What Christians in Indiana Should Do in Response to the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”

You’ve all heard the hubbabaloo by now going on in Indiana where Governor Mike Pence signed-in private I might add-the9740026677_b5c818f328_o 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.

“Jesus Wouldn’t Like That…” and “What Would Jesus Do” Shouldn’t Be Uttered Anymore

I once had a teaimagescher in High School tell me that Jesus wouldn’t like that I told a kid to kiss my ass.

He was probably right, I guess, if I thought Jesus had an opinion on my language when there are wars to be fought and bellies to be fed and slavery to be abolished and the kid in my theater class was getting picked on by another teacher because he had good hair and he liked  to shop more than he liked shop class, and nobody said anything about it.

Not to mention that the kid I had cursed at had been picking on me mercilessly for two years, and I finally had gotten the nerve to tell him that I wasn’t interested in being a chew toy for him to throw around to impress his friends anymore.

I wonder if Jesus has an opinion about that.

We talk about Jesus all the time as if Jesus is opining about our every move, and while part of me thinks this is a healthy response to a theology that reinforces the nearness of God, it can sometimes just be plain stupid.

As catch-22 as “What Would Jesus Do,” when we imagine that Jesus wouldn’t “like” a particular action, I wonder what kind of guilt we think we’re laying on the person.  I think that they’re “Rubik’s Cube” questions.  We puzzle them about, except that with these cubes, there’s no solution.

I think we ask these questions and make these statements because we’re trying to escape the fact that we don’t like it and we don’t know what to do (or we do, but we’d like to pretend we don’t so that we can justify our actions by saying we prayed on it).

When we’re held up a mirror and the truth about ourselves is exposed, we don’t like it.

Truth is, that teacher saw that kid pick on me about 10 times a week for two years.  I wonder if Jesus has an opinion on that.  Maybe that’s why he didn’t like me telling the kid to kiss my ass; I had gotten the guts that the teacher had lacked.

Or maybe the teacher didn’t care.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that we don’t like mirrors. We rebel against them.

Like when I read a little blog the other day where a pastor goes off on Hollywood for flaunting what he calls “anti-Christian propaganda.” It’s a preview about a kid’s movie that talks about how some families have a mom and a dad, while others have two mommies and two daddies, or one parent, or a whole bunch of relatives in one house. Movie looks cute.

Apparently this is propaganda and oppressive for this particular parent.

God forbid that his children hear that families come in all sorts of forms (as if the kid can’t look around and see that).  How dare Hollywood expose his children so such truth?!  The bubble of brainwashing is burst in such ways; that’s not what he wants as a parent, I guess.

I imagine he doesn’t think Jesus would like that.

So I wonder what he’ll do when his kids get invited over to a classmate’s house who has two mommies.  And I wonder if he’ll consider, before uttering “Jesus wouldn’t like that,”  how one of those mommies was forced by society into a loveless marriage at a young age because she had been told that Jesus wouldn’t like her acting on her attraction to women.  And she had broken free of those societal chains that were killing her insides, speaking up in a way that society couldn’t or wouldn’t and found a way to be more whole.

And then I wonder if he might consider that Jesus wouldn’t like his child turning down an invitation to celebrate another child’s birth just because the sight of two mommies might cause some cognitive dissonance for that young kid being raised in a bubble full of half-truths.

Because, as much as the father doesn’t want to believe it, the child will be living in a world where there are two mommy families and two daddy families and divorced families and all sorts of families.  And to pretend that they won’t, well, I wonder if Jesus would like that sort of ignorance…

See the kind of bind we get in when we think like this? We pretend to pit Jesus against these situations when really all we’re doing is crashing the mirror set up in front of us because we don’t like being shown truth and our own inabilities to deal with life situations.

Because my teacher didn’t like being confronted with the fact that I had been picked on in front of him for far too long without him saying a word, and I wasn’t having it from the bully or from the voiceless teacher anymore.  And this father doesn’t like the fact that love comes in a few different forms–even if he doesn’t approve of them–and his speaking out against same-sex couples, his flaunting of his “traditional, Biblical values,” is now being drowned out by other voices of love as he cries out that he is now the oppressed one.

Jesus wouldn’t like that, I think.

And I wonder what Jesus would do in that situation.

