress because they believed the couple was mismatched and would almost certainly divorce. As Ben said, I never saw any vendor having issues with drunken receptions, flirtatious bridesmaids or wild bachelor parties.

        I hope you blew off the group that rejected you. It was their loss. not yours. Over time, groups that indulge themselves in that kind of legalistic, judgmental nonsense wither and fade. Both because they drive good people away and because they so often get caught in compromising acts, displaying their hypocrisy for all to see.

      1. But the difference is, you, (though sadly too few others) eloquently and with kindness, stand up for others, even if it is against others’ definition of Christianity.

        Thank you for that.

      2. I deal a lot with strait women who are sick of so many asses hitting on them. They ask me why all the guys are jerks. Being a lesbian I have the privlage of actually turning off the men with my reaction to them that they don’t bother me. Because of this I get to meet the good guys. My response is that there aren’t more asses then good guys its just that the asses are louder. You have to understand that where I live a liberal christian is the one that doesn’t tell you he thinks your going to hell. The reason why I day it doesn’t seem real is because following what is supposed to be the basic tenants of the faith doesn’t seem to be a requirement to be accepted as christian. I guess what I’m saying is if you want us to believe that you are the majority then you need to be louder than the people who are presently representing you.

        1. I imagine it’s a lot harder to be loud when you are being kind than it is when kindness and compassion are far from one’s concern. Speaking personally, I work with the developmentally disabled. I have to be kind and courteous at all times. Sometimes to avert misbehavior I have to raise my voice and be stern without yelling at them, which is very hard for me as I have a soft speaking voice.

          1. Dealing with the developmentally disabled is different than republicans. The developmentally disabled are doing the best they can with what they can do. The ultra right Christian, is doing all they can to not use what they have to use. I have no trouble yelling at them. Sometimes being kind to one person means yelling at another. I’m fine with doing that. And the people you help are lucky to have you. I’m sure their lives are better for your patience.

      3. It just takes a lot of work. Little baby Quaker trying to stand in the light. At least ;part of the time. I fall down a lot. Thank heaven for knees.

  19. With fear and trepidation I would like to share that I struggle greatly with this. I don’t struggle loving those who don’t agree with me. The only “enemies” I can think of are terrorists who might want to kill me or Satanists. Anyone outside that category is not my enemy at all even though we disagree with some issues. When I was studying to become a midwife I needed to be trained in doula work. During the weekend training we were all asked questions and one was about serving a client that was a lesbian if it went against what we believed. It made me pause. You and I Ben disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality and I know it and still care deeply for you and your journey. I love learning and challenging my faith. Because I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle doesn’t mean I hate. I am kind, I am gracious and encouraging yet I still disagree. Now that I am a midwife I have been faced with this issue. I am always attune to the way I treat anyone. I am an ambassador for the LORD and I want to be the best ambassador for my LORD that I can be. Does loving mean I have to be hired to be a midwife for a lesbian couple? Does that mean if I am uncomfortable I am not allowed to say no thank you for the business? I don’t know that I can be the best midwife for a lesbian couple. It has nothing to do with hating at all. There are heterosexual couples that I am not comfortable working for and don’t but I don’t hate them, it just wasn’t a good fit. I understand your main point. We need to love all people no matter what they think and I totally agree I am just not convinced not working with a couple shows hate.
    Always thankful for your thoughtful articles.
    Your covered sister

    1. No need to fear, Jill– I love and respect you as an individual and appreciate you sharing candidly and consistently.

      Few points of clarification: I don’t think I used the word hate, and I don’t believe that everyone who disagrees with me is necessarily hateful (though some certainly are), I just simply wanted to encourage people to consider that loving one another might at times mean we set aside part of our self and defer to another. Also, I’ve never officially or publicly given my theological opinion on the biblical texts in this matter, I’ve simply advocated for the right of the secular government to allow same sex marriages and welcomed members of the LGBT community to join me in a quest to follow Jesus, minus any judgements on my part.

      You bring up worthy questions on the issue of being a midwife. Admittedly, I’ve never considered that context– I’ve mainly considered the wedding vendor context since that’s the context where I have practiced. But, I respect your process in your own context and also respect your own conscience. My main issue is with public businesses, such as cake vendors who simply bake the cake and sell it– something that honestly, I have a hard time seeing could sincerely violate a conscience. But, there’s a lot on this issue to be worked out and discussed, which is why I weighed into the discussion. However, I don’t have it all figured out– I mainly wanted to push back against movements that seem (to me) designed to exclude when I’d really love to see us finding ways to love one another.

