Excerpts: Dialogue Between a Trump Voter & Distraught Progressives

disagreeing respectfully
As promised in an earlier post, below are excerpts from an online dialogue I initiated after the Trump election of 2016. I joined a liberal, “safe persons” discussion group, not to gloat or be a troll, but to help foster understanding.

The possibility of mutual understanding now seems almost hopeless to me. From this discussion I learned that much of the left actually believes that half the country really is hateful and immoral, or at least does not care about oppressed people. This discussion was 3 weeks after the election, and many of these people were truly hurting, depressed, and afraid. This Instagram post sums up their reasoning more concisely than anything else I’ve read:

T Madoff anti-Trump rant

Instagram post by Tanya Madoff

On the bright side, this discussion gave me hope that some people can be brought to a place of seeing a different perspective. It was not easy. It required overlooking a lot of insults and condescension; a small price to pay in my opinion. My aim was not to convert people or to justify myself, but to simply enable “progressive” people to see outside of their own frame of reference.

The discussion was quite lengthy. I’ve tried to keep only the meatiest parts. If you’re here to see mud-slinging and insults you’re at the wrong place. I see this as an attempt at a respectful discussion between caring, intelligent people.

THE DISCUSSION (My comments in bold)

I began with this comment, in response to a group member who authored and posted an article in Forbes. Here I asked the admins if they thought it would be helpful for me to post my why-I-voted-for-Trump blog. No one thought it would be helpful:

ME: It is very helpful for me, a “religious conservative” to hear about the deep, negative, emotional impact that this election has had on others.

It is helpful to me because I had been misreading the motives of the left, (at least the rank and file left,) for the past 8 years. I confess that I suspected that the progressive campaign to label everyone who disagreed with progressives as “hateful,” “bigoted,” “anti-gay,” “racist,” and “anti-woman” was simply a political ploy to get religious conservatives to shut-up and leave the public square. In other words, I didn’t think liberals/progressives actually believed that half the country was morally clueless. Now I see that many people actually do believe this.

I would be depressed too if I believed this. I want to take care that I do not attempt to invalidate the feelings of those who are hurting. I see and understand that the feelings are real. At the same time, is it fair to assess the beliefs behind the feelings? Would it be helpful to offer evidence that half of American voters are not KKK-supporting misogynists?

I don’t see how comfort and healing are possible if the only possible comfort is political agreement with those who are hurting. I believe the solution for America is a return to pluralism within the constraints of constitutional government. Within those constraints I believe we can at least trust each others motives, even if we respectfully disagree on public policy.

This quote from the above article breaks my heart:

“I cried for a long time because I got hit hard with the realization that so many people would choose a man who is hateful, anti-Constitution and wholly unfit to head, just to keep a woman from being in charge,..”

Not only am I saddened that she apparently actually believes this, but that her feelings are based on something that is so far from the truth.

If it would help to foster understanding, I would be happy to post my blog post wherein I explained why I felt like I had to do the unthinkable and vote “for” Trump.
Admins? Would this be helpful?

Here is one of the “no” replies that was well stated:

PAMELA: No, echoing Annie, it would not be helpful for this simple reason: those who chose to vote for DJT either (a) didn’t care about what he said about nearly every group in society other than straight white men or (b) decided he wasn’t actually serious and something else was more important than acknowledging others’ basic humanity. This is why it hurts so deep, to me, and why it still does, three weeks later. As someone else put it: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

The distrust was so deep that someone accused me of going ahead and linking my blog post against the wishes of the admins, when in reality the link was to the Forbes article to which I was referring. One woman was fair minded enough to point this out:

ELYSIA: I think it is fair to point out that the link on the post above is not to his blog, but to the article he referenced as being helpful for understanding others’ emotions. But Scott, I think the feedback you received on the other group was accurate. Don’t expect to convince people here that your vote was justified.

ME: Elysia – Thank you for clarifying what I linked.

While I don’t believe the dichotomies that were set up in the feedback from the other group are accurate, I understand why people would feel the way they do. But I do agree with you in that I don’t expect to convince anyone here that my vote was justified. It remains to be seen if even I believe my vote was justified. I have not been trying to justify myself here. My hope was to simply foster understanding. I thought it might be some small comfort for people to be able to understand how, for many, voting for Trump had nothing to do with hate, bigotry, etc; that the picture is not as dark as it seems. But I see now that this would not answer their concerns. I asked a question. The answer is no. I accept that.

Following is a reply from a progressive PhD student and adjunct professor at a Presbyterian theological seminary:

MIKE: Well, you’re half-way there. It’s nice of you to finally accept that people’s beliefs and fears are actually genuine and not just a “political ploy.” Now you just have to just take the additional step of accepting that their fears and moral judgments are based on legitimate concerns and not just “based on something that is so far from the truth.” Because right now, by trying to tell people that their fears are not based in reality, you are basically engaged in gaslighting.

The reality is that people’s fears and moral judgments about people who voted for Trump are based on the ACTUAL things that he and his supporters have said. Actual policies, actual words, actual intentions. These actual things are what we are afraid of. These actual things are what we are judging to be morally reprehensible (“clueless” is way too soft to cover the things being advocated). Yes, we are saying that if one supports such things, one is acting immorally.

Now maybe you don’t support those things personally. Maybe, as you say, you and millions of others Trump voters supported him for other reasons *in spite of* these other immoral things. But even if that is the case, your vote still indicates that those other things did not seem bad enough to you to be deal breakers. And, like it or not, THAT is what we are still judging to be immoral, and THAT is why we are still afraid of you.

ME: Mike – Thank you for your critique. If I may, I’d like to clarify a couple of points here as I feel you’re misreading what I’ve said.

Please note that I never said I believed people’s “beliefs and fears” were a political ploy. I said that I had believed that the tactic of publicly shaming/labeling anyone who disagreed with progressives was a political ploy. I still believe it was and is for many activists – clearly they see this as a way to shape public opinion, (not a very good or effective way, in my opinion.) What is different is that I now see that many people really believe that those who disagree with them must be doing so out of hatred, bigotry, etc.

Secondly, believe me, I grasp your point about Trump’s “actual” reckless and divisive comments. I can’t defend Trump’s character. I think he’s a horrible presidential candidate and a jerk. My comment about the woman-in-question’s feelings being “based on something so far from the truth” was addressing her specific comment. She is “terrified,” and suffering panic attacks and crying fits because she assumes people voted for Trump “just to keep a woman from being in charge.” That’s wildly incorrect, and it’s not gaslighting to say so.

I’ll respond to your point about moral judgment to the group because I think it eloquently addresses the concerns of the entire group.