And as you sit with those unsolvable Rubik’s Cube questions, perhaps you’ll just come to see, as I see, that they are manipulative ways of trying to get around the fact that we’re sometimes confronted with our own shortsightedness and don’t like it.

Perhaps we shouldn’t get Jesus into the damning business like “Jesus wouldn’t like that” does.  And perhaps we should get Jesus out of the “choose your own Christian adventure” business like “What would Jesus do?” tries to press on us.

Instead, why don’t we live like Jesus lived. Or try to.  And I don’t think you have to ask WWJD in every situation to try to live like the Christ.  We have a pretty good understanding of what Jesus would do: love God and the neighbor as yourself.  Give of yourself for others. Get mad at injustice in the world and act on it, even if it kills you.  Be peaceful. Forgive.

I mean, I guess we can look at the rampant malnutrition in a world full of food and say, “Jesus wouldn’t like that…”  But we won’t, by and large.  Because there’s probably not enough guilt in the world to make us change our economic practices and allow the food insecure to eat well.  We’ll just save Jesus’ damnation for people who use the word ass…

I’m a reluctant Christian sometimes because we’ve confused trying to predict how Jesus would act in the 21st Century and what he’d opine on 21st Century problems without even mastering how to live like he did in ancient Palestine first, and we call it “Christian values” or “the Christian life.”

When you’ve mastered loving your God and your neighbor as yourself, then perhaps we can ponder what Jesus thinks about movie previews and what Jesus would do about it.

My hunch is he’d smile and mark his calendar to go see it.

A Question for the Boy Scouts

I wasrainbow scoutsn’t ever a Scout.

I’ve known straight Scouts.

I’ve known gay Scouts.

I’ve known good and bad examples of both gay and straight Scouts, I think.  Their sexual orientation had nothing to do with their failure or success.

But I was never a Scout.

So, I want to ask Scouts a question: which of the 12 Core Value is most important?

Citizenship, compassion, cooperation, courage, faith, health and fitness (inexplicably one value), honesty, perseverance, positive attitude, resourcefulness, respect, or responsibility?

I want to know because I’m trying to understand what the ruckus over gay Scouts and Scout leaders is.

Because, as far as I can tell, encouraging Scouts to stay in the closet through barring and banning threats violates courage, honesty, respect, and responsibility on the Scout’s part, and compassion and cooperation on the establishment’s part.

So I’m trying to figure out how this was ever an issue. It seems like an honest Scout is the best Scout.

And I’m trying to figure out how they can allow openly gay Scouts, but not openly gay Scout leaders.  Are leaders not expected to uphold these values as well?  If they are to teach and model them, I don’t see how it can be otherwise.

I’m just really at a loss as to how this is an issue.  And I’m also at a loss as to how churches are now banning the Scouts over their half-hearted policy change.

Do these churches imagine that everyone in their doors are straight?  If so, they are delusional.

Are they imagining that Jesus would not have dined in the houses of the Boy Scouts because they now allow gay Scouts (but not, for some unknown reason–that I can only imagine has to do with some unscientific and failed belief in sexuality and sexual practice–gay leaders)?  If so, they are not only delusional but also illiterate.

Read the Gospels.

Because just as much as I want to ask the Scouts which of the 12 Core Values is most important, I want to ask those churches now threatening to deny Scouts a home which of Jesus’ teachings are most important.  The one on love?  Peace? Blessing? Self-sacrifice? Compassion?

Or the (non-existent) one on sexual orientation?

I would like to know.

Because my understanding of honesty means being honest with yourself and others, which includes an understanding of your sexuality.  Some might say it’s a personal responsibility thing to be honest about your sexuality.  Some might say it’s a courageous thing.  Some might say such an admittance to yourself and the world takes the conscious decision to cooperate with your sexual orientation rather than deny it to the detriment of your sanity, your health, and your relationships, and shows perseverance to do so in the face of discrimination.  Some might say it takes resourcefulness to pull up the necessary faith in yourself and your abilities to be so honest.  Some might claim it takes respect for yourself and a positive attitude to approach the subject with such openness.  And such openness is indicative of a compassionate nature, and let’s be clear, honest citizens are the best citizens.

In my estimation, it seems honesty might be the key to upholding the 12 Core Values.

So, enlighten this reluctant Christian, made that much more reluctant because we’re represented on front-page headlines by these sorts of squabbles and these mind-boggling banning policies: why is this an issue?