Religious freedom has definitely been attacked in America. To be blunt, if you think religious freedom has not been harmed, you are either simply unaware of current events, or you are in complete denial.
Now that gay marriage is legal, I think there will be more and more lawsuits against Christians who act on the belief that the Bible states God’s will for our marital relationships be kept to one man and one woman. We’re already seeing this happen.
Before I continue… if you are new to this series, you may want to check out the previous entries first. Here are some quick links:
1. According to the Bible, is living a homosexual lifestyle a sin?
2. Are Christians being judgmental by saying the homosexual lifestyle is wrong?
3. Do Christians hate homosexuals?
4. Why do Christians care about the lifestyles of others?
5. Are Christians losing religious freedom?
Moving on with the 5th topic…
Some of the situations are in a kind of “gray area.” These are the secular businesses run by Christian owners. For instance, a bakery that claims no religious ties, but it is operated by Christians who wish to support the sanctity of marriage. I’m a little torn on what is right in this instance. On the one hand, if a gay couple comes in to order a cake and gets blindsided with a refusal to support their marriage because that bakery made no religious claims, that seems unfair. I feel that if you are a Christian running a Christian business, you need to advertise your business as such. On the other hand, is it really that difficult for the couple to drive to the next bakery and order a cake there? If a bakery doesn’t support their marriage, why would the couple want to support the bakery anyway? When it comes down to it, who has a right to freedom in this case? Obviously, the answer isn’t easy. It’s not black and white.
I am more concerned about our churches, however. This is where our rights are clearly being attacked. And it is scary. Terrifying.
In October 2014, five pastors had their sermons subpoenaed for teaching the sanctity of marriage – and this was before homosexual marriage was made legal. These sermons were given by ordained ministers within their churches. These sermons were not preached in a secular business. The pastors were accused of “hate speech.” Since when is it hatred to disagree with someone’s lifestyle? These pastors were not saying gay people should be killed or cut off or anything remotely close to that. It is not fair nor accurate to compare their sermons to the hate speeches of Hitler concerning the Jews. (I would argue, however, that the Westboro Baptist Church is guilty of hate speech… and completely misinterpreting the Bible. But what these five pastors were preaching was nothing like Westboro.)
In other countries, pastors are already being sued and sentenced to jail. How long until that happens here in America?
This is absolutely terrifying to me, since I am a seminary wife. My husband is in his last year of graduate school before he becomes a pastor. Seminary is not cheap. Many seminarians went to Christian colleges or universities to get their bachelors – about $30,000 per year. Seminary is about $47,000 per year. That’s eight years of paying these tuition prices. We – like most seminarians – are over $100,000 in debt, and we’re going into a career with a low salary. We won’t be able to afford much for years – decades. It’s a huge sacrifice. What happens if my husband is sued for preaching the second chapter of Genesis? What happens if my husband is jailed for preaching Acts 5:29 which says,”We shall obey God rather than man.”? What happens to him? To me? To our infant daughter? To our financial status? To our home? To our church? Will our friends and families emotionally support us? The stakes for us are a lot higher than finding a different bakery to order a wedding cake. The stakes are staggering.
I’m not sure about other denominations, but thankfully, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) is already preparing for such events. One way pastors can protect themselves and their churches is to start “discriminating” now. For example, I know a church that requires at least one person of an engaged couple to be a member of the church in order to be married there, and the couple must take a 12 week marriage course together. In order to rent the fellowship hall for a party, the person renting it must be a member. I also know many pastors who have guidelines concerning other sexual lifestyles, such as sex before marriage and cohabitation. Some pastors will not marry a couple who is cohabitating. (I don’t agree with that stance.) Some pastors I know will marry a cohabitating couple only if they agree to marry as soon as possible, even if they take their vows ASAP and save the ceremony and reception for a later date. (I do agree with that stance.) So in other words – pastors need to be consistent in what they preach about sexual lifestyles; they can’t preach homosexuality is a sin and then ignore adultery and cohabitation and sex outside of marriage.
The LCMS is also setting aside funds and lawyers for pastors who will face lawsuits and jail time. While I am thankful for a backup plan, it’s incredibly sad that we have reached this point in America.
When it comes down to it, who gets to define who is being hateful? Are Christians hateful for supporting the sanctity of marriage outlined by God, and therefore, disagreeing with homosexuals? Or are those who support gay marriage hateful for taking away the religious freedom of Christians to follow the commandments of the God who loved them enough to die for them? When you ask yourself those questions and look at them from an unbiased perspective, I hope you can see that the answer is difficult. Is there a way to be fair? Right now, the only solution I see is for secular laws to support secular beliefs among secular institutions while religious institutions should remain free to teach the Bible.
This series has been incredibly difficult for me to write. I know my beliefs are not popular. I know my beliefs are hurtful to many, and I don’t like that. But I choose to follow Jesus, who sacrificed His life so I can be forgiven – along with all those who believe in Him. I doubt I have changed anyone’s mind from believing homosexuality is okay to believing it isn’t, according to the Bible. However, that was not necessarily my goal. The purpose of these five entries was to explain what Christians believe and to demonstrate that our beliefs are not centered in hatred. I pray these five entries have conveyed that this is a complex topic, and one that can only be discussed when we speak to each other calmly and respectfully. And I thank you for sticking with me throughout this series.
The next entry will be my daughter’s birth story. That will be more fun to write. 🙂