I’ll post that response next, but first I want to briefly post an exchange with a self-described queer woman. She shared her experience at length. She was well educated, articulate, polite, and obviously hurting. It was no joke. I think these few sentences sum up the heart of what she shared:

ERIN: … Sir. Your belief that the sincere beliefs and advocacy from people like me was all an attempt to silence you is… honestly, just painful for me to hear. It is painful for me because it mirrors the responses I have heard from my own family about my future in this country. It is painful because it says that you hear the genuine fears of Americans and assume that we are lying when we ask to be protected and welcomed here… Sir, I am heartbroken. I don’t want to listen to you justify yourself now…You are not helping me by justifying yourself. You are not listening to me or to my fears. You are helping me still less by insisting that you were okay, you really respect me,..

I felt there was no appropriate response to this except to acknowledge her pain, to validate her feelings, and to quietly leave. Though she misrepresents my stated beliefs, and even though those misunderstandings are causing her pain, a mere online discussion would not help her at this time…

ME: Erin – Thank you for taking time to explain your story. It is good for me to hear you, and your words do make an impact on me. I cannot wave off your concerns and I see that they touch you at the deepest level. I don’t feel free to dialogue with you since you say you can’t listen to me right now. I accept that and I wish you all the best.

This was followed by yet another exhortation urging me to listen. I feel we can all learn from this. We have to stop talking past each other. We do need to listen to each other. I joined the group in hopes of being understood. These people were open to me listening to and understanding them, so that’s where I started.

ANNIE: Scott, I dearly hope you are listening. The people posting on this thread are pouring out from their pain and working hard to craft the words they share.

ME: I am listening. If I may reply to what I’ve heard, Amber, Erin, Marie, and Mike have all articulated a similar argument that I believe gets at the crux of the issue that is causing so much fear and pain.

Mike stated that even if a Trump-voter doesn’t support Trump’s actual policies/words/intentions, a Trump vote “…still indicates that those other things did not seem bad enough to you to be deal breakers… THAT is what we are still judging to be immoral…”

Amber linked a perfectly articulated, concise summary of this idea. [The Instagram shot I posted above.]

Erin asserts that “This is not a case of there being two equal sides with equal concerns and fears… (My) “two sides not communicating” concept is wrong because it assumes that the fears of the two Americas have equal basis and grounds.

Marie points out what love is not, and ends with, “…we’ve learned that “respectfully disagreeing” is often code for “not wanting to listen, because then I might agree.”

My concern, and the reason I joined this group, is that I am deeply concerned over how divided the nation has become. My hope is that this group can accomplish something unique in this climate. (Yes, I recognize that I am an outsider, and I don’t expect people to warm up to my beliefs.) When I look down the road, I see two options:

1) A permanently divided, polarized nation, wherein the pendulum continues to swing back and fourth every 4 or 8 years. The pendulum increasingly becomes a wrecking ball as the party in power seeks to force its agenda onto the people, only to have its “gains” undone when power shifts parties. Anger, bitterness, and resentment continue to grow, as one group in power seeks to marginalize the other. I think this option sucks. Force does not change hearts. Totalitarianism always creates an underground.

2) A free, pluralistic society wherein competing ideas respectfully coexist and compete in a free marketplace of ideas, within the constraints of constitutional government. I contend that the US Declaration and Constitution answer all basic questions about American governance, and we should leave the rest to pluralism and freedom. Any legislation must constitutionally address the legitimate concerns of ALL sides or else there will always be backlash. Addressing Erin’s assertion in the current debate, racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism are NOT legitimate concerns. I agree with her in this. However, both equal treatment under the law, and religious liberty ARE legitimate, explicitly stated constitutional concerns. If we cannot all agree on this then our situation truly is hopeless.

Hearts are not changed by attempting to force ideology onto people, either by governmental means, marketing, or by shaming/labeling/judging. There must be freedom to dissent. There must be the right of legal conscientious objection. At the risk of triggering some, I have to point out that the current [Obama] administration has been unbending in its refusal to allow dissent regarding its new policies around social issues. Hillary promised to continue the same strategy. (Examples provided upon request.) This overrides virtually every other concern to me, because if we get constitutional government – freedom, pluralism, and conscientious objection – then every citizen gets a voice and a safer America..

Many here seem to be appalled and offended that I saw the hate-shaming, labeling, and name-calling from the left over the past 8 years (well before Trump entered the picture) as a political ploy. Yet the left has widely assumed that religious liberty concerns are simply a political ploy and a cover for bigotry. I would be surprised if anyone here finds this widespread assumption to be appalling.

I don’t have a problem with the moral superiority of the left. I would hope that we all live according to a morality that we consider to be the most sound. What I have a serious problem with is using the irresistible force of government to force an ideology onto an unwilling population, and refusing to allow conscientious objection. It hasn’t worked, obviously. Apparently close to half of American voters, if forced to choose, would choose an unqualified asshole over a skilled totalitarian politician.

I am listening, but since this is a discussion group, I would suggest that I am not the only one here who needs to listen.

The power of a preconception is very strong. My favorite person in the group took THREE TRIES before she finally understood my point. She is the best at conflict resolution in the group. Here is where she gets it:

ELYSIA: Thanks, Scott. I’m still having a hard time understanding. I’ve reread the first comment, and know somehow you are tying this into constitutionality and legislation, but I’m still unclear. Might this be a workable paraphrase : “Racism, bigotry, xenophobia and sexism are troubling, but if we try and legislate them there will be a backlash, so we shouldn’t. Likewise, we shouldn’t legislate religion.” ? Additional correction/clarification welcomed.

ME: No, I’m simply saying that
1) both sides need to hear and understand each other, rather than trying to “hit back harder,” because
2) both sides have legitimate moral, constitutional concerns.
3) bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are not conservative values. They are not morally and constitutionally “legitimate concerns.” The legitimate concerns of which I am speaking from the conservative side are 1st amendment concerns. Yet my position is continually portrayed as a political ploy to enable bigotry and hate. I refuse to wear that label because it’s no more true for me than it is for you.

Thank you for bothering to attempt to understand. The practice of offering a paraphrase, and asking if it works is a great way to create mutual understanding. You are a shining example.

ELYSIA: OH!!!!! Seeing your recent reply to Annie, I think you are saying “Being racist, xenophobic, or misogynistic is not legitimate.” But, whew! I sure wasn’t hearing that. Thanks for being patient with me.

With respect to the items outlined in this most recent comment:
1) I agree
2) sure
3) I know they aren’t codified as conservative values. I fear they are positions shared by far too much of the population, irrespective of political affiliation, and ignored by many more. And (as I imagine you’ve realized in this group) plenty of people feel like ignoring is tantamount to supporting. Having a president-elect who makes statements that align with these “values” sullies the water for all conservatives, whether fair or not…

We’re all flawed. And we all have fingers to point. And somehow we’ve got to find a way to work through all this muck anyhow, so we can be better neighbors, friends, allies, and people.