      So, no worries– I (and the rest of the community here) have experienced you as kind, gracious, and loving, so I appreciate you taking the time to so gently disagree with me. I wish everyone who disagrees with me would express themselves so kindly.

      Your non-covered brother

    2. Jill-
      My life is not a lifestyle choice, it’s how I was created in my mothers womb. It took me many years trying to live my life as someone I wasn’t and being the most miserable, wretched person you could ever imagine. You say your a midwife, but you can’t work with lesbian couples. I’m a nurse, so let tell you, you have definite predjidice at your core; I have worked in the ED, we deal with the worst of the worst there. Your job as a CHRISTIAN is to love them, show them GOD’s LOVE, not your dislikes. I have no respect for you, if my wife and I were younger, we would love to have our children naturally; as it is, we’re adopting. I garuntee that we won’t be teaching our children to hate people who are different.

      1. Dear Terri
        I think you have missed my point. I do show love to everyone. Have we become some jaded that we are not allowed to disagree with a lifestyle? Does it mean we hate if we don’t endorse a particular lifestyle? Terri, your lifestyle choices are yours to make. There is no judgement from me. We have the freedom in our country to live like we want. You probably don’t approve of my lifestyle either and that is okay. You brought up predjudice (sorry can’t seem to spell it right). We all have them if we are honest. I worked many years to forgive a group of practicing homosexual’s who sodomized my brother repeatedly. It took me many years to forgive and love again. I dont approve of their lifestyle. But I no longer hate because it sucks the life out of you. Life is a journey. If you chose to not have respect for me that is your choice. It makes me sad but I can give you the space you need on this journey of life. You did say something that I don’t understand. What does ED stand for?
        Blessings to you Terri. Perhaps this can start a dialogue

        1. You want to know where your bigotry comes from? The five times you referred to the love Terri has for her wife, and the life they have built as a ‘lifestyle.’

          And no matter how many times people tell you it’s not a lifestyle, it’s a life, and real love, you insist on compartmentalising them into your bigoted boxes so that you can process them as ‘sinners.’

          Bullshite. Bragging about how much love you have to give means nothing when you lecture people on how you’re not comfortable with who they are and who they love. You have shown yourself to be absolutely 100% no different than any other Christian homophobe. You’re just politer about it.

        2. Gay people don’t make “lifestyle choices”, but even if they did, are you sure you want to go down that road? Clearly, the “Christian lifestyle” is entirely a choice. It’s certainly one I don’t approve of, given the history of violence committed by you people, but if the Jesus Nazis want to be able to discriminate, I suggest you get ready for blowback.

        3. Do you ask if your heterosexual couples conform to your religious beliefs before you deliver their babies ( For example, whether or not they are a married couple)? If you are not applying your religious intolerance to each couple you come into contact with and only lesbian couples get to feel your uncomfortability, you’re prejudice my friend.

        4. Jill,
          My lifestyle is that I am a health care practitioner, I work as a nurse in a busy emergency department. That is a lifestyle, as is the fact that I am a non-demonination church goer. The fact that I am a lesbian is NOT a lifestyle, it is how I was created by Almighty God in my mother’s womb for reasons only he can know. Do not call my sexual orientation a lifestyle, or should we call you straight folks being hetersexual your “lifestyle”. You do not know anything about me, you haven’t walked years in my shoes with the discrimination from god fearing people like yourself. So don’t judge me until you’ve walked a while in my and my wife’s footsteps.
          Best wishes

          1. You are so right Terri. I have not walked in your shoes. Truthfully, I had no idea that the word lifestyle was offensive. I will take your lesson and not use that again. I have enough issues in my own life to deal with I am truly not judging you. I am trying to be honest in my struggles with the issues. My lifestyle is that I am a home birth midwife working in two very busy practices. I have never been approached by a lesbian couple for my services. I am here on this site to learn and grow in my faith. I honestly am sorry that my words were offensive. They were not intended to be.

