You’ve all heard the hubbabaloo by now going on in Indiana where Governor Mike Pence signed-in private I might add-the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which effectively allows businesses and vendors to not serve people if it violates their…<cough>…religious convictions.
Great. Because we have so many examples in the Scriptures of Jesus not serving people because of their sexual orientation, occupation, reputation, and (insert favorite reason to dislike people here).
So many examples.
So many, that I’m not sure how to choose from the examples.
Like that woman at the well who had so many husb…oh wait, scratch that.
Like that woman about to get stoned because she was adulter…oh wait, not that one.
Like that man, the short tax collector who was cheating people, his name started with a Z…oh wait, nope.
Well, at least there is that traitor Judas, right? At least Jesus puts him in his place, right?
Except that right before Judas betrays Jesus, Jesus kneels before him and washes his feet. Right before he sells Jesus for profit, Jesus lovingly takes his heel, douses him with water, and scrubs the dirt right off his sole.
…see what I did there?
Lexicon it. Jesus doesn’t refuse service. Even the Gentile woman in Mark’s gospel gets a piece of Jesus’ love, despite Jesus’ initial protests.
So tell me, Indiana legislators, lobbyists, and general public who might support such drivel, where you get the idea that this somehow restores religious freedom. Because I don’t think you’ve read your Bibles.
I really don’t.
Because if you read your Bibles, if you read the story of Jesus instead of the soundbites of crazy, profit-hungry, TV preachers, and bigoted, rapture-awaiting, crazy folks who pretend to be pastors/messiahs/prophets, but are nothing more than charlatans or hustlers, you might realize that to Jesus religious freedom actually means that you are not free to do whatever you want.
My patron saint (no, not Jimmy Buffett…he’s my muse), the Blessed Martin Luther says it this way, “A Christian is absolutely free; subject to no one. A Christian is absolutely bound, servant of all.”
Another way to think about that is to recall Jesus’ call for us to be yoked to God. That yoke is “light.” When we bind ourselves to God, our yoked-ness is light.
Because being yoked to God actually takes away your choice.
This was something that Christopher Hitchens actually got right in his books. He took umbrage with the idea that we must, as Christ followers (and Torah followers), love our enemies. It was the height of forced-abuse, he thought (for more on this read his God is Not Great).
So I call on all Christians in Indiana to actually do what this bill, in title at least, claims to do: restore your religious freedom. Restore the yoke of God to yourself, because if you refuse service to someone for any reason that may be part of an “ism,” you’ve sloughed off the yoke.
But woe to you liberals, too (no one gets out of this one unmarked).
I hear your calls to boycott legislators from your businesses. I hear your cries of anger, and your threats to not serve supporters of this act in your establishments.
To you, again, I encourage a close reading of Scripture. Because Jesus actually has said something about this. In Matthew 18 Jesus instructs Christians on how to deal with those who sin.
And I gotta tell you, I think this law is an example of sin in this world.
What do you do? You talk to them. I know many have done that already.
And if they don’t listen, you take another with you so there is a witness.
I think we’ve all witnessed this step…
And if they still don’t listen, you bring in the church leaders. And for us in the ELCA, this has already happened, too.
And if they still won’t listen, you “treat them as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”
And this is the moment when you think you’re given permission to stick it to The Man.
Except, when you look at how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors (see references above), you realize that, unfortunately for our egos and sense of justice, we are servant here, too. We do not boycott them from our eateries and services. We do not block them off from our handshakes and welcome. We may not re-elect some of the legislators, but we in no way get to marginalize them.
See, this following Jesus thing is pretty tough. This yoke is light in that it takes away my choice. But it is pretty heavy on my ego and my own sense of retaliation…
Ugh. This mess in Indiana makes me a reluctant Christian. And then Jesus’ own advice on what I’m supposed to do makes me reluctant, too, because it’s not what I want to do.
So, what should Christians in Indiana do in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? Speak out; yes. Be active; sure.
But also eat with those who you consider your enemies. Bless those who persecute, because in doing so you show them a love that they are unwilling to give and to receive.
Your anger is justified. But your discrimination is not. None is.