ME: Agreed. I would suggest that it needn’t even necessarily be about finger pointing. We may simply have differing worldviews from which our beliefs and actions flow. I submit that the way that we live together is to promote pluralism and freedom within the constraints of the Constitution. This precludes the government, regardless of party, from imposing an ideology or religious belief onto the population. I think that anyone, from either side, who goes with “wrecking ball option #1” (above) may find themselves getting unexpectedly bit in the butt eventually by an intrusive government as mores continue to change.

Bigotry, judgmentalism, and discrimination are not tendencies that belong to conservatism alone. They are universal human tendencies that exist wherever deeply felt opinions exist. For those who don’t believe that, here are 3 examples:

[For brevity I’ve edited out the descriptions, but my three examples of judgmentalism and discrimination were: 1) “new atheist” Sam Harris, 2) a conflict between the trans community and radical feminism, and 3) the Obergefell decision.]

My point is that this not a simple liberal vs conservative debate. I can easily live with and value people who disagree with me, or who are different from me. The conflict comes when people attempt to force me to participate in their political ideology or religion.

After this the discussion ended. Thanks for enduring an unusually long post. I hope it was worth your time! I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

talking into can

 

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What Happened at Loveland’s Fire & Ice Festival

Mona Lisa public art Loveland CO

Actually, a lot happened, with lots of local sculptors and musicians, but I’m going to tell you about a community art event that I and my church, Beggars’ Gate, put on there.

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know how troubled I am over how divided and uncivil our nation has become. I got an idea for a project that would bring diverse festival-goers together in a fun, creative process that would end in an exciting collaborative result.

With my peeps at church and the Festival organizers on board, we contacted the owner of a boarded-up building downtown. He gave us permission to beautify his blank wall. Already there was lots of trust going around.

I should mention that Fire & Ice is the city of Loveland’s annual Valentine’s Day festival. Valentine’s Day is kind of a big deal here in Loveland, Colorado.

Here’s how it worked:
We laid out a giant 13 x 15 foot grid of 12 inch squares on the wall and painted a gold frame around it. We numbered the squares 1 thru 195. On my studio floor I transferred a (secret) design to 195 wooden foot square tiles. So each tile had part of giant drawing on it. I designated how each area of each tile must be painted in order to make this work: “L” for light, “M” for medium, and “D” for dark paint. Plus a few rare tiles with white, black, and red areas.

At the festival, our small army of volunteers instructed festival-goers in the process. Some of the tiles were impossible to mess up, provided the right color values were used, so even very small children and people with disabilities could (and did!) participate.

It was crazy and fun!

Loveland Fire and Ice Festival

Unfortunately, this being our first time, there was a lot of guessing and estimating going on. We ran out of tiles and completed the image before the end of the second festival day. But Fire and Ice is a three day festival. So…one of my peeps ran out and purchased a stack of floor tiles. Another one cut some that needed cutting until we had another 100 blank squares. We contacted the building owner again for permission to attach a second mural to his wall. I worked into the wee hours to put together a (much simpler!) second design, and we were all ready for day 3 on Sunday.

A pastor friend, (who ended up hanging most of the Mona Lisa image on Saturday,) must’ve been struck with some deep thoughts while nailing up the creative expressions of nearly 200 people. What follows is what he wrote when he went home Saturday night. He read it to our little Beggars’ Gate congregation on Sunday morning. His name is John Meyer, and here are his thoughts:

The Mona Loveland

What do you see?

This community art piece is a great picture of one of the good things we believe about life.

Everyone is an individual, with different talents, different experiences, different likes. It is those differences that make this picture fun, interesting, and a bit unexpected.

But there is a bigger picture that comes together in a way that makes a beautiful whole out of all the individuality. It happened because each individual brought his or her own expression within the plan of an artist who had an intention from the beginning. It would have been nearly impossible for hundreds of individuals to make the Mona Loveland by talking among themselves. But by accepting (even without understanding) the greater plan of the artist, the unique expression of each individual created something that included everyone, and has a greater meaning and beauty that only exists because everyone came together.

We think this is a good picture of God’s plan for life. Each of us is made wonderfully unique by Him. Just as no two snowflakes are alike, and no two sets of fingerprints are alike, every person has unique and wonderful traits that are found in no other life.

But none of us are meant to be a complete picture alone. We are made for community. The Designing Artist has had a plan from the beginning to allow us to experience both our individuality and the greater good of a community living together.

It is from both living out who we are, and expressing that uniqueness within the “lines” and plan the Designing Artist has for each life, that allows us to experience the beautiful picture of human community to come together.

Our goal is to help individuals appreciate their own uniqueness, and to understand the plan of God that allows all of us to experience His good and bigger picture together!”

Beggars’ Gate Church
Loveland, Colorado
beggarsgate.com

blg-loveld-monalisa-fnl

The finished mural: “The Sweet Heart City’s” own Mona Lisa, painted by local citizens…

I want to extend a big THANK YOU to the army of volunteers who enabled this event to happen for the community. They gave time, energy, and resources to make this event free for everyone else. ‘God bless em’ all!

If you’re new to this blog, please visit my KIDS’ STORYBOOK WEBSITE and sign up in the blue box to hear about my upcoming new storybooks!

Love peace dove mural scott freeman

This is the completed second mural.

President Trump & the Worst Thing That Could Happen Now

divided-america-blg

I stand amazed at the American political system.

In the bizarre, 2016 Trump/Clinton election it would appear that the people have spoken in ways that few predicted. Even though, as always, the voters are split nearly 50/50. If you are a liberal reading this, please bear with me as I hope to find common ground with you.

I hopefully believe that what we saw is not “whitelash.” Nor is it a “pro-Trump” movement. Nor is it “a resurgence of bigotry and hatred,” as so many fear.

Rather, I think we have reason to hope that what we saw is the people voting for freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and constitutional government in general. Despite serious questions around Trump’s temperament, voters nonetheless voted down the epitome of a connected, politically entrenched ideologue in favor of a political outsider.

It is also probable that people who are not ideological racists are tired of being called racists. People who are opposed to illegal immigration are tired of being called xenophobes. People who don’t hate gay people are tired of being called anti-gay. People who think the jury is still out on transgender issues are tired of being called bigots. People who are concerned about radical Islamic terror are tired of being called anti-Islamic. People who uphold the sanctity of innocent human life are tired of being called anti-woman. Caring people who hold a biblical worldview are tired of being called hateful.

Each of these issues deeply affect what American culture will be. There needs to be free discussion around these issues. There needs to be deep thought and the airing of opposing viewpoints. Remember how everyone was amazed at how quickly public opinion changed on gay marriage? Well, just maybe a lot of people simply shut down in the toxic environment because they didn’t want to be viewed as hateful and anti-gay. Maybe they felt it wasn’t worth getting on somebody’s poop list, or risking a lawsuit, or losing their job over. But that’s not change of heart.

Maybe they voted for freedom of religion and expression for everyone rather than for a creeping, Orwellian totalitarianism, complete with thought police.