            1. Jill, your learning, as are all of us, if you don’t learn something new everyday, you dry up and die. Maybe someday maybe you will get to experience or see the love that two people have for each other, the same kind of love that you have for your husband. Don’t be afraid of us, we don’t bite, and we’re just like you. We’re human being who need love and understanding.
              Hope you have a lovely day, wife and I have adoption parenting class all day today, after I get home from working all night 🙂

    3. Jill, I can see how you’re struggling with this, yet I have to ask; why do you need to agree or approve of someone in order to work for them or help them? I assume you don’t believe that Muslims or Jews are exactly “right with God.” Would it make you uncomfortable to serve as midwife to a Jewish or Muslim couple?

      What about a couple who had not married? I know a couple with two kids who simply never married. They are a couple, they stay together, yet they chose (this was truly a choice, unlike sexual orientation) not to tie the knot.

      What about a single mom, either never married or divorced from the father? What about an Atheist couple? What about a Pagan couple? What about a Christian, but not your brand of Christian, couple?

      I feel the problem you face is because you have perhaps confused working with-hanging out with-liking someone with approving of-agreeing with someone. I totally agree with very few people. I like most of them. I can work with virtually anyone who isn’t actively trying to hurt me.

      1. Thank you for your thoughts gimpi1. You have brought up good points. I work with many people in my business and quite a few are not Christians. Some are practicing pagans, one was a witch. You are right, I don’t agree with their choices along with the couple who aren’t married. We have worked with single Mom’s and yes, I worked with a very devout and conservative Muslim couple. When I first met the couple I was not sure how they would react to me because of how I dress and she also was uncomfortable. We both found ourselves enjoying each others company. What we both discovered is in a non-professional setting we could very well become friends. I have met several midwives who are lesbian and we have friendly professional relationships. My struggle is a personal one because of how I was raised. The sexual abuse and physical abuse by several homosexual men in my life was traumatizing. I spent many years working on forgiveness and have moved past that. Like I said before, I personally have not been interviewed by a lesbian couple so I haven’t had a client who is. This whole conversation has been helpful for me. You are right, I can and do work with people who don’t have the same views as me and it is okay. Being a home birth midwife is a different ball game than in the hospital. It is much more intimate relationship and setting. I hope that those who have been critical of my struggle can understand that it’s okay to struggle with an issue.

        1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response, Jill. I understand having to overcome past trauma. My first dating relationship was abusive. I got beat up, pretty baldy. I spent the next 10 years pretty-much assuming that all men were beasts, and some were just better at covering it up.

          However, I am so glad I was able to see past that bad first encounter. If I hadn’t managed to get it through my thick head that one bad apple does, in fact, not spoil the whole bunch, I never would have met, grown to love, and married my-not-at-all-a-beast husband.

          I wish you luck in overcoming the trauma in your past. None of us get through life unscarred. Congratulations on the progress you have made. It’s hard work, and taking it on, learning to forgive, is challenging and worthwhile. Good going and good luck.

          I understand about the intimacy of a midwife-expectant mother relationship. I’m sure anyone you work with feels blessed by the care and concern you bring to your work. Fare well.

  20. Wow, this is the third article I have read that you’ve written. I thank and applaud you for your open honesty about yourself, your beliefs and for the stances you take to “do unto others”. While I cannot say I follow the same belief system as you, I can say that I do follow the same beliefs in how things should be, including how we treat others. Different paths to the same destination perhaps.
    I will definitely continue to follow your rather inspirational writings.

  21. I think that your revelation about others’ values not exactly mimicking yours is a great realisation that a lot of people need to wake up to. The atmosphere in the US has sort of come to be that all Christians believe the same thing (although some Protestants somehow think that Catholics aren’t Christian, which I don’t get). This is just not true. That’s not to say that they’re all completely different, which would be fallacious, but people have different opinions on things, including on theology, and I really think people are blinded by what they’d be opening up in letting such laws pass. They’re okay with these things as long as they benefit from them, but you can bet they’d get a lot less enthusiastic the moment someone won’t do business with a pastor because they disagree with the pastor’s anti-gay position, even though I’m reasonably sure such a thing wouldn’t happen.

