Well, it finally happened. After a decade or so of amendments, court challenges, referreudum and the like, same sex marriage is now legal accross the United States. The 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court was a momentous day for many LGBT Americans, myself included.
Of course, this news is personal for me. Like a lot of gay couples, I’ve had to say my wedding vows twice. The first time was at my church wedding in 2007. Then in 2013 same sex marriage became legal in Minnesota, and on Labor Day 2013, my husband Daniel and I had our civic wedding. The result of that one meant that in the eyes of the state of Minnesota, we were married just like any other couple.
But there were still problems. For example, if Daniel and I went to our home states, North Dakota and Michigan, we would not be recognized as a legal couple because those state had banned same sex marriages. Now, we can go and visit any place in the USA and know that are rights are the same everywhere.
But while I along with millions of LGBT Americans and their allies rejoice, I am well aware that there are those that are not happy. Some of these people are my friends even though we disagree. They fear that America is losing its spiritual moorings and they fear that they will be forced to break their consciences into doing things that goes against their faith.
When social conservatives start bringing up the religious liberty argument, it doesn’t take long for the eyes of many an LGBT supporter to roll. The claims of religious liberty are viewed as silly by gay marriage supporters and even progressive/liberal Christians make fun of these social conservatives and dismiss their arguments.
But what if there is something to those complaints?
Most of my fellow progressives ignore social cons, seeing them as backward homophobic hicks. We tell ourselves that no one will force a conservative pastors to marry a lesbian couple, and they are probably right. But the religious liberty argument is far more complex than this.
Damon Linker, who is not a conservative in any sense of the word, explains that there is something to the concern of some about religious liberty:
There’s very little chance that the government will force a church to marry a gay or lesbian couple, or forbid a priest or pastor from preaching from the pulpit against same-sex marriage….
But what about when that priest or pastor, or a conservative member of the parish or congregation, leaves the doors of the church? Throughout American history, the First Amendment has been understood to permit these Christians to act in the world as moral representatives of their faith communities — to exercise their religion by forming and joining groups in civil society that are affiliated with their churches or advance their moral vision of the world. These might be private schools, colleges, and universities, or hospitals, soup kitchens, and other charities. They might be think tanks or lobbying firms. They might be businesses whose owners want to express their Christian faith (as they understand it) in their dealings with customers.
…what about a conservative Christian college that seeks to conform to historic Christian teachings about sex and marriage? Should it be forced to allow same-sex married couples to live in married housing? Should the college lose federal funds for refusing? Lose its accreditation? Its tax-exempt status? Any one of these consequences could drive the college out of business, or force it to abandon the religious beliefs that define it.
Now, I would disagree with Linker about the businesses, but what about church-run schools? What about church-run colleges? Does the changed climate conflict with their beliefs?
What about the employee that might say they think same-sex marriage is wrong? Would they then be fired?
None of this means that I believe social conservatives are being persecuted, per se, but it does mean that the religious liberty argument isn’t as cut and dried as we would want to think.
My belief in loving the enemy, means I have to see my enemy as a child of God. I don’t think most social conservatives are bad people. Which is why I want to at least listen to them.
My guess is that most of us don’t want to be nice to social cons for very obvious reasons. When one has been hurt by words that are supposed to heal, it can be hard to forgive that person, let alone see them as human being.
But I would also add that if social conservatives want to be respected, then they too must show respect. Some have, but others haven’t and as Canadian evangelical Carey Neiuwhof notes, that isn’t good witness to Christ:
Even the first 72 hour of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves (yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it).
Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.
People don’t line up to be judged.
Indeed. If social conservatives want respect, they have to show it as well. No one is asking them to change their views on homosexuality. If you’re understand of the scriptures lead you to conclude that homosexuality is sinful then believe this. But remember, Jesus didn’t banish sinners; he hung out with them.
I am happy that same sex marriage is now legal all over the place. But I won’t make fun of those who disagree. I will also try to listen to them and seek to treat them as a child of God.
I pray for a little grace on both sides. But I know grace will be very little indeed.