Coming on the heels of eight years of an administration and its supporters attempting to impose political ideology onto the country from the top down, half the voters chose a political outsider over another 4 years of continued labeling, shaming, psychological manipulation, indoctrination, and forced participation.

Remember these labels?
Holier-than-thou
judgmental
self-righteous
imposers one’s morality on others
censor

Within my own lifetime in the not so distant past, these labels were always associated with “religious people.” Remember how the mention of one of these labels would call to mind “religious fundamentalists”? Remember how everyone hated these attitudes when religious people practiced them? Remember how the left framed these labels to be synonymous with Christianity? I do.

Well, it turns out that these labels are not exclusive to religious people. It turns out these things are simply attitudes that all human beings are prone to adopt whenever they feel strongly that they are right, religious or non-religious, right or left. It’s always arrogant, no matter which side does it. Today, the shoe is on the other foot. I have become fond of pointing out in online discussion that, just because it’s liberal bigotry does not make it good bigotry.

I remember reading a comment years ago from a conservative writer. I no longer remember who said it, but I remember hoping it wasn’t true. It was something like this:

“Pluralism is never an end in itself. Pluralism is a transitional strategy employed by the less powerful faction until power shifts from one orthodoxy to another.”

I’ve always remembered that, and wondered if I would live to see if it were true. The past eight years have suggested that it is. As a young conservative adult attending a very “progressive” art college, I was frequently reminded that liberals were the champions of open-mindedness, free speech, tolerance, and anti-censorship. But now, having believed they have the truth, majority support, and power on their side, the progressive movement has become every bit as censorious, judgmental, self-righteous, and holier-than-thou as any fire and brimstone TV evangelist. The difference is that, unlike TV evangelists, progressives attempt to promote their agenda using the power of the state.

That is an enormous difference. After all, one can ignore a TV evangelist.

What we’ve seen for the past eight years is the smug arrogance of liberal politics in action. Over the past eight years the Obama administration has gone around the U.S. Constitution and around the will of the people in order to enact public policy. It did this because voters would not have willingly approved Obamacare and gay marriage. But even worse, not only did the administration go around the people, it stubbornly refused to allow conscientious objection to these liberal policies.

The actions of Obama and his supporters essentially said, “This is way it’s going to be. You don’t get a say, and you must participate. Anything less than participation is hateful, racist, or bigoted and is a punishable offense now.”

As “victory” after liberal victory was won over the last 8 years, I saw a lot of gloating and mocking as dissenting conservative views were shut down. Businesses fell in line for fear of left wing retribution. There was no point in allowing conservative viewpoints to be aired, since those viewpoints were “bigoted” and “hateful.”

Then the election happened.

The worst thing that could happen for America now
The worst thing that could happen now would be for the Trump administration to do the same thing that the Obama administration just did: force its political ideology down everybody’s throats from the top down.

There is a remarkable opportunity now in America that I didn’t think could’ve existed before the election. I do not believe that Donald Trump was a sound presidential candidate. Nonetheless, this administration actually has an opportunity to restore constitutional government. If only it has the will to do so.

At some point all sides are going to have to recognize that both sides have legitimate concerns, and we’re going to have to negotiate how to live together in such a way that both sides feel their concerns are being addressed. For America, the U S Constitution is the answer.

If the American people cannot unite around the American constitution, then the American experiment is over. Christians do not need a Christian president, because constitutional government will protect their rights. Secularists do not need a secularist president, because constitutional government will protect their rights.

How to respond when things get ugly
Restoring constitutional government will mean that some unconstitutional “accomplishments” will have to be undone, and then redone constitutionally. To the left this will seem like an attack, of course. “Progressives” have sworn they are “not going back” because they feel they have gotten some of what they want, never mind that they got it unconstitutionally. But ultimately, restoring constitutional government will be as good for liberals as it will be for conservatives.

In the meantime, our way of relating to each other has to change. America is now horribly divided. We have to stop digging in and, instead, reach out to those who hold differing views. We must listen to each other. Both sides have to stop trying to hit “the enemy” back harder. There are compassionate people on both sides of the issues that divide us.

The election results were so surprising and disturbing that some liberals are trying to understand why things turned out as they did. This is a great opportunity for conservatives interested in building community, (which should be all conservatives.) It’s not that liberals are questioning liberalism. But some realize that they need to understand how their seemingly-nice neighbors could have voted for someone like Donald Trump. It’s a good question.

To help at least a few understand, after the election I joined a “Safe Persons” discussion group composed almost entirely of liberals. It was good for me. I learned that a lot of liberals really are afraid. A couple of members expressed feeling unsafe that I was even part of the group. Of course, they were not actually unsafe, but the point is that they truly felt that way. Some of the other members wanted to interact, and, though it took some time and effort and some overlooking of insults, I feel it was worth it. In my next post I will print some excerpts from our dialogue that I feel are worth posting.

Post election, I’ve seen other encouraging events in my small corner of the world. One friend of mine, along with several of his liberal friends, is starting a book club. Elsewhere, a conservative evangelical friend in a neighboring town has been invited to be on the editorial board of the local newspaper. Apparently the board has decided it needs to broaden its perspective. These things speak well of all parties involved. For some of us, bridge-building could be as simple as going out of our way to initiate a relationship with a neighbor who had a Hillary sign in his or her yard last autumn.

I’d love to hear about how you have reached out in your community to build bridges. Please do share your thoughts and ideas below.

Religious Freedom and the Gay Birthday Cake

Bakery-blog

Wrong is wrong, no matter which side does it.

Recently I saw a news story about a baker who refused to make a birthday cake for a gay person. Some months ago I also read about an auto mechanic in Michigan who refuses to serve openly gay people.

As an ardent supporter of religious freedom, I would like to stand up and say this is not religious freedom. This is simple discrimination against people one disagrees with. This is indefensible and mean-spirited, especially if these people are calling themselves Christians. The business owners in these two cases do not understand the issue.

I hope it’s obvious that we don’t want America heading down a road where freedom of religion can be claimed as an excuse for business owners to refuse service to anyone with a differing opinion.

A clear distinction needs to be made and maintained by religious conservatives. Throughout the “marriage equality” debate I have contended that religious freedom is not about the right to discriminate against LGBT people simply because they are LGB or T. This is not what followers of Jesus are after. What is in contention is the definition of marriage and the right of religious people, including business owners, to not participate in an ideological campaign to redefine marriage.

The proof that the religious freedom debate is not about anti-gay discrimination is clear: The photographers, bakers, and other business owners who first brought this conflict to light had all knowingly served gay customers for years. That is proof. However, these business owners drew the line at providing wedding services because, for them, marriage is a religiously defined institution. According to our Constitution, the government has no right to redefine it for them and then force them to comply. There is also a free speech component involved in many cases.