    In addition, I get the feeling that a lot of these people don’t really care about others’ true religious freedom. It is not just allowable, but mandatory in some people’s religious views to let lgbtq+ people marry. The government can’t and won’t force any church to hold a marriage it doesn’t want to hold, but certain churches want the government to recognise only their form of marriage. I’m sure a lot of these same people feel there should be no separation of church and state as well. I feel like if people knew a bit more history, they would realise just how poorly that has worked out in the past. I know a lot of people like to think of their religion as clearly the correct one, but chances are that their brand of Christianity would never make it to being the state religion. And, as you pointed out earlier, Christians don’t all believe the same things. Maybe this is a case of people won’t know how lucky they were unless they truly lose their luck, but I really hope it won’t be.

    1. Just today there was an article on Huffington Post about how most Millennials who are leaving religion are doing so because of the anti-gay politics of many churches. Unless churches that have full inclusion start speaking up *loudly* and *often* to offset the public perception that *all* Christians think the same way and are uniformly bigoted and hateful towards LGBT people, our church membership and attendance will continue to dwindle. The NALT project (which was started by a gay atheist!) is a good start, but it’s definitely not enough. (NALT stands for Not All Like That) and it’s a site for videos by LGBT affirming Christians.

      1. I think it’s worse than just that. The uber-fundamentalist-hate-almost-everyone sects are getting more vocal, and more air time. That too is helping give Christianity, and religion as a whole, a bad name. :-/

  22. I’m not going to disagree with your central premise to love our neighbours and how Christian’s should respond.

    The problem that I have, and which complicates the whole thing for me, is what response and what type of love should be shown to those with sincere problems of conscience in this matter, regardless of ones perceived validity of their objections. To either force someone to violate their conscience, or else to bring the full weight of the state and legal system down upon them to destroy their business and vocation, feels no more just or loving to me.

    In an ideal world, love would mean there is no denial of service, and no lawsuits/human rights complaints when denied. If only it were that easy.

    1. At one point, the civil rights concern was about people who were forced to serve people of a different skin color. I’m aware the two struggles aren’t perfectly analogous, but that was also forcing someone to violate their conscience. Their conscience just decided that some other people shouldn’t be treated just like other human beings over the way they were born.

      And at one point, people considered it against their conscience to allow women to vote. Before that, slavery was supported based on people’s consciences and religion.

      That’s taking a very wide view of things two. That’s not mentioning discrimination against Hispanics, Eastern Europeans, the Chinese, Catholics, and so on and so forth.

      I’m not a Christian, but it seems that you’re going to have a lot less loving around if you protect the bigots’ consciences more than you protect people’s basic humanity.

    2. Here’s the problem I perceive. Racial discrimination was defended using the same argument. Keeping women out of the workplace was as well. So was underpaying women. There’s no end to where laws like this can go. As a matter of fact, three of the currently proposed laws (ie: bills) are so broad in scope that it actually would allow re-instituting that level of discrimination. And sadly, there are a decent number of people in this country who would love to take advantage of that. Did you know that in certain “Bible” belt states, polls on making interracial marriage illegal again showed staggeringly high numbers of people for banning it?
      Legislation doesn’t magically end hate or discrimination – it only hides it. But, the long term effect is a decrease in hate and discrimination, because, without people openly and publicly hating/discriminating, less people learn such things each year.
      So, yes, it’s never that easy… but things have to start somewhere – and going backwards isn’t the answer. :-/
      Besides, the opposite of these laws (no discrimination) isn’t that hard to follow for any business. And the hypocrisy of unequally applying one’s beliefs alone show that repercussions for such people are deserved. Again, if not, we return to where we were – or now (with such a wildly diverse country) to an even worse place.

      1. Luckily, interracial marriage was word for word interpreted by the USA Supreme Court to be protected by the constitution, right?

    3. As a gay business owner, I am forced by law not to discriminate against Christians, or else to bring the full weight of the state and legal system down upon me to destroy my business and vocation. So why do Christians think they have a special privilege not to discriminate against me but I cannot do the reverse?

      “We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” – Justice Antonin Scalia, Employment Division v. Smith 1983

      1. I wouldn’t have you risk it, but I wonder what the court conversation would look like if you denied Christians just one type of service you offer to everyone else because of “deeply held beliefs concerning Christianity”? Would there be a court conversation, as many Christians have said that they would never sue someone who discriminated against them?

    4. To those who replied, thank you. I wasn’t looking to start an argument over the political and legal aspect of the law. I’m not familiar enough with all the details, and from what I am familiar with, I worry about the broadness with which it is written.