I fail to see how it is a burden on one’s free exercise of religion to serve a sandwich to, repair a car for, or give a haircut to a gay person. Eating, car repair, and hair-cutting do not ordinarily constitute an ideological statement. By contrast, how a society defines marriage affects a host of fundamental cultural and anthropological concerns. It affects the state of the nuclear family. It affects how a culture views motherlessness and fatherlessness. Forcing a follower of Jesus to participate in an ideologically anti-Christian wedding celebration arguably may burden that person’s free exercise of religion.

So this is not about dislike of gays or any other particular group of people. It’s about government overreach and coercion along ideological lines.

Missing the point
In civil discussions with my friends on the Left, typically they argue that, to be consistent, Christians would also have to refuse to provide wedding services to divorced people, couples who’ve had sex before marriage, interracial, and interfaith couples, because these things are also forbidden in the Bible. This is incorrect for several reasons. To our point here, none of these types of arrangements constitute a fundamental redefining of marriage. Again, religious freedom is not about the right to refuse service to people simply because one disagrees with them.

Some “marriage equality” advocates have contended that “anti-gay” Christian business owners should post signs at their places of business and on their websites openly stating that they refuse service to LGBT people. This would spare LGBT people the indignity of being refused service at a place of business. But again, the issue is not about LGBT people, but about the redefining of marriage. It is not “anti-gay” to agree with Jesus’s definition of marriage. Jesus loves LGBT people, so His followers should too. Therefore, Christians should absolutely refuse to wear the “anti-gay” label because such labeling is a political PR stunt.

I’m a small business owner and I would never post a sign saying I refuse service to gays. However, I don’t want to do graphic design for a gay wedding announcement. But then, neither would I do a wedding announcement for a “throuple.” Or a wedding announcement for a consensual, adult, incestuous marriage. Or a wedding announcement for an open marriage.

Or a celebration for a “female circumcision.” (But here I digress. Slightly.)

Is it ever right to discriminate against gays?
This is not even a desirable question. LGBT people are not subhuman, second-class citizens. It is wrong for anyone, Christian or not, to refuse service to someone simply because he or she is same-sex-attracted, and religious freedom laws do not allow for such behavior. Religious freedom laws simply limit the power of government in unnecessarily forcing an ideology onto religious people. Homosexuality is not an ideology. However, the “marriage equality” movement is part of a left wing, ideological movement called Postgenderism. The government cannot force such an ideology onto the citizenry, try as it might.

We are where we are today because the American government has attempted to solve inequality issues around LGBT people in a doltish and arrogant way. If the real issue was inequalities suffered by LGBT people, those inequalities could have been corrected legislatively through congress. This would have been the constitutionally correct course of action. Instead, five Supreme Court justices pulled a new, arbitrary, ideologically biased definition of marriage out of their butts, and they expect all of America to go along with it.

I’m not anything remotely resembling a lawyer, so I’ll quote Legalzoom:

If there’s an anti-discrimination law, does that mean that a business can never refuse service to a member of a group that is protected from discrimination?

The answer is that you can refuse to serve someone even if they’re in a protected group, but the refusal can’t be arbitrary and you can’t apply it to just one group of people…

… Second, you must apply your policy to everyone. For example, you can’t turn away a black person who’s not wearing a tie and then let in a tieless white man. You also can’t have a policy that sounds like it applies to everyone but really just excludes one particular group of people. So, for example, a policy against wearing headscarves in a restaurant would probably be discriminatory against Muslims…

…“We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” sounds vague and arbitrary. As we’ve seen, a business can’t just randomly refuse to serve someone.

I think that if a business owner wants to support, serve, and strengthen marriages in line with his/her religious or ideological beliefs, he or she could have a policy of not providing services for unconventional marriages. There would be defensible, societal reasons for doing so. Unconventional marriages would include same sex, open/monogamish, incestuous, and polygamous marriages. People who so desired would be free to be unconventionally married, but the religious business owner would be free to not be involved.

What’s wrong with that? I’d like to hear your opinion.

 

Religious Freedom: My Top 10 Potential Clients I Would Discriminate Against for Religious Reasons

 

Now Hiring-blg

I probably should’ve consulted with a lawyer before posting this, but, oh well. I thought I’d go ahead and out myself in advance since it looks as though I’m going to eventually get sued for discrimination anyway.

So I’m outing myself as a guy who enjoys discriminating. I enjoy discriminating in all aspects of life: private and public, religious and secular, work and leisure. I think this amounts to a practical definition of integrity. In fact, I think I sleep more peacefully at night because I practice discrimination, for religious reasons, on a regular basis. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed about this even a tiny bit.

Incidentally – You practice discrimination too, when you do things like eat, shop, vote, or choose a career.

My little journey

When I started my art studio business several years ago I figured one of the perks would be that I could take on work that would be personally meaningful to me. I had just left a large corporation, Hallmark Inc., and, while it was a great place to work, I looked forward to putting my creative energies into projects and causes that I could fully and enthusiastically support. I guess I was under the naïve impression that I could enter a profession with the aim of helping to make the world a better place.

But making the world a better place requires freedom to discriminate. Below, I lay out my Top Ten Potential Clients to whom I would gladly refuse graphic design/illustration services, and my religious reasons why.

My underlying religious principle for discrimination

Here’s my bottom line: I don’t want to be a party to participating in projects that I believe will cause harm to, or exploit people. If possible, I would like to do work that is life-affirming, or is at least harmless, in my judgment.

I know…I sound like a crazy person.

This raises a daunting question: Are we all in agreement as to what will harm and exploit people?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. We must each make those judgments ourselves. Sometimes we will disagree. I do my best to use the example and teaching of Jesus when I make my judgments. You may have a different approach. I reserve the right to disagree with your different approach, and I respect your right to disagree with mine. This is sometimes known as “the free marketplace of ideas,” or, “putting on our big boy pants.”

I don’t really want to post my list. It’s kind of personal. I’d rather it remain private, since I’m pretty sure I will now offend some readers, friends, and family members who may feel personally insulted by my choices. But, in no particular order, here’s how my list shakes out. I’m not judging you. This is just my list. We don’t have to agree. Settle down. I still love you. I’m not the boss of you. It takes all the colors to make a rainbow. Okay? No hate here. But I gotta give my reasons. So here goes. Please forgive the broad generalizations for the sake of brevity:

MY TOP 10

  • 1) Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Bayer chemical – I think I see sufficient reason to conclude that genetically modified crops hurt people. The safety of the world’s food supply is a fundamental concern, obviously. The original rational for genetically modifying food may have included humanitarian reasons, but those reasons have not panned out. A sound case can be made that GMOs are bad for human health and the environment. If you disagree, I don’t hate you. I just don’t want to work for these people.
  • 2) The pharmaceutical industry – I’m not anti-drug. I’m drug averse, meaning that, whenever possible, I think prevention is a better approach to dealing with disease than promoting the ingesting of chemicals to manage Personally, I’m extremely thankful for drug technology that was available the few times I’ve needed it. However, I also think I see sufficient reason to conclude that drug companies often push drugs in order to make money, even when they are unnecessary, or even harmful, to people. Knowing this, I generally wouldn’t be comfortable helping these companies with my services. My conscience would bug me. If you work for such a company, I don’t hate you. This is just my decision.
  • 3) The soft drink/junk food/candy industry – This stuff hurts people; especially kids. It’s the cheery marketing and graphic design (my field) that sells this stuff and leads people to think that it can be classified as food. Plus it tastes “good,” so we all voluntarily eat it. If I could catch a leprechaun and make him obliterate all of the Coca Cola in the world, I would do it. And I would blame the leprechaun. But I can’t do that. If you work in this industry, I’m not judging you. Plus, I sincerely hope you don’t become diabetic or die early of heart disease. Actually, I might enjoy working for these people, if only they would let me direct their marketing. I would go for honest packaging, like this:

Mtn dew-blg

 

  • 4) Religions and religious cults with which I disagree – Sorry, but I think some religions hurt and exploit people. Sometimes for money and power, sometimes out of sincere belief. It doesn’t matter. I get to choose not to work for religious groups that I feel are doing this, just like I get to refuse to work for non-religious groups that do this. If you’re my friend and you belong to such a group, you probably don’t know that I think this about your religion, because I generally don’t go around telling people that their religion sucks. If you want my opinion, you’ll probably have to ask for it. Unless I happen to have blogged about your religion. Which is possible.
  • 5) The pornography Industry – I would be honored to refuse service to the porn industry. I would die a tiny bit happier. Pornography preys on the lowest, animal desires of people, often becoming addictive, and hurting human relationships in a variety of ways. Furthermore, pedophiles use porn to introduce and normalize child-sex in the minds of children. Pornography supports, is fed by, and feeds the sex trafficking “industry.” Porn fundamentally contradicts the biblical concept of what a sexual relationship was designed to be. If you work in the porn industry, or are addicted to porn, I don’t hate you, but I hope you get help.
  • 6) Left wing politicians – I would not agree to provide services for a left wing political campaign because I think left wing politics are often hurtful and exploitative. This is a big can of worms and space here is limited. I’ll just summarize by recognizing that right wing politics are also often hurtful and exploitative. But in principle, conservatism is less harmful than liberal “progressivism” because progressivism by definition seeks to achieve its (theoretically good) ends by means of government. And government always equals force. I prefer pluralism, freedom, and Constitutional government. This is a religious value because freedom respects the dignity and value of every person. If you’re a progressive, I don’t hate you. I actually assume that we probably want many of the same things. I just disagree with your means of getting us there.
  • 7) Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry – In my opinion, the Torah has given humankind the only transcendent basis for assigning innate, objective value to all human life. It is this: All human beings bear the image of God. By contrast, if we make the value of human life dependent upon utilitarian factors such as convenience, usefulness, sentience, independence, size, age, functionality, icky-ness, ideology, or other such qualities, we are on a slippery slope where human worth is decided by to who has power. The transcendent basis for the sanctity of life is then lost. An abortion ends the life of an innocent, developing human being. This is a fact. If you are pro-abortion-on-demand, or if you have had an abortion, I don’t hate you. But I’m still not working for these people.
  • 8) Clients that promote materialist/evolutionary beliefs as an agenda – The theory that we exist merely as the result of mindless, accidental, natural processes is a horrible starting place for human interaction, in addition to being technically unscientific. Plus, evolutionary dogma has a terrible track record including institutionalized racism, eugenics, belief in over 100 vestigial organs in the human body, junk DNA, the creation of GMOs, evolutionary psychology, coercive collectivism, postgenderism, transhumanism, biological determinism, and unending Planet of the Apes sequels.
  • 9) Clients that promote hate – I would enthusiastically refuse to work for any group that denigrates or promotes hatred of any other category of persons, including GLBT people, black people, Hispanic people, white people, Jewish people, Muslim people, illegal immigrants, refugees, Evangelicals, atheists, men, women, rich, poor, children, elderly, disabled, incarcerated, or whoever. Love is a fundamental teaching of Jesus. Hatred always works against constructive dialogue, empathy, tolerance, and progress – all of which the world needs more.
  • 10) Clients that would make me a party to supporting “marriage equality”“Marriage equality” is not ultimately about gay marriage. It’s about redefining marriage – the systematic dismantling of the world’s fundamental cultural institution in the service of a false, “progressive” notion of equality. It is the latest and most successful attack in a decades long revolt against the nuclear family as an ideal. Well-meaning people are being led by the short hairs down a path that will hurt children and thus the culture at large. If you’re gay married, I truly wish you happiness. But I still think marriage is by definition a heterosexual institution that benefits society in a way that no other type of relationship does.

That’s my list. If you ask another 10 Evangelicals for their lists, I’m pretty sure you’ll get 10 different lists. Some Evangelicals would bake the gay wedding cake or shoot the wedding photos. Their rational would be to love their neighbor. Other Evangelicals would not want to participate in an event that they fundamentally disagree with. Not all Christians are opposed to gay marriage. Not all gays are in favor of it. Not all children raised by loving gay parents are in favor of gay marriage. So it goes. This is called freedom.

The Left has been claiming that religious freedom laws are merely an excuse to allow bigots to discriminate against gays. This is pure nonsense. Religious people are not discriminating against gays per se. They are refusing to participate in a left wing ideological campaign that conflates equality with redefining marriage and gender. It’s their legal right to do so.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Many states have added sexual orientation to this list. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) does not overrule any of these gains. More to the point, followers of Jesus are not pushing for the segregation of gays and heteros. Nor are we pushing for the right to generally refuse business services to gays as a class of people.

Religious Liberty in America is about the free exercise of one’s religion within the confines of the U.S. Constitution and the legitimate interests of government. It’s not a pretext to subvert constitutional law. It’s not about imposing one’s beliefs on others. I encourage followers of Jesus to freely uphold His clear teaching on what marriage was designed to be from the beginning (Mat 19:4-6,) and to refuse to go along the new, arbitrary redefining of the world’s fundamental societal institution. While doing this, I urge you refuse to be manipulated with labels like “angry,” “hateful,” and “anti-gay.”

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27.)

Settle Down, People! American Christianity Does Not Want A Theocracy.

Uncle Sam-I want you-theocracy

The ongoing accusation that the “religious right” wants to impose a theocracy is so wildly ignorant that it has to be another political tactic. Like the political tactic of painting anyone who opposes redefining marriage as being hateful and anti-gay.

Accusing Christians of seeking to establish a theocracy is simply bizarre. It might be an understandable offense to accuse goat worshipers of promoting theocracy, because most of us don’t personally know any goat worshipers. But if one wants to find out what Christians believe, one could simply talk to a neighbor who is one, or visit a church on a nearby street corner. Or one could find a Bible and read the words of Jesus, or the letters of the Apostle Paul. Easy. The more theologically orthodox a Christian is, the less he or she will be in favor of an American theocracy.