      I was just struck by the argument against this law based on its un-Christian nature. One could easily argue that a law that encourages suing your neighbour into oblivion is far more un-Christian than one that protects the conscience of a “weaker brother”.

      The un-Christian nature of the law might be a better descriptor, given that mercy and grace are at the core of Christ’s message, yet are antithetical to the very nature of law. Trying to speak to how Christian’s should react given the un-Christian nature of the entire process is incredibly complicated, and it’s easy for anyone to lay claim that Christ is on their side.

    5. Racists have sincere consciences about discriminating against people they disapprove of for various reasons. The people who would like to see Jim Crow return will use the Bible and go on about how Blacks are violent, lazy, prone to theivishness and of course there are the perversely oversexed Black man that poses a threat to White women and the promiscuous Black women, who breed like rabbits posing a hardship on our social systems. They don’t like it when such women choose abortion either. So many of the same arguments against Gays are similar to what held up segregation and persecution ie; marriage restriction laws against Blacks 70 to 80 years ago. This is why such so called Christians have to be stopped cold in their attempts to bring back such discrimination into the United States.

  23. ” … these laws exist to protect Christian business owners who rebel against
    the teachings of Christ and the New Testament by refusing to love
    neighbors and enemies alike.” Yes, I think this is what it boils down to. Over time, I admit I’ve struggled with this also, but looking at Jesus, this is my conclusion. Thanks for the post!

  24. “Judged in this light, the most popular forms of Christianity today stand condemned.” Yes, and badly. I will never understand how so much of American Christianity has become about parsing the Gospel to find “exceptions” to its most express commands, all the while insisting on strict adherence to things it does not command at all. In place of a challenging faith that constantly inspires us toward greater things for ourselves and our world, we’ve built one that mollycoddles our laziest prejudices, justifies our most complacent social customs and somehow transforms our radical, challenging founder into “Mr. Status Quo.” And, as much as I respect freedom of belief, this is not a version of our faith I want to see enshrined in our public laws. It damages us, and it damages others.

    1. I don’t want any of your beliefs “enshrined” in our public laws. I will fight to keep them in your church and out of our government.

      1. Don’t mistake me — I don’t want them in there, either. Trampling the separation of church and state doesn’t help anyone, least of all any church.

  25. I remember your struggling with this at the time, and scratching my head over it when you did… Glad you came down on the side of love and light. Thanks for writing about this.

  26. A brief thought upon your last sentence, “and yes– it even goes to the wedding.” I don’t know how much I would want someone at my wedding who doesn’t celebrate fully with me in my love. A wedding should be a celebration, and not something that is tainted with disapproval. Just a thought. But that may just be me. Maybe others would welcome that at their weddings.

    1. Wow, I agree, that’s a good thought… but it’s a tough and more complicated situation…

      …I think it would also hurt to be “condemned” by someone who tells you that their religion compels them not to service the wedding – especially because of the reasons that would be underlying (“you’re a sinner”, “you’re making a mockery of the church”, etc). I don’t think either is a win-win scenario, but, like I posted above, these proposed laws, as written, open the door to all sorts of discrimination this country has been trying to eliminate.

      And, I think that perhaps the more people who see that ________ are human, just like them, then more will be on the quicker path to “loving one another” – as history has proven in other cases of discrimination (that, while not dead, are slowly dying). “___________” of course being whatever form of discrimination is the “hate of the year” – a sad aspect of humanity – we always seem to need some group or another to hate or discriminate against. 🙁

      1. There were a few people who did not come to my wedding who I sincerely hoped would, and partially for some of those reasons. None did, and I am not surprised–even ignoring issues of disapproval, there were extenuating circumstances of distance and/or health. Still, they were asked in the first place not as some political statement but because despite how I feel I am being treated, I do love them, I see them as family (in ways no one questions), and a marriage is about family.

    2. A friend of mine is gay and a photographer. A good one at that. He was asked by a conservative Christian if he would photograph his wedding. He did. The customer paid him and that was that.

      He wasn’t there to “celebrate” the wedding. He was a vendor. He didn’t violate his beliefs. He’s still gay and hasn’t converted to his conservative brand of Christianity.

      Whether or not someone would want that is up to the customer, not the business. What ever happened to “The customer is always right”?

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