Why? Because the Bible teaches that all human beings are naturally depraved. It follows then for Christians that human beings cannot be trusted with power.

This is a biblical principle. This is what those scary Christian homeschoolers are teaching their kids in history class. It’s why American Christians love our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It’s why our religious Founding Fathers established a system of checks and balances – our 3 branches of American government. It’s why we hold to being a nation governed by laws and not men. Because “fallen” people can’t be trusted with power.

In fact, Bible-believers have a compelling basis for believing these things, whereas secularists do not. It is secularists who tend to hatch idealistic, utopian political schemes and foist them onto the world. Even giving humanist totalitarians and oligarchs the benefit of the doubt – that they impose their systems “for the good of the people” – doesn’t change the fact that millions of “their people” in the last century ended up imprisoned or dead for the crime of resisting their utopian governments.

This should be common knowledge, yet somehow, we are now seeing a festival of uninformed fear-mongering from the Left crying that Christians want a theocracy. Those of us who are Christians need to start demanding proof.

So…prove it
I’m willing to be corrected. All I need is for someone to give me an example of ANY mainstream, respected, widely supported Christian leader, spokesperson, organization, politician, or theologian calling for an American theocracy. Just one. Please copy and paste your theocrat’s quote into the comment section below with a reference.

I’ll even help. Because we have lots of examples of religious people calling for and working toward theocracy. Scores. Masses of religious people are unapologetically and publicly opposed to democracy and freedom because of the “unrighteousness” these ideas allow. Unfortunately for those who might take me up on my challenge, these people are never Christians.

I got your theocracy right here:

Theocracy-sharia-anti-freedom

…But I digress.

This is all Kim Davis’s fault
The latest round of fear-mongering comes because Kim Davis is a publicly elected official, who, for reasons of conscience, is refusing to carry out her job responsibilities to issue marriage licenses, and has attempted to keep clerks under her from doing so, as well. When privately owned businesses refused to participate with the Left’s novel and arbitrary redefining of marriage, that was intolerable. But for an elected government official to refuse to comply with an arguably unconstitutional Court decision, that apparently amounts to establishing a Christian theocracy. Who knew county clerks had such power?

But is that what’s going on? Is this religious freedom, or theocracy?

I’m not going to defend Kim Davis, because I have mixed feelings about some of what she has done. Instead, to my own surprise, I’m going to quote the Pope.

I’m not really a big fan of the Roman Catholic Church, or such a thing as a pope, but I have to admit that brother (“Pope”) Francis cut right through the rhetoric around religious freedom with a simple statement:

“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection … but yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right…”

Truer words were never spoken. This is especially heartening coming from the head of a 2000 year old religious institution that has a long and disturbing history of not allowing conscientious objection. Happily, brother Francis owned up to this as well when he said:

“…Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying “this right that has merit, this one does not.” It [conscientious objection] is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the Chanson de Roland when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights…”

If I were a person who used emoticons, I would do a whole page of little smiley faces right here.

Then, when asked if conscientious objection includes government officials as well, brother Francis replied:

“…It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right.”
It is disturbing to me that anyone could disagree with this. For example, do we not all now despise the reasoning of Nazi government officials whose excuse for committing crimes against Jews, gays, and others is that they were “only following orders”?

But the importance of brother Francis’s statement seems to be lost on the Left. I’m saddened to see Huffington Post commenters, and the like, fail to grasp the gravity of what is at stake in this discussion. Instead, like a new generation of Hitler Youth, they are saying things like:
“If you work for the government you are obligated to carry out your duties no matter what, or else resign.”

But they’re wrong, and brother Francis is right. If no conscientious objection is allowed, then aren’t we left with totalitarianism? Just because it’s “Progressive” totalitarianism doesn’t make it good totalitarianism. Both sides of the political spectrum should be well aware that human governments are often wrong. In a free and pluralistic society conscientious objection must be allowed.

When Kim Davis was elected, she had no conscientious objection to performing her duties whatsoever. It’s not her fault that the Supreme Court pulled a new, arbitrary definition of marriage out of its butt.

A very big deal
It’s important to remember that we are not talking about the Supreme Court telling Americans that they must now abide by a new definition of weed whacking. What the Court has attempted to do is as penetrating and monumental as it is foolish. Heterosexual marriage is a longstanding institution upon which the very architecture of civilization has always stood. In addition it bears enormous religious significance for a majority of Americans. Furthermore, it is not defined in the U.S. Constitution. Does the political Left really think it can force such a major ideological bias onto an unwilling population?

“Progressives” attempting to use government to force their beliefs onto an unwilling populace is no different than religious people attempting to use government to force their beliefs unto an unwilling populace. Except that Christians have no intention of imposing their doctrines, while “Progressives” apparently do.

Contrary to LGBT talking points, people of biblical faith are not interested in re-criminalizing homosexuality, or preventing LGBT people from loving and committing to whomever they want, or forcing anyone to do anything. We’re simply not going to agree to the redefining of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Call it “civil unions” and this all goes away.

“Progressives” have said that non-compliant Christians are imposing their beliefs on gays by discriminating against them; that this amounts to theocracy. But it’s not true. These Christians are seeking non-participation, and it’s important that Christians not allow their motives to be redefined by the Left’s massive redefinition campaign.

There is no comparison here to America’s racial discrimination of the past. NO ONE is arguing that gays are subhuman, or that they are the property of heterosexuals, or that they should be denied fundamental civil rights. The proof is that these same people have been happy to serve gays so long as their service doesn’t require them to comply with the Court’s redefinition of marriage. The “right to marry” cannot be a fundamental civil right, because if marriage has any definition, then it necessarily excludes certain people. In fact the Court’s new definition is arbitrary and also excludes many U.S. citizens.

If there were ever an issue big enough, profound enough, and consequential enough to merit conscientious objection, the redefining of marriage is it. Bible believers are simply not going to go along with it, just as they have refused to be a part of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision. In the same way that promoting the sanctity of human life has nothing to do with being “anti-woman,” so promoting traditional marriage has nothing to do with being “anti-gay.”

People of faith are going to act according to their consciences whether the government accommodates them or not. Fortunately, our Constitution’s first amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 limit the reach of government coercion in matters of conscience, within the confines of American citizenship.

Why It’s Impossible for Followers of Jesus to Hate Gays

T-shirt design by Scott Freeman

Because gays are people.

Several years ago I stopped referring to myself as a “Christian” because I felt the term was too broad. It simply doesn’t communicate very well. So I started referring to myself as a “follower of Jesus” because it’s descriptive and actually communicates something that anyone can understand: a follower of Jesus tries to follow what Jesus said and did. Simple.

On the other hand, “Christian” is such a broad label that it can encompass pretty much anyone who wants to claim it, which can be confusing. It includes me, but it must also include:

  • Cults of unorthodoxy such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, whose extra-biblical authoritative writings depict Jesus as a created being, among other things. Yet, I think we have say if the central figure in a person’s religion is a version of Christ, then their religion is a Christian religion.
  • Members of liberal Christian denominations, who don’t believe in the virgin birth or the miracles of Jesus, and who discount many statements of Jesus in the Bible. Same as above.
  • Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, whose message is that God hates the world; especially gays, apparently. Same as above.

All of these people can be said to be Christians in some sense, but none of them can be said to be followers of the Jesus of the Bible.

It’s impossible for followers of Jesus to hate gays, because if they hate gays, then they’re not following Jesus. Boom. Jesus simply doesn’t give His followers the option of hating people.

Jesus inseparably linked loving both God and people with following Him. He stated that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and then to love people (Mt 22:35-40; Mk 12:28-31.) He said those who keep His commandments are the ones who love Him (Jn 14:21.) The Apostle John says that he who does not love does not know God, for God is love (I Jn 4:8.) He also equates loving others with following the commands of Jesus (2 Jn 1:5,6; 1 Jn 5:2,3.) In a definitive statement, Jesus claimed that all people would know who His followers are by their love for one another (Jn 13:34.)

Furthermore, Jesus is like no other moral teacher in that He didn’t merely talk about love in His teachings. He demonstrated love in an ultimate way, and in doing so He literally created a new option for humanity: He made it possible for us to freely love each other by creating the possibility of internal change through spiritual rebirth (Jn 3:1-7; 1 Pet 1:23.) By spiritual rebirth we receive a new identity as children of God, receiving His very Spirit into our hearts (Gal 4:4-7; Ro 8:9, 14-17.) By His redemptive death and resurrection, Jesus made possible for us a restored, unified, and loving relationship with our Creator, whose image we bear. Thus we are motivated to obey His commands, not out of fear, or guilt, or to earn points. Instead we obey from the best possible motive: that of wanting to please someone we love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19.) It’s a brilliant plan.

So, no. Followers of Jesus can’t hate gays, even if the natural, redneck part of them wants to.

But then, what about all of those stories in the news about Christian business owners discriminating against gays out of anti-gay hatred and bigotry? Aren’t the Christian butcher, baker, and candlestick maker discriminating against gays simply because they’re gay?

Actually, no – they are not discriminating against gays simply because they’re gay. The proof is that these businesses had been knowingly serving gay customers for years. Here’s the issue: These businesses all drew the line when they were asked to essentially become participants in a ceremony that would violate their religious beliefs.

The same Bible that defines all people, including gay people, as bearing the image of God also defines marriage as a heterosexual institution designed by God having something to do with sexual complementarity (and therefore, the probability, at least, of procreation and child-rearing.) These businesses often explained to their gay customers that they would be happy to provide other services for them, just not wedding services. In other words, they were not willing to become a party to the redefining of something they consider sacred; something that had already been defined by their God.

So these cases are about religious liberty, as guaranteed in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. They have nothing to do with “anti-gay hatred,” or even personal dislike of gays.

Underneath it all, for these business owners it’s a question of authority.

A True Story About Lying
I once joined a respectful, online group discussion about gays and the church. An older gay participant frequently claimed that an average of one gay person per week is assaulted, raped, or murdered by evangelical Christians. He repeated this in the discussion several times. This was news to me.

I finally called him on it, told him it was ridiculous, and asked him to provide some proof. I told him it was like saying most vegetarians eat raw squirrel once a week. Or that two thirds of Mormon housewives home brew their own beer. His claim was self-refuting. He immediately provided a link to the US government annual FBI hate crimes statistics.

The FBI. That certainly sounded credible. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the church of Jesus Christ was actually a hate organization after all, and it had somehow escaped my notice.

I thought of the evangelical families I knew. I pictured the dad coming home after work, exhausted. I pictured the mom, also exhausted after simultaneously homeschooling 7 kids all day, and then preparing a nutritious meal for 9. They all gather around the table, say grace, and then talk about the day over dinner. Afterwards, the kids clear the table and load the dishwasher. Then the dad announces, “Okay kids! Everyone into the mini-van! It’s time to find some gays to beat-up, rape, or murder! Hurry up – we still have to do baths tonight before bedtime!…”

I don’t think so.

I checked out his FBI link. Um…first of all, the FBI does not track the religious identity of perpetrators of hate crimes, only the racial identity. My gay acquaintance was simply assuming the offenders must be evangelicals. Second, in 2006, (the latest year that completed stats were available when I had this discussion,) there were 0 rapes and 0 murders of gays recorded in the FBI stats. That’s rare – the next year there were 0 rapes and 5 murders reported. That’s still too many, but it certainly isn’t a weekly occurrence, and if it was, I guarantee we’d be hearing about it. As always, there were hundreds of assaults reported across the board, including verbal assaults. Of all hate crimes reported each year, nearly 50% are still racially motivated, with the remaining crimes divided up between the categories of sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and disability. It turns out you are still far more likely to be a hate-crime victim in America if you are black than if you are gay. Here is THE LINK to the latest FBI hate crime statistics, for those interested.

Was That Guy an Exception?
Perhaps you’re wondering what my point is in telling this story. Obviously the guy falsely accusing Christians was an unscrupulous butthead. So what am I doing? Painting all “marriage equality” supporters as liars because of one exceptionally dishonest guy’s propagation of a vicious lie?

But was he exceptional?

I don’t see how. It has now become routine for the media to characterize any opposition to redefining marriage as motivated by hatred. Disagree with the politically “liberal” position on this topic and you are “spewing anti-gay hatred and bigotry.” If you believe that marriage is a uniquely heterosexual institution, you are a hater, period. My question is: Really? And what do people who hate people do? Well, we can look at groups around the world who actually do hate people, and see what they do. They assault, rape, purge, and kill the people they hate. Think ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Hamas.

I suspect that most of the Left knows better than to believe that Christians hate gays. I think repeating these accusations of hate is a political tactic intended to manipulate and shame Christians into shutting up and leaving the field. Fortunately, the if-you-repeat-a-lie-often-enough-people-will-believe-it tactic has its limits. In this case the Left is lying about too large a percentage of the population. It’s like trying to convince the nation that all brown-eyed people smell bad. Except that a lot of us are brown-eyed, and we all know lots of brown-eyed people who smell nice.

I get why my liberal friends support “marriage equality.” I think you honestly believe you are standing for civil rights and equality. I totally understand how it seems bizarre, backward, and hateful to you that anyone would think otherwise. But the fact remains that there are some very stubborn problems around the issue, and the interests of adult gays do not trump the interests of everyone else. We’re going to have to all settle for the freedom to respectfully disagree. Liberal bigotry and intolerance is no more virtuous than conservative bigotry and intolerance.

For further non-hateful reading, here’s a great non-religious case for marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Art from The Swimsuit Lesson-Scott FreemanOn a lighter note, check out my newly released storybook, The Cocky Rooster, available only through MY WEBSITE.